This week I found myself in the Obstetrical Triage at Sunnybrook Hospital, checking to ensure that I wasn't in pre-term labour. I had been experiencing some cramping and contractions that were slightly reminiscent of early labour, and I needed to be sure that nothing was happening just yet. They took some tests and determined that, thankfully, I wasn't in labour (phew!). Then I went to see my OB, who advised me to "rest, avoid lifting heavy objects (a.k.a. my 30-pound toddler), and take care of myself for the next few weeks." Easier said than done, right? I know that this baby needs to 'cook' for at least 4 to 6 more weeks, and so I have no choice but to follow the doctor's orders.
But there are a-million-and-one things I still need to do around the house before baby arrives, plus I have lots of great work projects on the go. Still, I have to find a way to incorporate this self-care into my daily life—for the baby and, more importantly, for ME!
That's what self-love is all about, and it's a perfect time to address this, given that Valentine's Day is just around the corner.
We all spend so much time taking are of our kids, our partners, our parents, our friends—ensuring we treat them well, look out for their needs, support them when things aren't going as planned, etc. But most of us aren't nearly as willing to treat ourselves the same way.
Self-love? Who has time for that?
This is why we've seen an increase in super-important programs, like the #EncourageAMom campaign, which are promoting self-care and prioritization. In fact, this is the very reason why the Yummy Mummy Club was started in the first place.
This Valentine's Day, I challenge you to make yourself your Valentine. Treat yourself to something nice, enjoy some peace and quite, indulge in a box of overpriced chocolates and a bottle of wine you've been saving for a special occasion, or buy yourself a huge bouquet of your favourite flowers and place them somewhere you'll enjoy them. The more you treat yourself with love, the better able you'll be to share that love with those around you.
For more self-love tips, I turned to life coach Ellen White—my first coach and a great inspiration in my life. Ellen has a 3.5-year-old, a busy job, and a hectic schedule. She's just like any other mom, yet she always takes the time to put herself first. She totally leads by example.
1. Practice Self-Compassion: Stop judging yourself for not being a good enough mom, wife, employee, or person. The more you judge yourself, the more difficult everything becomes. Practice forgiving yourself and letting yourself off the hook more often. If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it, then move on. No one is perfect. I repeat: no one! So, stop expecting perfection.
2. Schedule Time Just For You: We've all been told this a million times, but it's still the first thing that's ignored or forgotten when life gets busy. Though we'd all love to be spontaneous, sometimes you have to pencil in 'you time' in order to make it happen. Motherhood isn't always enough to fulfill your own passions and desires. We were all individuals before we were mothers, and it's important to reconnect with that individual and give her some time to shine.
3. Nurture Yourself Physically: Stop skipping meals and eating off your kids' plates. Make foods you like. Treat yourself to daily or weekly exercise that you enjoy. Take baths. Go for massages. Take naps without feeling guilty about it. Get your hair done. Spend time on your makeup. Paint your nails. Go for regular check-ups. If we all took as good care of ourselves as we do our children, we'd be in much better shape.
4. Ditch The Guilt: Unless you're leaving your kids in the care of someone else 24/7, you're not being selfish if you want to have a life outside of your family. Taking time to nurture your career, go on dates with your partner, take a course, or go to the movies is not selfish—it's necessary. Plus, you'll be modeling the importance of self-care and balance for your children (an invaluable gift to them). Besides, if you have your own life, you'll be much more equipped to give your kids the attention and energy that they require when you're with them. Remember, it's the quality of the time you spend with your kids that really matters.
5. Clear Your Life of Toxic Relationships: Your free time is so valuable that you can't afford to spend it with people who bring you down. We all know the type—those who are constantly sucking your energy, taking everything you've got, and leaving you feeling drained and depressed. Choose your friends wisely. Make company with people who boost your energy and make you feel good about yourself.
6. Ask For Help: Remember, your partner is not a mind reader. If you need him to take on more responsibilities around the house, you have to ask. Part of loving yourself is admitting when you can't do it all—and finding the right people to help you. If you suffer in silence, you'll end up building up resentment and anger until you explode—and trust me, it won't be pretty. So, make a list of all the things you can't possibly do on your own, and ask for help, nicely.
7. Forget Responsibility (for just a moment): Embrace your inner child and watch how much better you feel about yourself. Dance. Sing. Get down on the floor and play with your kids. Let go of all the seriousness. Abandon the responsible mom role, and spend a little bit of time each day being silly and having fun.
8. Learn To Love Your Reflection: Look yourself in the mirror and say, "I Love You!" Can you do it without feeling uncomfortable? Can you do it and actually believe it? It may take practice, but it really matters. The reflection looking back at you is all you've got. Love it the way it looks today. Don't wait until you've lost weight or had Botox or slept enough to get rid of the bags under your eyes. Love yourself as your are—today! Now try listing off some tangible things you love about yourself. Get comfortable with the idea that loving yourself is a good thing. It's not selfish. It's not conceited. It's super important, and will save you from a lifetime of resentment and discontent.
Happy Valentine's Day to YOU!