Self care is something most moms know they need but struggle to do consistently. With the pandemic throwing new challenges our way on every front and a new school year starting, it seemed like a good time to sit down with a few different moms and see how they make it work.
Lara Alspaugh has three boys, ages 17, 20 and 22. She is a stay at home mom with roles in the family business and dips back into her career field.
Jazmin Anderson has two sons, ages eight and four, and works full time from home while her husband, who is currently laid off, spends the day with their sons.
Jessica Kirsch is an aspiring mom and entrepreneur with multiple side gigs.
Alysssa Tagney is a stay at home mom and business owner with five children, ranging in age from six-and-a-half to four months. She has chosen to homeschool for the first time this year.
When someone throws out the term “self care,” what’s your reaction? What does that mean to you if you are doing it well? Is there a specific focus for you?
Lara: Self care meant different things to me when my boys were young than it does now. When my boys were young, I needed physical space. The job was taxing emotionally, yes, but the bulk of the work was physical. I was either nursing or pregnant or both for nearly eight years. I craved time to myself without being touched, or asked to do for everyone else.
I have an auto-immune disease that requires me to remain dedicated to my health to avoid pain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Learning to focus on me and trust my kids, allowing them to fail and rise, reminding myself that I can encourage, teach, help…but then I need to step away, is all a part of my self-care. It means my mental health is good (it doesn’t mean happy). It means even when things are thrown at me, I do not fall apart.
So now, self care means absolutely taking care of my health.
Jazmin: Self care is such a trendy phrase now. For me, it’s taking time to sit with myself, determine some of my current desires, some areas that I’m struggling with, areas that I’d like to work on, and figuring out what tomorrow looks like based on that assessment.
Alyssa: Most of the time, I hear self care related to coffee, shopping, and material items that are only a temporary “fix.” That bothers me because I feel like the bigger picture self care isn’t as glamorous, but it’s more important. More sleep, a therapy session, getting rid of a toxic relationship.
Tell me more about your journey with that idea. What have you learned about you or how to make space for yourself that would be helpful to another mom?
Lara: I think the term “self-care” gets a bad rap in certain circles. I think that it’s looked at as a mom’s desire to be out for the night, have a glass of wine, get a massage…in other words, be indulgent. I think all of those things are perfectly fine—and trust me, I do them all! The older I got, the more I was able to see my own pattern. If I wasn’t taking good care of my body, then my mind/mental health followed. When my body and mind weren’t well taken care of, I wasn’t as good of a mom as I wanted to be. When I was able to see self care as an investment in my boys, an investment in my family, then the cost was time or money well-spent.
The other thing that was a driving force is that I am a mother to all boys. I also think it’s my job to show them what a strong, healthy partner looks like. I didn’t want them to believe a partner in life was someone who gave up the entirety of themselves and their lives and their dreams at a cost of their health.
Jazmin: My greatest struggle is feeling guilty. Mom guilt is so real. It sometimes feels like since I made the decision to have kids and have a family, that should always be my priority. Then I remember that you can’t serve from an empty well.
Jessica: [Making space for yourself] is so important. It’s not something you do every once in a while. It’s something to do every single day.
Alyssa: When I first found out I was pregnant with my fifth, I was also diagnosed with sleep deprivation. The therapist told me, “Your most important form of self care right now is making sure you are sleeping.” It was honestly something that I needed to do to survive. Not wake up an hour early to have “me time.” Not binge watch Netflix to be alone and enjoy myself. I needed to truly take care of myself and that was by sleeping more and figuring out how to manage my schedule and my life so that it allowed for that.
What do you feel most often gets in the way of this for you and what’s your approach when things get off track?
Lara: I am a sucker for the drug of being needed. If [my family] needs me, every part of my being wants to answer the call. I have had to learn as [my kids] have grown to not stop everything and fix, but rather stop everything and talk. I have to be careful not to give up too much of what I need to do to be healthy to help them. That doesn’t help a single one of us in the end.
Jazmin: Daily life gets in the way. Being busy and being drained physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Jessica: I just don’t want to stop working. I just want to go, go, go! That, or I get in a funk and it seems like too much to even do the simple things.
Alyssa: I find myself filling my schedule with things that take away from my self-care, things that are surface level items. I start diving into schedule fillers or making myself busy by serving others without thinking a bit about self care.
As the new school year starts, we encourage you begin to find your own answers for how you can make space for you in the midst of family time, work, and everything else that makes your world spin. It doesn’t have to be big or mean getting a sitter. It does mean putting yourself on the list of people you think about and finding a way to keep yourself healthy spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. You are no less worth caring for than anyone else in the family.