Us moms are a self-sacrificing bunch, aren’t we? We will give away our last bites of breakfast to kids with full bellies and the shirts off of our backs to catch projectile vomit. We will gladly hand over our sunglasses to keep the sun out of our little ones’ eyes and squint ourselves into a headache. We will sacrifice a moment of solitude in exchange for a multi-plot story about the Tooth Fairy…and while we’re on the toilet, no less.
Or maybe it’s just me.
Mothers are literal superheroes in the flesh. We pull off some of the world’s most amazing feats with the sheer force of our own wills. And although we have the stamina of an Arabian horse, there will come a time when we will reach the end of our limits, when our white knuckles will lose their grips, and our capes will slide from our necks (and likely onto the towering heaps of laundry that await us). And that process, my friend, is painful. The impact of our self-imposed, unrealistic expectations hitting the floor is cataclysmic. Our whole family will be rocking in the aftershock.
A case for joy
But what if we didn’t wait until we were completely depleted and threadbare before we took a moment to breathe and reassess? What if, instead of all control slipping from our fingers, we simply put stuff down to make room for joy, pleasure, and delight? What kinds of moms would we be if we put ourselves higher up on our lists consistently?
Better mothers, I’d imagine. And better friends, spouses and partners, and better humans, too. Our work would thrive. Our lives would feel a bit more balanced. We’d feel as if we had the space to live our lives not just for others, but for ourselves, too. Because here’s the thing: We weren’t meant to sacrifice every part of ourselves on the altar of parenthood. I believe, mamas, we were meant for more. And when we lean into loving ourselves and filling our cups—and not with the dregs!—we show our babies that one day, when they’re in this exact position, they’ll be worthy of all the self-love, joy, and peace their hearts can stand.
But how? How can we start taking our joy seriously when we’re out of practice? Here are a few great places to start:
Check your energy expenditure. What makes you feel invigorated? What drains you more than it should? Look into where you spend your time, thoughts, and efforts. Make room for the things that increase your energy, and make other arrangements for the things that feel unnecessarily hard.
Make a list. For the seasoned list makers, this should be no problem: Write down all the things that make you feel alive. All the things you’ve ever wanted to do, the activities that made you smile before becoming a mom. The things that make you forget what time it is or what’s on your to-do lists. The people who make the best parts of you shine through.
Invest wisely. Take a look at that list and start making a plan. That tango lesson you’ve always wanted to take? Honey, it’s happening right now at the community center down the street. That friend who energizes you in a way few can? She’s just waiting on you to text her back. That book you’ve been meaning to finish that is sitting in your drafts folder? Your kid’s nap time is coming and it’s going to be a long one, so grab your laptop, sister—we’ve got work to do. Those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, huh? True—but grab your headphones and turn it into a dance party for one. Boom. Multi-tasking.
Romanticize the small moments. Slow down and relish in the warmth of your coffee. Light a candle to smell something lovely throughout your day. Close your eyes and feel the rain on your skin like Natasha Bedingfield has been encouraging us to do since 2004. Because she’s right about one thing: No one else can feel it for you.
Get (and use) the good stuff. The good sheets. The name brand hair products. The dress you’re awaiting the perfect occasion to wear. The cozy sweater. The high-waisted yoga pants that stay up over your fupa all day long. The subscription you’ve always wanted. The things that make you feel beautiful and invested in. If you’re waiting for the perfect time, it’s here. Right now.
Forgive yourself and them. Grudges often hold us back from experiencing joy. So, forgive yourself for the things of the past. Forgive the people who hurt you. Like author and speaker, Lysa TerKeurst, says, “Forgiveness doesn’t let the other person off the hook. It actually places them in God’s hands.”
Speak kindly to yourself. Sometimes, the words we say to ourselves aren’t very kind. It’s time to be your own best friend; it’s time to enjoy your own company. Speak positive, powerful words to yourself. Believe with your whole heart that you are capable of amazing things, and worthy of all the good things coming to you—you are worth the fuss.
This Mother’s Day, I hope you take some time to pause and reflect on you. It might feel weird and selfish, but I promise you, it’s not. Thinking about yourself doesn’t take away anything from anyone else. In fact, your life and the lives of those around you gain so much richness when mama is okay. And you can start being okay—better than okay—when you start investing in your joy.