I took a ballet class this week! It may sound crazy to some people, and may not sound like a big deal to others, but I’ve been really excited about it! Since I was 5 years old, I’ve loved to dance. I was never a professional dancer, but I did ballet, jazz, and modern dance through college. Dance was always an awesome way to express myself and I’ve really missed it. As I got older, and busy with school, work, marriage, and kids, my time for dance fell off. My interest never went away. But, I forgot about my own interests while I’ve been so focused on everyone else’s. More recently, I’ve been able to get back into dance as an outlet through my daughter’s awesome dance school. I’ve realized I have to do better at taking care of myself.

We all do it

As wives and moms, we tend to do this in so many ways. We focus on everyone else. It’s in our nature as nurturers. We’re responsible for so much, and we tend to put everyone else’s needs ahead of ours. I make sure my kids tummies are full, they’re clean and comfortable before I get settled every night. At meals, everyone else eats first. I end up with cold food, a loss of appetite, and little hands picking food off of my plate (because somehow the food on my plate tastes better). My Saturdays and some weeknights are spent shuttling kids around to their activities. All of this while working a full-time job! I’m pulled in every direction, every single day. Somehow, I manage to get it all done, but many times it’s at the expense of my health and sanity!

I know I should set aside time for self-care, but then there’s that overarching “mommy guilt” that sets in. We feel guilty when we’re studying for our next big exam or finishing a project for work, instead of playing with or teaching our kids. The guilt is real when we miss out on important events for our kids because of work or other obligations. Things we’re doing to better ourselves. While we’re at work, someone else may be potty training our child or teaching him to read. We over-exert ourselves to make up for it when we’re back home with our kids. If I sneak away for a night out or weekend trip, it’s fun, but I find myself thinking about all the other things I should be doing. I can’t possibly take time out for myself! Gasp!

Why should you take care of yourself?

You can’t give what you don’t have

I know we’ve all heard this all before. But, you have to be well enough to take care of others. That means you have to be well-fed, well-rested, in a decent state of mind, and physically well enough to do everything you need to get done as a wife and mom. This all won’t fall in line perfectly, I know. And it all won’t happen at the same time. But, we have to be our best in order to give our best. I know that when I’m physically or emotionally drained, my husband and kids don’t get what they deserve from me. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup!”

Your health is important

As women, we have to remember to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. Anxiety and depression are real. They can be brought on by the stresses of life, which we as women have a lot of! Coping with everything that’s thrown our way isn’t easy. We have to pay attention to ourselves, and get the help that we need.

When it comes to physical health, we all want to be here to watch our children grow older. We want to play an active role in caring for our grandchildren, and maybe even our great-grandchildren. Staying physically well can help you to live a long life!

You’re so much more than a mom

It’s important for us as women to stay in touch with ourselves. We can’t define ourselves as just “wife” or “mom”. We’re so much more than that! When your children are grown, you don’t want to look in the mirror and no longer know who that person is. Keep your interests, your passions – keep them all alive.

Your partner loves you

Your partner still wants to see you for who you are, not just as a mom, and not just as a wife. I’m sure your partner rather talk to you about things other than the kids. So, stay interesting. Take care of yourself the way you did when the two of your first met or when things were fresh in your marriage. I’m sure your partner wants you to continue to be the awesome person he or she fell in love with – not a woman lost behind her spouse and kids.

How do you start practicing self care?

Put it on the schedule

Because of our busy schedules, and everything we’re responsible for, we really have to be intentional about “scheduling” time for ourselves. Set aside daily time for something small, like watching a TV show or reading a few pages from a book. Figure out the best time for this to happen, and WRITE IT DOWN. Really the only time I sit and think about myself is late at night and early in the morning before everyone gets up. I feel bad when I do something for myself when I should be caring for someone else. So, if they’re all asleep, I don’t have to feel as guilty!

Schedule something “bigger” like getting your hair or nails done, lunch with a friend (or by yourself!), or treating yourself to something nice just because. Aim for once a month, but at least putting it on your calendar once is a start for now.

Lighten your load

Try to find ways to lessen your commitments. Cut back on work commitments if you can. Have the kids skip a few activities, even if it’s just short-term. Hire a cleaning service or someone to just come over and do your laundry if you can. Even taking one “to do” off your long daily list can make a difference. You can re-direct some of that time and energy to your own needs.

Reignite an old flame

No, I’m not talking about an old boyfriend! I’m talking about something that you used to love years ago. Pick back up an old activity, like I did. It’ll bring back old memories and the confidence you had back then, that you may have lost along the way.

Figure out childcare

Get your spouse, family, and friends on board to help with child care. Hire a babysitter if you need to. To get over some of my mommy guilt, I remind myself that my kids can benefit from the input of other reliable, loving adults. They don’t just have to rely on me. The same goes for your kids. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child!

Women are natural nurturers, but where does that leave us when we’ve given everything away? Someone has to be there to nurture us in return. Of course, our spouse and kids do what they can, but it’s so important to nurture yourself. There’s too much undue burden on women to be everything to everyone, and it just isn’t possible. You have to break away sometimes to re-discover yourself so you can be your best you.

I’m falling back in love with ballet and am making an effort to have alone time every morning and night. I’m getting more intentional about taking care of myself. How about you?

Say it with me now – “bye bye mommy guilt, hello self care.”

Petra K. McEwan, MD is a Wife, Mom, and Pediatrician in South Florida, who strives to help fellow working wives and moms balance their many roles, while providing up-to-date info in Pediatric Medicine. In her spare time, she’s a professional boogie-wiper, boo-boo kisser, cuddler, chef, laundry connoisseur, house-cleaner, secretary, chauffeur and just about anything you can think of to her hubby and 5 kids. Her website is: https://www.wifeymommydoc.com and she can be followed on Instagram @wifeymommydoc.