When mom practices self-care, it's good for her and the whole family.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

Nothing pulls you in several directions like becoming a mom. And just when you think things might slow down, they speed up again. Keeping up with it all is a full-time job in itself, and the first thing to go is us.

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As a mom of three teens, I'm the Uber driver, personal shopper, chef, gatekeeper of devices, homework checker, drill sergeant, and so on. And these days, instead of chasing around three toddling kids, making sure they don't put rocks in their mouth, I'm making sure they get to all their activities, keep their grades up, and don't act like entitles jerks. Now, more than ever, it would be easy to let self-care slip through the cracks. But I’m not willing to do that—I count, too.

Back in the days of my early motherhood, I quickly realized how easy it was to starve my mental and emotional needs. After talking with other moms, it seemed to be a common thread among us. Nothing propels you into not putting much thought into yourself like being a mom.

Yes, you are happy to do this, and no, you missing the fact you used to spend your Saturday afternoon reading and hitting the beach, don't seem half as important as taking care of this new human.

Yet, you miss it.

You crave the things you used to do to fulfill yourself. And truth be told, back in the days when you had more freedom and could come and go as you pleased, you didn’t even realize those things were considered self-care.

Now as a parent, it takes quite a bit of work to set aside time for yourself. And when you do take that time, especially at first, the guilt that comes along with it is enough to make you want to scratch it off your list all together.

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I remember the first time I opted out of my daughter's lacrosse game because I'd made a hair appointment two months prior and didn't realize it was on the same night as her game until it was too late.

She understood, and didn't seem to care at all, but I couldn't help but feel a little guilty until I climbed in my hair dresser’s chair, talked to her for over an hour, and felt so refreshed afterwards.

While the time we have with our kids is fleeting and we want to soak up every moment, it's important take the time to recharge when we need it. Sometimes that looks like missing one of our kids' games, and sometimes that looks like catching up with our best friend when they are asleep.

The point is, if we don't advocate for ourselves, no one else is going to do it. It's up to us to know when we need to invest in ourselves. It's easy to put self-care on the back burner and think our needs can wait. But what happens time and time again is we not only do we suffer, our whole family suffers.

And we all know our teenagers aren't going to say, "Mom, you've been irritable lately, why don't you take the evening off and have a hot bath while I cook dinner." Many of us have kids who will cook if they are asked, but many times we're met with comments about them having to do “everything around here,” complaining, or eye-rolling.

I know when I get the latter reactions, I sometimes feel it's easier to do it all myself so I don't have to deal with the backlash. But when we do this, what are we showing our family?

We're showing them we don't mind coming last. We are setting a standard that says we don't value ourselves enough to be put first—that we aren’t important.

I know I want to send a different message to my daughter who might want to be a mother one day. I want my sons to grow up to have a partner who knows how to care for themselves—I don't want them thinking, Well, my mom just did all the things and never took time for herself, why do you need to do that?

But most of all, I don't want my kids remembering their mom was always being snappy, grouchy, and never taking a time out to meet her needs. I don't want them thinking they come first all the time. I don’t want them to feel entitled. I don't want to be viewed as a ragged mess who never took the time to pursue my passions.

We all want to be present for our kids and the best way to do that is to be present for ourselves, first. And if you continue to practice self-care, the whole family will deal with it. And in return, they are left with a much happier mother—a win for all.

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine and is a full-time freelance writer. She's writes about all things parenting, food, and fashion.