Having become a parent in my early thirties, I had plenty of years under my belt where my main concern was simply me. My Guy and I chose to start a family soon after marriage, so I went from completely single to married to mom in about two years. And when I say single, I’m talking over ten years—all of my twenties and barely into my thirties—single.
That said, it’s been a huge learning curve, discovering what it means to be a good partner and a good parent. Obviously I’ve only just begun on these lessons, but after two years of motherhood, one thing is abundantly clear:
Photo by Getty Images, public domain
Motherhood requires laying down your life every day, and sometimes every second. But that does not mean you just roll over and let life happen to you. Over and over these past two years I’ve had a picture in my mind of the flight attendant telling me to put my own mask on first.
When I put on my own mask first, I’m thinking more clearly and responding more appropriately to what life throws my way, whether it’s a cranky toddler, unexpected visitors, sickness, or simply an overbooked schedule. By making myself a priority in this way, I’m able to be closer to the ideal mom I want to be. And when I’m a better mom, I’m raising a better, more emotionally stable kid.
Here are a few of ways I’ve chosen to—ususally—do this:
Wake up at least fifteen to thirty minutes before the Little Butt.
This isn’t always fun, and I don’t always follow through on this. But I’ve found that my day and my attitude are much better if I have a few moments of quiet to wake up before putting on my mom hat.
During a business training, I heard Laryn Weaver say that we must wake up before our small children; otherwise we will end up resenting them for waking us up. I have found this to be true in my case.
Obviously there are ramifications to this. In order to be capable of waking early, I must go to bed at a decent time. If my work schedule prohibits this (and I’m lucky that I have this option), I need to take a nap.
Make self-care a priority.
Exercise is a priority in my life. Well, it usually is. Except for this week, and it shows—not so much in my body as in my state of mind. Exercise releases good endorphins and just sets you up for a better day. Now that the Little Butt sometimes decides to get up before I’ve had a chance to work out, he joins me and Jillian and jumps around the room yelling, “Go! Go! Go!” It’s frustrating not to have the perfect workout session, but I’m fitting it in and teaching him to take care of his own body.
Another priority for me is having time to be still and quiet. Some days this means reading the Bible or another book, journaling, praying, or just sitting. Every mother knows that once the kids are awake, stillness and quiet are unattainable. This is why, even though getting up 15-30 minutes early is my goal, I really try to get up about 90 minutes before the Little Butt. That way I can take care of myself in these two ways.
Self-care also means maintaining healthy relationships with other adults including My Guy. And while I don’t have time to do a girls’ night every week or even every month, playdates with my friends whose children are close in age to mine help. I also have friends over who are willing to put up with the noise of a toddler even though they don’t have one of their own. My three sisters and I have a continuous text conversation going all the time, so I’m plugged into some of my best relationships right there. Thankfully my line of work enables me to spend time with fun women several times each week, but if it didn’t, quick coffee dates would be a priority.
Show myself grace.
Before I was a parent and then when my little one was an infant, I determined he would not watch TV. Then it was he probably wouldn’t watch TV. Now the goal is to limit how much TV he watches.
Parenting is hard work, whether you work full-time, part-time, from home, or your main job is parenting. It’s exhausting. For me, the TV and independent playtime are tools I use so that I can grab some time for myself or my work in the middle of a busy day. Grace towards myself means determining what an appropriate use of the television is, making that my goal, and using a timer to stick to that goal.
However, grace plays into everything. We mess up. I mess up several times each day and wonder just how much I’m damaging the Little Butt. I wonder if I’ll get any aspect of parenting right.
While the ways you put on your oxygen mask may be different from mine, the point is this: in some ways, it’s okay and even vital to put ourselves first. Recently a friend told me what her pediatrician told her: if you’re worried about being a good mom, then you’re being a good mom. The other moms don’t even give it a thought.
So give yourself grace. And while you’re at it, give yourself credit by sharing with us how you put on your oxygen mask. That way we can all benefit.