One Truth About Motherhood I Wish I'd Known Sooner

mother and daughter look at computer screen

I’m the mother of four now! But not too long ago, I had three little ones in diapers, and I thought I had to be superwoman for them. I was exhausted.

Early mornings. Up all night with babies who didn’t sleep through the night (but whyyyeee?). Tiptoeing around expressing my needs because I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody. I was embarrassed by my need. I thought that strong women never needed anything.

Lots of “a ha!” moments (and a year of good ‘ol fashioned burn out) later, here’s the truth about motherhood I wish I’d known sooner: my kids will do their best when I’m doing my best.

Once, I heard somebody say that children are like little lambs, following their parents everywhere. If I want my children to learn to care for themselves and treat their own precious selves with love and dignity, I have to treat my own self with the love and dignity I deserve!

Motherhood TruthPhoto by Omar Lopez

Now, self-care isn’t selfish or indulgent, it’s part of how I lead my children to thrive: I show them how an adult makes time for rest and fun and nourishment.

I ask for help (I get bossy, sometimes).

I demand help, sometimes (true relationships are ebbs and flows of give and take, and this is better for everyone).

I say no, clearly.

And I build boundaries.

My kids are still young, and they’re not always around to see this self-care in action (#babysitter), but I already know they absorb more than I think they do.

In learning to speak my needs, I’m inviting my three sons into truer, richer relationships with the women in their lives.

I’m inviting my daughter to treat her own self--her full self: body, soul, and mind--with dignity and honor and to demand the same for her community.

Kids Learning Self-Care from MotherhoodPhoto by Mi Pham

Like everything, self-care had to change when the pandemic arrived. Childcare all but disappeared, and my husband and I (like so many others) were suddenly navigating online school. And I have another little one, now!

The long walks by myself and the long soaks in the tub have mostly disappeared, but here are some ways I’ve learned to prioritize my care right now:

  • Funny podcasts to keep me laughing, and make me want to get in a brief workout, a walk, or even just a few stretches
  • A weekly socially-distanced date with a friend. There’s always an excuse (it’s too cold, I’m too tired, I have too much work to do), but I’m always so glad I made it happen!
  • My daily adaptogens (“mini stress vaccines”)
  • Something up ahead to look forward to, like a planned solo hike or time by myself at my favorite local park
  • Time alone to journal and reflect regularly (even when I feel I should be working!)
  • Cutting back on the news and engaging with the world in intentional ways. I don’t have much time, but finding ways to donate even just a few dollars makes me feel hopeful and connected.
  • Counseling!

Pandemic life is tough for my whole family, and none of us are getting everything that we need right now. But my needs are now on the table, instead of being swept under a rug. I still speak up for what I need, and I still treat myself with dignity and respect.

The mother of my children deserves it!

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.