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Lessons in self-care from motherhood

How the challenges of motherhood made me reassess my ideas about self-care

Making self-care a priority, has always been a challenge for me. Even pre-kids, on the rare occasions I would book in for a facial or take time to sit and read a book, it always came with a side order of guilt – about the “wasted” time and money.

With hindsight, I feel lucky that years of not taking care of myself didn’t manifest in a serious health crisis. At the same time, my body was already giving me subtle signs – I was tired, stressed and uninspired.

In 2010 I went to Bali for a week long surf retreat. It was life changing.

I was introduced to yoga and meditation – both practices which I continued after the trip (and to this day) and have kept me sane through some of my toughest periods. On the retreat I enjoyed delicious, nutritious food made with love, spent hours in the ocean, nurtured my body with spa treatments, shared meaningful conversations with likeminded women and went to bed early. I came back home feeling nourished and rejuvenated. I had learnt how self-care really mattered.

In the past five years I have been blessed with the birth of two gorgeous sons. In adjusting to motherhood I am the first to admit I let the self-care practices I had found and cherished fall by the wayside putting the needs of my babies first. I found myself with niggling health issues, being tired and irritable – all clever hints from my body that I was neglecting myself. The difficulty now, as every mum will know, is that it comes at a time when finding the time and space for “me-time” is more elusive than ever. To book a massage or a child-less catch up with a friends takes such a level of planning sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it – but I know it is.

Although I know as well as anyone the consequences of failing to prioritise taking care of myself, it is all too easy to let it slip – to put on that extra load of washing and tidy up the house. It requires consistent effort, at least for me, to not fall back into unhealthy, unsustainable habits.

I started a blog a few years ago, with the ulterior motive of asking other mums to share their tips and tricks for self-care, so I might learn more. I also hoped the blog might give me an added level of accountability. Instead, I feel the most important thing I have taken from speaking with hundreds of other mums through the blog, is the realisation that the challenge to prioritise self-care is almost universal.

Some weeks I do better than others in taking care of myself and I’m OK with that.  It’s not realistic to expect every day will be filled with massages, beaches, sunsets and naps.  What I’ve come to realise, through reflecting on my ideas about self-care, is that adding the pressure of a certain quota of “me-time” hours or being fixated on a certain way it “should” look is counterproductive. Instead I now just try to focus on being kind to myself every day – whatever form that takes. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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