As mothers, our default setting is to feel guilty about thinking of ourselves. If, we’re lucky to overcome it, we can always count on society at large to bring the guilt right back.
I remember attending the launch event of Thrive in Mumbai, where Arianna Huffington said: “When the baby comes out, GUILT goes right inside the mother.” All of us found ourselves nodding in agreement. It’s quite typical for us mothers to put ourselves at the bottom of the many lists we make.
As a young mom I went through it a fair bit—feeling terribly guilty about doing things where I wasn’t keeping my children, my husband or my family at the centre of it all. I think sometimes we even feel guilty if we don’t feel guilty enough—truly we do.
But now that I am in my 40s and my kids are much older, I think I have finally gained some sense.
I know it’s very easy to lose ourselves in and to motherhood. We get so busy in the daily routine of bringing up our children, building our careers and taking care of the household that we totally ignore our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
So if there is one thing I could tell my younger self or the younger moms today, it is: Don’t forget yourself and start self-care early and please don’t feel ‘guilty’ about doing so.
Here are some of the things my journey has taught me to do:
1. Exercise More
I have to keep my body moving. Few years ago I used to enjoy Zumba. Now, I love doing a combination of yoga, which gives me inner peace, my daily walks with some peppy music (where I think of nothing less than world domination). And of course my first love, swimming, which keeps me afloat (quite literally) when everything around me seems like it’s sinking.
2. Eat Better
This has happened a little late in my life and I am still a bit of a novice. While I never overdid junk food nor followed any kind of fad diets, I wasn’t very aware of making healthier food choices. I am becoming much more aware of what goes inside me and avoid binging even if it’s the weekend—habits I wish I had inculcated a lot earlier.
3. Stay Connected
No, I don’t mean via social media, which I already do too much of. When you run an online community, it’s the nature of the beast. I try my best to stay connected with my girlfriends offline, who knew me back when there were no cell phones, social media or filters. Meeting them for lunches or going for short trips with them, are very therapeutic for me.
4. Health First
If you are a woman in your late 30s or 40s, please be sure to get an annual check-up with a special focus on your gynaecological health—whether it’s your pap smear, mammography or sonography, be regular. Even if you feel physically fit and 25 years old, trust me your insides are ageing and the sneaky hormones have a way of creeping up and playing havoc with your system. Very, very important to keep them in check.
5. Sleep More
I don’t follow this enough but I am working on it. I have always been someone who did her best work late at night when everyone else slept and even today I love my nights when I can keep reading my favourite book or write a blog (no, this was written during the day). As moms, we often get sucked into the “Let’s-get-stuff-done-before-the-kids-wake-up” mentality and our sleep is often the biggest casualty, but as the children grow older, it’s a good idea to make up for all those years.
6. Say NO
We women are often burdened with the tag of being great multi-taskers and end up saying too many YESSES for our own good. We stretch ourselves and bend backwards to do everything and more. The multitasking tag constantly puts pressure on women to live up to the imagery of being the perfect daughter, wife, mother or employee. I find this to be extremely exhausting and unhealthy for our well-being. Over the years I have learnt to SAY NO and delegate stuff to my husband, others and Alexa—okay kidding, but now I have no problem saying NO!
7. Find Yourself
I feel that if, along the way, you have given up or cut back on your career, then reviving it or starting something completely new once the kids are a little older does wonders for your self-esteem. Today the digital world empowers women in many ways and it’s a good time to take advantage of it. If not getting back to work, then going back to an old hobby or learning something new is most advisable.
8. Find Humour
Last, but not the least, laugh more. I believe in the power of positive thoughts and laughter. Being a mom can be a tough job and if you don’t have a good sense of humour… it only gets tougher. Like someone said, “Parenting without humour is like being an accountant who sucks at Maths.” I was never good at Maths but I am trying to ace my parenting game by finding the humour in it.
And if all else fails, I just curl up with a good book and eat some chocolate for my well-being—it always works.