We all have the same 24-hours per day to work with, but we don’t all have the same responsibilities. So how do we fulfil each of the roles we have whilst ensuring our self-care is intact?
In my coaching practice I have spoken with many women about the barriers to self-care and the most common issues that come up are:
Insufficient Time: With so many things to do, if we do not prioritise our self-care it won’t happen. There will always be something or someone else seeking time that our nurturing self will favour.
Not Feeling Worthy: Society continues to dictate what it means to be a real woman and that includes being an exemplary mother, committed supportive partner, someone who always helps others before helping self. And we have fallen in line, seeing our needs as less important.
Plain Old Guilt: There is a great deal of discomfort around saying no to others and even when we do, guilt finds a way to creep in and dismantle our assertiveness.
Here’s the thing, if we continue to be all things to all people, ignoring our own needs, our wellbeing will be affected, if not immediately, at some future date with potential burnout. And who will take care of all the things we are juggling then? How will our work, relationships, and longer-term health be impacted?
Mothers we are, martyrs we are not! For us to ensure self-care does not become an afterthought we have to look at what we choose to teach our children.
What Are We Teaching Our Children?
Ultimately, as mothers we want to ensure our children get what they need to develop into stable, wholesome human beings and for that to occur we must focus on showing more than telling.
As a single parent, I dropped the parenting plate more times than I can remember! However, I brought my son up to be self-sufficient, giving him responsibilities that empowered him as he grew, releasing dependence on me over time. I ensured he visually experienced gender equality through his relationship with my parents, who shared every role in the home whilst both working and raising 4 children. I also encouraged strong connections with my siblings and his godparents who offered him a network of support so that even when he didn’t want to talk to me (yes, those teenage years!), he could talk to someone; I was never his only option.
Today I see my son flourishing as a father, happily working part-time to take joint care of his son as his wife fulfils her commitments as a Doctor. Like me, he has made mistakes, but he has also crafted his wins and overcome challenges., a crucial part of what I wanted him to learn.
When we give ourselves permission to make mistakes, use compassion to overcome them and embrace the fullness of our emotional palette, we give our children permission to do the same, helping them to flourish & thrive in an ever-changing world. We can best demonstrate this by:
Putting On Our Oxygen Mask First. 20+ years ago when I worked for British Airways, I recall telling passengers “in case of emergency place your mask on your face before assisting your child” and the fear in the eyes of the mums was palpable. But the reality came down to ‘who was going to keep your child safe if you weren’t safe?’ And we can translate this to how we look after our health. If we continue to put our needs on the back burner, who will run the show when we have burnt out?
Truth: By meeting our needs first, we are better placed to support our children.
Being A Role Model. Our actions speak louder than our words! How we treat ourselves, our time, our health, matters because it’s all a show and learn experience for our children and what parent would knowingly show their child how not to take care of themselves, how not to consider their own feelings or needs?
Truth: The best way for our children to know good practice is to see it happening and to talk about the importance of self-care.
Creating Responsible Self-Caring Adults. We need to worry less and encourage more. Through example and conversation, we can teach our children to set aside time to monitor their emotions and ask for help when required. If we teach them to be curious about what they are feeling as a positive step to understanding self and building the most important relationship of their life; the one with self, they will confidently be on their self-care path.
Truth: Have faith in our parenting skills and our children’s ability to grow & develop through their life experiences so they can feel able and responsible.
What Can We Do For Ourselves?
Embrace Self-Care! It isn't indulgent, a treat, or a nice to do one off event. In my experience, it has proven to be:
An essential ‘guilt-free’ act for taking care of mind, body & soul.
An investment of pockets of time that serve as a reminder of self-worth.
A constant source of energy, compounding over time, enabling me to function optimally.
The best way to implement healthy boundaries so that those in my life understand how to connect with me and know they will get the best of me when I have taken time for self.
When we prioritise self-care, we are giving ourselves what we need to manage our lives in a calmer, more proactive way that in turn decreases moodiness, which in turn helps build healthier happier relationships with our loved ones. And in due course it may also serve to aid the management of perimenopause and menopause.
Self-care is what we do to be the best that we can be for the good of all. Self-care must never become an afterthought for mother’s, it is our right.
About the author
Yvonne Bignall, Helps busy professional women find time for themselves without feeling guilty or sacrificing their self-care! Yvonne is London born, now living in Somerset. As an award winning women's health advocate, her many professional roles include being a self-care coach, online programme creator, trained nature facilitator, personal trainer, Nordic walking instructor, author and radio show host. She is a mother and grandmother.
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