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What you need to know about self-care for moms

Karen D'Souza
The Mercury News
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-New York) waves to the crowd as she steps onto the stage at the Women's Unity Rally organized by Women's March NYC in Lower Manhattan, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, in New York.

Self-care is newly trendy with everyone from celebrities to politicians (see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter) but there is one group in our society who is seriously failing at getting on board this path to greater health and wellness and that’s mothers. A recent survey conducted by HealthyWomen and Working Mother showed that a whopping 78 percent of moms put off taking care of their own health because they are too busy looking after everyone else they know.

In ranking the amount of time moms spend tending to the health of various family members, this is the most common order of operations: children come first, then pets, then older relatives, then significant others and then, wait for it, themselves. Sadly that means that most mothers value Fluffy, the family cat, more than they do themselves.

Mothers need not blame themselves for this. As the report noted, moms just have a lot on their plates. In fact, about 82 percent of women do the bulk of health-related research for their kids, 86 percent of women schedule the medical appointments for their kids and 72 percent manage payment for the majority of the bills for their kid’s health care. Since dealing with health insurance is a massively complex undertaking these days, it’s no shocker that this process eats up a lot of time and energy. That leaves less time for hitting the gym or seeing your own doctor.

Sadly, burning the candle at both ends servicing others can be rather draining. You may well find yourself losing patience with the daily grind of mom challenges from kids who will only eat carbs to those tape diagrams in Common Core math. If you don’t take some time out for yourself, welcome to Frazzled Town. After all, kids aren’t the only ones who can have melt-downs.

“Self-care is a necessity, not an indulgence,” Emma Bennett, LCSW, who specializes in working with new moms, told Prevention. “We need to nurture ourselves just like we nurture our children. If we don’t take care of ourselves, feelings of depletion, resentment, and isolation could potentially arise. I feel more centered and present after taking time to engage in self-care, and strongly believe in building it into my daily agenda.”

When it comes to your health, experts say it pays to remember the old airplane advice: In the case of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. If that doesn’t convince you, remember that your kids are watching how well you treat yourself.

“Our children look to us and how we treat ourselves,” says Bennett as Prevention cited. “This goes for many things: how we speak to ourselves, how we treat our bodies, how we value our time. Modeling healthy self-care can be helpful for our children to witness and internalize. We are teaching them that taking care of yourself matters just as much as taking care of your family.”

So, take the time to a breath and find some way to recharge your personal tank.