The Parable of Mama Bear
One day, Mama Bear woke up and had a realization when she hit 40 - she needed to make a change.
As a young mama bear, she'd put ever thing on hold, being hyper-focused on her child’s care. She put her own life on hold. She neglected friendships and bored anyone who’d listen with baby stories and pictures.
When she got into real social situations, she found she could not add anything to the conversation because all her current experiences were about her parenting experiences. She had no life or interests outside of motherhood.
She didn’t notice that she had put on a whole lot of weight either because she no longer dressed in her professional or party clothes. In fact, there were very few times when she wore anything nursing and spit-up friendly. She gradually realized that she had no life outside of her child.
Finally, a dear older and wiser friend of hers told her that it was an essential thing, apart from taking care of her family, to take care of her own needs because her own health and happiness directly impacts her ability to care for her family. She then realized the consequences of herself de-prioritization:
- Weight gain
- lack of socialization.
Mama Bear eventually realized that just like how in an airplane, you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask first, then help others; in order to help others, you need to take care of yourself first. It was then that she discovered how taking steps to care for yourself each day should be top priority.
Ok, so maybe Mama Bear really is me. And maybe Mama Bear is also you. In any case, I felt all the above to a certain degree, and I decided it was time for some changes - and all involved putting myself first to a certain extent.
I began to make sure I did more of the following:
Exercise - for me, this mostly means a walk or a ride on a stationary bike. And it's not hours and hours, but around 30 minutes a day. Plus, I throw in some stretching and few things like push-ups for strength. I don't have time to drive to the gym on a regular basis, then work out, then head home, so I must make do with what I have. The important thing is to do it.
Eating Better - yup, it's true, the older we get the more salads we must eat. Cutting down on carbs, amping up veggies, skipping sweets, reducing the vino intake - all lead to me feeling and looking a lot better.
Maintaining and Building Relationships - I spend a lot of time with my kids, but I also make time to go out for coffee or do something for friends. Not every day, and sometimes not every week, but a few times a month. If you're not sure where to start, maybe finding a book club at the local library, or a movie viewing club can be the first start. Looking through the papers - online and print - in your local area will help you find a place to start
Time for Me - we all have our guilty pleasures. For me it can be going to coffee shop alone to read or write in my journal. It can be a trip to the bookstore or walk through a cute little town and window shopping. Maybe it's soaking in bath, getting pedicure or a massage or facial. Make time for it and allow yourself to do it.
Sleep on it - As I have gotten older and wiser, I try to focus on getting a better night's sleep. Since I must get up at the same time no matter what, this means controlling the bedtime. Pick a time about 8 hours from your wake-up time - but no less than 6 hours. An hour before, start the wind-down ritual. Finish up the last few things that MUST be done but leave the rest. Jot down the key things that you didn't get to for you to tackle them tomorrow. This will set you mind at rest.
Get dressed - if you work from home or are stay at home mom, there's a temptation to wear sweats all day. Don't. Shower, dress up, and feel good about yourself.
Have a positive attitude - A positive, mindful attitude used on yourself and others will change the way you view life. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning and face whatever challenges come your way!
Have a hobby - You need interests of your very own outside of the home and family because it maintains your individuality.
Spend some time alone - Just taking a relaxing bath for 30 minutes or a few hours out to do your hair and nails or reading a book you have been meaning to read, these are what boost your morale, your spirits, and make you feel good about yourself and life.
Ask for help - If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help, because it’s true, we can’t do everything alone – no (wo)man is an island. This might mean getting someone else in the family to take on one specific task on a regular basis, or it might mean sharing car-pooling duties with another mom. Once you ask for help, though, let the other person run with it. If the result is what you were looking for, then don’t criticize the method. If the result isn’t what you were looking for – i.e. the bathroom isn’t as clean as you were expecting - point out your measurement points – and then get out of the way!
Once I started to take time for myself – GUILT FREE – I felt happier and calmer – and that was something everyone around me noticed.
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