Self-care is trendy, with everyone from celebrities to politicians (see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter) talking, tweeting and posting about what they’re doing to take care of themselves.
There is one group in our society that is seriously failing at getting on board this path to greater health and wellness: 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 shouldn’t 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 kids’ health care.
Since dealing with health insurance is a 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, signing up for that meditation class or seeing the doctor.
Sadly, burning the candle at both ends in the service of others can be rather draining. You may well find yourself losing patience with the daily grind of 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 a meltdown.
But taking care of yourself shouldn’t be your last priority.
“Self-care is a necessity, not an indulgence,” said Emma Bennett, a clinical social worker who specializes in working with new moms. “We need to nurture ourselves just like we nurture our children.”
Self-care isn’t selfish. In fact, it gives moms a chance to relax, de-stress and refuel.
“If we don’t take care of ourselves, feelings of depletion, resentment and isolation could potentially arise,” she said. “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.
Also, remember: Your kids are watching how well you treat yourself.
“Our children look to us and how we treat ourselves,” said Bennett. “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,” she said.
So take a breath, find some way to recharge your personal tank, whether that’s reading a book, taking a walk, going out with a gal pal or taking an enrichment class.
Fluffy will be just fine.