If you ignore self-care, you are going to crash and burn as a work at home, homeschool mom. You may be able to go a long, long time on nearly empty, operating on caffeine and sheer determination. But eventually, you will have to pay the piper. It will catch up with you in one or more of these forms:
- strained relationships with those you love the most
- weight gain
- chronic pain and overall poor health
- sloppy work and missed deadlines
- hyper-vigilance when you can’t relax or turn off your brain
- burnout or even a breakdown
I know that some of you read this and think, “Not me. I’m tough. I don’t need that sissy self-care nonsense! I’m too busy for that.” I used to think that too. And then I stopped being a Homeschool Mom Martyr and started to invest in me. And guess what? I feel a million times better, work fewer hours, and make more money!
Here are the three big lies about self-care that keep moms from investing in it.
- Self-care is weak.
- Self-care is selfish.
- Self-care is wasteful.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Self-Care is Not Wimpy
One objection to self-care is that it’s for the weak. Yes, we homeschooling WAHMs are freakishly efficient. We truly must be. But that doesn’t mean we are robots without physical and emotional needs. Our needs for sleep, healthy foods, exercise, relaxation, laughter, and fun should be honored instead of trivialized.
Some homeschooling WAHMs may pooh pooh the ways that you choose to self-care. Sure, everyone knows that exercise is good for you. But it’s one of those self-care routines that actually demonstrates a lot of discipline and strength. What about lighter self-care like going to the bargain movies to watch a dumb movie and eat a tub of popcorn? What about the hair and nail appointments? Do those count? Sure they do if they build you up rather than deplete you.
What rejuvenates me may not work for you. This self-care thing is very individual when you get past the basics of sleep, exercise, and food. Dig deep and discover what makes you feel like a million bucks. What puts pep in your step, makes you smile when the alarm clock sounds, or gives you a sense of peace that helps you be more effective as a mom, teacher, and worker? Those are the things that you need to invest in for your self-care. It’s not wimpy. It’s actually strong and sensible to admit our weaknesses and tend to them.
Self-Care is Not Selfish
This objection to self-care is even more insidious because it attacks our moral character. No, mom, you are not selfish to look for me-time without kids. You are not selfish to spend money on your health, your wellness, and your appearance. And if you are at my stage of things, no, you are not selfish to look forward to having an empty nest.
In fact, investing in yourself is one of the most generous things you can do for those you love. If you are doing it right, you should be more at peace, less on edge, more patient, less angry. Self-care means you are better able to serve those around you. That simmering resentment is gone because you turned the tables for an afternoon and listened to your own needs for a change.
Look at the example you are setting for your children — Mom is a human with needs, and she values herself enough to take care of those needs. Although Mom is a superwoman who takes great care of us, she also sets a high priority on her own wellness. She is a person outside of being our mom.
Self-Care is Not a Time Waster
Yes, self-care takes time. And let me warn you. If you haven’t been attending to self-care, then when you start, you are going to find that you need quite a bit of it to fill your emotional reserves. When you are depleted past empty, it takes a long time to fill the tank. That can be a scary feeling because you think, “I’m neglecting work and my family for this self-care, and I feel the same as I did before!” That feeling of failed self-care means one or both of these things:
- You are in need of loads more self-care.
- You’re not choosing the right kind of self-care that nourishes your soul.
Don’t give up. This is not a time waster. But the effects of self-care are cumulative, so you may need many treatments before you start to move the needle of your fuel tank.
Once you invest in yourself consistently and in ways that recharge you, you will build up reserves that will carry you through a season when you can’t make time for self-care. (But don’t let that go on for too long!) With that reserve in place, you will find that a little indulgence goes much farther than it did before.
The key is not to let yourself get too empty. Be in tune with your own symptoms of burnout, and make it a priority to respond once those signs appear.
Self-care will give you a peaceful spirit, a calm mind, a focused attention, and better sleep so that you can power through your work and your homeschooling like a champ. The time it takes to rejuvenate yourself comes back to you in greater efficiency. That’s why the year I stopped working for free and also invested in self-care was the year my income went up. It’s a cliche, but it’s true — I worked smarter not harder.