By Alissa Alter
As much as I love to hate the cliche, “You cannot pour from an empty cup” holds true.
And when we become mothers it’s like we are supposed to suddenly have these magical cups with endless resources. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get one of those. If anything, motherhood puts a hole in the bottom of my cup so I find it empty faster and more often.
Which makes me think of Amy Poehler (obviously) “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what we’ve been taught to be sorry for.”
We are so conditioned to equate motherhood with martyrdom. That our needs don’t move to the bottom of the list, they are removed completely. Our babies deserve, demand, and get every last ounce of everything we’ve got. Plus what we don’t have.
And I’d be lying if I said I don’t put my son first, of course I do. It’s impossible not to put your kids first! They demand it. And this is multiplied exponentially when your child has additional medical, emotional, or developmental needs. When you are an extra lucky mom.
But that doesn’t mean you are erased. You can be on the list too. No. This means you NEED to be on the list.
I reject the ideals, expectations, and myths of motherhood. I refuse to accept that my needs, my well being, my whole self are no longer a priority.
In fact, I would argue that I’m more important than ever! YOU are more important than ever! Because your kids and your family are counting on you. You are their home, their haven, their advocate. And they deserve you at their best.
There is nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect yourself to do so either. I had to include another cliche because this one is also true! You’re welcome.
When I was pregnant my mom told me to “Enjoy the attention now because once you have the baby no one will care about you.”
Oof. I thought she was being so rude and I realize now she was one of the only people who was honest about what to expect postpartum. Our society doesn’t value mothers the way we deserve. Or support us.
I experienced a fourth degree tear after giving birth to my son. That’s where everything that can tear, tears. Childbirth is primal however it happens and stitches in your butthole don’t make things any easier.
I’d been conditioned my entire life to suffer in silence. My ballet training, musical theater career, first marriage, and divorce all capitalized on my high tolerance for pain and suffering. Because as women we aren’t supposed to talk about the hard stuff. The bad stuff, right?
I call BS. We need to talk about the hard stuff more than anything else! So that we ourselves feel less alone and so that we open the door for another woman suffering to feel seen and heard.
And so I fight like hell every day to make sure we are taken care of. I care about you. And I care about myself too.
This prompted me to write my book Unstuck: From Understudy To The Study of Your Undercarriage and create my podcast Myth of Motherhood.
That is why I focus my work on empowering mamas to feel safe, confident, and knowledgeable in their bodies. Which is why I work with my clients to develop easy, accessible, impactful self care practices that will actually happen every day.
And it may not look how it used to or how you want it to. I’d love to spend 3-5 days a month at Miraval caring for and connecting to myself and my purpose, but that’s not a sustainable reality. I’d love to do an hour and a half of yoga each day, but that doesn’t fit into the ear, sleep, play, work, clean, cook, etc schedule.
This feeling of being discarded and neglected after birth also led me to co-found pstprtm. A media company and community space on a mission to revolutionize the postpartum experience. Because there is so much information that is left out.
So I’ve recalibrated my practices and my expectations around caring for myself. Maybe it’s a morning off from being the lead parent one weekend and staying in bed past 7am! Or maybe it’s sneaking in stretches and movements throughout the day that if done at once would be a full practice, but are broken up into bite sized pieces.
Ok, now I am going to share with you my two favorite self care practices that I can actually utilize often. Like every single day. These set me up for success and allow me to start the day feeling like a winner!
Use Your Snooze
So in terms of healthy sleep practices, we aren’t supposed to snooze, right? Right. But this snooze isn’t for sleeping. Set your alarm slightly early so you can snooze one time and use that time to meditate and focus on your breathing. I have a podcast all about maximizing your snooze you can listen to here. And an article all about how breathing is the magical solution to almost everything that you can read here.
The Only To Do List You Need
Set a timer for five minutes and write down all of the things that make you feel energized, restored, lit up, and unapologetically you. Listening to Lizzo and dancing around the living room, going for a run, a bath, calling a friend, getting a massage, being by yourself, reading a real book, or an ebook. Next to each activity make a note of how much time it takes. This way you can choose something each day based on the time you have. Or when you find yourself with a window of time and are paralyzed trying to decide the best thing to do with your time, you can check your list!
Share the list with your partner, kids, friends to help keep you accountable. And encourage them to make lists too. Everyone needs a moment to themselves.
And let’s be real here, your children will keep their spots at the top of your list. I challenge you to rotate yourself up there with them periodically. Give yourself that #1 spot from time to time and own the shit out of it when you do.
There is nothing to feel guilty about when you’re taking care of #1.
Motherhood is hard enough, let’s make it easier where we can. There is so much that we can’t control or change, so let’s figure out ways to elevate our experience.
Because you are important. You matter. You deserve care. And if you don’t do it, who will?