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Celebrating moms (and mental health)

May 07, 2012

A few days ago, I went shopping for some things for our family’s upcoming beach trip at Target. As I looked through the boy’s bathing suits, I noticed another mom nearby with her own little boy. He looked and sounded to be about 2 years old, and they were having a debate about shorts. He wanted long shorts, and she was reminding him that he doesn’t like to wear long shorts. They went back and forth, and things got a little heated. He got whiny; she got irritated. Eventually she told him, loudly, to stop talking and announced to him that she was “done.” He promptly began wailing about the shorts, and her reaction was to drop her stuff she was buying, pick him up, and yell at him, “You are embarrassing me!”  She stomped her way out of Target, carrying him, yelling at him about how he will not be going to his play date later.  Yikes!

Okay. Speaking as a mom, I will say that I, too, have felt pushed to the limit. I, too, have felt “done”. I have also left a full shopping cart behind, just to get out of a store. I think any and every mom has. We have all had those moments in Target, Publix, the mall, the park, wherever, that our kid has either gone crazy or we have.

This moment got me thinking about how hard it can be to be a mom. It is ROUGH. It’s not a complaint; it’s a fact. For some moms, it’s a thankless job, with little support or encouragement from others. Some of us do have support and encouragement, and it is still “the hardest job you’ll ever love”.

I’m sharing all this today, because here we are, in May, and with it brings Mother’s Day.  Coincidentally, it’s also Mental Health Month. I can’t help but smile as I type that…  Mother’s Day and Mental Health Month are both in May. Perfect. It’s perfect because moms are caretakers, but we can’t really take good care of others, unless we take care of ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, then what will happen to our mental health?

So, Moms, here’s to us!  How do we all do it?! No, seriously, how do we do it? Everyone has different coping skills to keep our mental health in check, and here are some things I have learned from my mom, my friends, and myself when it comes to surviving motherhood.

First comes love

My mom taught me to love. A bit corny, but true. No matter what was going on with her, she ALWAYS made sure my brother and I felt that she cared about us and loved us. I now do the same thing for my son, and not only does that feel good for him, it feels good to me, too. No matter what else happened in the day, I can rest peacefully knowing that he knows I love him.

Know when to say “no”

I have two close mom friends. They are both very good at setting their boundaries.  They say no to their kids when they need to. They sometimes say no to parties, events and gatherings. I love that about them, and it helps me remember that I don’t have to try to do or attend everything for everyone.

Find ways to relax

I have another mom friend who is raising three little kids. She told me once that one of the things keeping her sane throughout the daily grind was going to yoga. It was a good break, it was calming, and it was a pretty tough workout. I thought, “That seems like a good idea.” I now go to yoga, too. She was right. It helps a lot.

Let go of the little things

Another friend of mine has two little boys. She is the master of acceptance. Many times, I have heard her say, “It is what it is” and “You can only do what you can do.” She is comfortable with her decision-making and confident about her ability to parent. She helps me remember that “it is OK” and to just let go sometimes. It’s not that she doesn’t care; it’s that she has learned that the worry or frustration of the situation is just not always worth it.

Take comfort in companionship

My son plays soccer. Every Wednesday afternoon, the team practices. Mostly, it is the moms who bring their kids to the field.  For those 45 minutes while the kids practice their skills, we moms hold an informal group therapy session. We talk to each other about how we are doing and how the kids are doing. We support each other and listen to each other.  I think, sometimes, it’s the moms that get the most out of those Wednesday night practices!

These other moms have helped my mental health, in that I feel more confident about myself and my parenting skills. They have helped me learn to let go of the little things and to take better care of myself. I am just like all the other moms that just want to be the best mom they can be. But if our cups are empty, instead of full, how can we give all that we need to give?  Let’s do ourselves and our families a favor and truly take care… of ourselves!

Happy Mother’s Day!