Milestones Of Motherhood ~ The Milestone Of Nurturing Ourselves
When We Don’t Nurture Ourselves
One of the milestones we return to again and again along our mothering journey is that of remembering to take care of ourselves as well as our children. And this is a milestone which we come to time and again, because it is a milestone which is easily overlooked and soon forgotten in the tides of nurturing, caring and busyness we direct towards our children, our work and our families.
Mothering is about giving; fundamentally, we give birth, we give life and we give to our children and families almost constantly, through the days and the nights, alongside the many other projects, employment and activities we are busy with. Whilst we may feel infinite reserves of love for our children, most of us do not have infinite reserves of energy, and if we give, constantly, to others, without giving to ourselves, more often than not, in the long run we find ourselves become depleted, exhausted and resentful.
When our giving is not balanced with receiving, it can feel as if our reserves are running dry. It is different for each of us, but the common thread is we feel we are giving out more than we have; we become exhausted beyond our normal limits, we may feel our tempers becoming shorter, our patience, empathy and understanding less than usual, and our day to day parenting becoming further and further away from our values and ideals. If we fail to heed the warning signals and continue to give without giving to ourselves also, as contributors to Milestones Of Motherhood found out and bravely shared, we begin to suffer.
We are not an ocean of infinite energy; although our hearts may be places of infinite love, our bodies and minds need nourishment, rest and replenishment. If we fail to bestow upon ourselves the same unconditional love and care we bestow upon our children, our physical, mental and emotional health can suffer. Our bodies ache and tire, we may be more susceptible to mastitis, infections, coughs and colds. Our periods may become more painful, bringing more challenging symptoms to alert us to the need to care for ourselves. Similarly, our mental health can suffer. Mothers spoke of increased anxiety, depression and difficult thoughts as they became more and more depleted. Also, our relationships with our partners, friends and of course our children can become more fraught. We see things are not as we hoped they would be, and we become harder on ourselves, blaming ourselves for failing, feeling guilty for not being able to do better. But rather than blame ourselves, we can give to ourselves.
As we begin to realise we are being stretched beyond what feels like our natural limits, let us remind ourselves of the need, or rather the necessity, to nurture ourselves. For whilst as mothers our job is fundamentally to give, so too is it to receive; for we cannot give to our children and families and our work and projects if we ourselves are not well resourced. Of course it can be challenging to find the time to care for ourselves amidst the needs of our babies and children, yet this is our challenge, for if we are to be able to love, care for and nurture our children as we would like, and in resonance with the quality of love in our hearts, then we must ensure we are well enough resourced within ourselves to give freely and without resentment.
Of course this is a challenge and an ever-changing balancing act, yet it is a fundamental part of our journey, a recurrent milestone of motherhood, for when our own reserves are met, we are more able to give, freely, the love, time, care and attention we know in our hearts we want to share with our children.
Knowing we need to care for ourselves, and putting this into practice day in day out are two different things. In the following Milestones Nurturing series of articles, we will explore the ways in which we can weave nurture and self-care into our daily lives, replenishing our own reserves alongside those of our children, work and families.