A few months back I was contacted by a long lost college friend about doing an interview on self-care. She had found me through The Mama Redefined Tribe group on Facebook and wanted to use me as a source for an article she was writing about making resolutions (you can find that article here).
The interview got me thinking and what we talked about is the true essence of what Mama Redefined is about. My goal here is to provide accountability without snarkiness and create a space for vulnerability without the judgement. My coaching programs are focused specifically on vulnerability, self care, tearing down limiting beliefs/self doubt/self sabotage, building relationships, conscious parenting, and getting our shit together so we can deal with whatever shit our toddlers throw at is (sometimes literally, ha!). I want to get rid of the self doubt and self judgement that is pervasive in motherhood. Its the root of the mama-wars, in my opinion, and only serves to divide us further when what we are all really craving is more acceptance and connection. I want mamas to feel a sense of confidence in their relationship with their kids, and MOST importantly I want to help them resolve feelings of self doubt, overwhelm and emotional triggers so that they can be present with their child’s (and their own) really big emotions.
If you’re new to this blog, to our group, or to motherhood, or if you are feeling the tug to revisit your own “story” and re-consider what self care looks like in your life, than this is for you.
Layla: How do you define self-care? What does it mean to you personally?
Mercedes: When I think of self-care, I think of all the things it takes to care care of ourselves. Most people think of things like massages and pedicures, and while that CAN be part of self-care, and definitely not the main thing Im talking about when I talk about self care with my clients. Self-care requires emotional awareness and vulnerability. It might mean asking for help, being painfully honest with yourself and your family or those closest to you. Self care is learning how to build healthy boundaries, leaving or evaluating relationships that are toxic and not serving you, it means connecting with and possibly challenging your inner dialogue. Its taking care of your body, yes, but also taking care of your mind and your heart. And that process is super humbling and also super personal.
L: Do you think people are aware of the concept of self-care? Is this something that clients with whom you work find a foreign concept?
M: I think when MOST people think of self care, they’re thinking of the superficial aspects of self care. They’re thinking of bubble baths and coffee dates with girlfriends, and those are all good things. But, for most of us, those are only going to get us so far toward feeling how we want to feel. We need to dig deeper.
L: Why is self-care so important to parents and their families?
M: Lack of self care leads to burn out, feeling like a victim if your own life, blaming others for how you feel, and resentment. Lack of self care is what causes parents to yell at their kids and go to bed feeling shameful or guilty. Its what drives a wedge between our relationships and rather than having the intimacy and acceptance, we’re left feeling disconnected. I’m a firm believer in respectful parenting, in accepting our children’s feelings without trying to fix them, and in healthy boundaries. Without self care, our children’s behaviors can trigger our own visceral and emotional reaction and we may behave in a way that we’re not proud of. Self care is critical for parents to stay calm and present when their children are struggling.
L: How do you work with clients to incorporate self-care into their lives–this can be from a psychological, physical, emotional, etc. standpoint?
M: Often times, clients come to me already feeling stuck, they’re usually really disappointed that their experience of motherhood is not what they hoped it would be and are feeling overwhelmed more often than not. We start out very simple, with things that they feel the least amount of resistance to but would get them some relief, and then build momentum from there. Self care incorporates all the ways we need to be cared for, from a physical, emotional, and psychological point of view, but one of the biggest blocks I see with the mothers I work with is how they manage their mind. What we think creates our feelings and our behaviors are based on how we feel, and those behaviors/actions is what gets us the results we have in our lives, whether we wanted those results or not. Starting with our mind, how we think, and challenging the thinking patterns that aren’t actually serving us but that we’re currently latched on to is usually where we start.
L: What are three of your top tips for self-care and what are the benefits?
M: One of the places I encourage people to start is to identify what they’re thinking, but without trying to change it or talk themselves out of thinking that way. But just observing, without shifting, people gain a lot of insight into their thinking patterns while building tolerance for feelings that dont feel so great to feel. Secondly, I talk to women about their own “inner child,” the little girl inside each of us that needs reassurance, follow through on promises, healthy boundaries, and unconditional love just like our own actual children. Getting back in touch with her and committing to parenting her can create a profound shift. I ask clients to do one thing every day, just for her, and to acknowledge her by putting their hands on their hearts and saying, “Im doing this just for you.” That can be simple stuff like getting dressed in clean clothes or taking a shower, or it can be really big stuff like saying “no” when a “yes” would make you feel overextended, or putting a boundary in place in a relationship that is undermining your wellbeing. I also highly recommend journaling as a way to build your relationship with your “inner child” and also exploring the relationship between your thinking patterns, your feelings, and your outward behavior.
L: What improvements do you/your clients notice once they implement these changes?
M: One of the most profound shifts that happen pretty quickly for my clients is they begin to take ownership of their life and the dynamics of their families. They become aware of how their own energy is benefitting or harming the relationships they have with their kids and are able to access the part of themselves that interacts with their kids with more acceptance and respect. Once that happens, there’s a lot to work with in terms of helping them reach the goals they have for their lives as women and as mothers.
L: What kinds of self-care do you personally find easy to incorporate? Things you find the most challenging?
M: I’m not sure if it was because of how I was raised, or if its directly because of my training as a therapist and life coach, but I find it most easy to manage my mind, maintain awareness of my own internal emotions and inner dialogue, and establish healthy boundaries in my relationships. Thats definitely the gift I realized I have and what I was most compelled to share when I first began coaching. What I find most challenging is the logistical part, the scheduling and taking time for myself.
L: How does your spouse integrate self-care into their life?
M: My husband is really good about taking time for the things that he enjoys because it creates value in his life. He’s really loves mountain biking and has always been really good about incorporating that into his schedule. Taking that time has allowed him to show up as a much more present and patient father than he would have if he was only running the rat race with work. There have been times, particularly when I’m NOT taking time to pursue the things that I enjoy and that make me feel refueled, that I’ve been resentful of his ability as the non-breastfeeding and non-primary parent to take that time. However, the times that I’m also committing to taking personal time for myself, that resentment subsides and I get a lot more clarity on how even a few minutes of focused time for myself affords me an incredible amount of patience and calm that my children deserve from me. Additionally, when you’re married to a therapist-turned-life coach, you get the added benefit of lots of self-improvement and emotional awareness talk and its become a topic that he really enjoys now, too. We are both able to help each other see when limiting beliefs and thinking patterns need to be examined.