There's a lot of talk these days about self-care. And while we're all for mamas treating themselves in whatever way they need—be it a mani-pedi, a long run, or simply a morning where you actually get to sleep in as much as you want—we think it's even more important for mamas to practice regular amounts of self-compassion.
Think about it: You're constantly practicing empathy for those around you, whether it's sending solidarity vibes to the fellow mama at the store with the tantruming toddler or getting on your kid's level after he's had a rough day at kindergarten. And while modeling empathy for others is one of the best ways to raise children to be empathetic themselves, we would argue that it's just as important to set the example when it comes to self-empathy and compassion.
So where's a selfless mama to start? Here are six simple ways to model self-compassion for your children from clinical psychologist and co-founder of Harmony in Parenting, Dr. Azine Graff.
1. Give yourself two minutes
When our to-do lists feel longer than the number of hours we have in a day, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of rushing from one responsibility to the next without taking time for ourselves. Our expert's tip? Start with two minutes.
"What would be different if you gave yourself two minutes in the car before entering your home? What if you could spend those two minutes to reflect on what you want the rest of your day to look like?" Graff says. "Two minutes gives us the time to prepare ourselves for what is next rather than rushing and diving headfirst into challenges that can lead us to lose our cool."
Try this: Instead of rushing ahead to that next to-do, take a minute to clear your head. Try a deep-breathing exercise, sneak a healthy snack, or simply close your eyes and enjoy the (oh-so-rare) quiet.
2. Fuel yourself as nutritiously as you do your children
We've all succumbed to the 2 p.m. sugary snack trap—and lived to regret it. But for most of us, it's easier to turn our children to healthier choices because we believe a simple truth: It's better for them. Show yourself the same love by viewing your food as fuel and eating what you really need to sustain yourself.
Bonus: Setting the example will make your child a lot more likely to follow suit when you're not there making the choice between carrot sticks or chocolate for them.
Try this: Craving something sweet? Skip the candy and opt for a probiotic-rich dairy free yogurt drink from Califia Farms. It will satisfy your sweet tooth while also providing the right balance of healthy bacteria for your gut.
3. Take off the perfection pressure
Forgiving yourself for mistakes—or simply giving yourself permission to make them—is not just showing yourself kindness. It's also a great way to cut down on stress. "Being kind to ourselves can also reduce the pressure that creeps into our children leading to lack of self-worth, anxiety, and fear," says Graff.
Try this: Made a mistake? Don't beat yourself up. Instead, remind yourself (and your child) that no one gets it right every time—next time, you'll take the lessons you learned to do better.
4. Say "no" more
You would never force your child to take on more than they can handle. And while it can be difficult to decline invitations, opportunities, or extracurriculars, leaving no room for balance is a quick way to deplete yourself—as well as your children. Take a cue from Graff: "Finding that balance between boredom and active allows our brains to meet a combination of our needs."
Try this: Until you get comfortable saying no when you need to, "schedule" a free day every week in your calendar. That way, if you get any invitations you're not ready to handle, you can honestly tell them that your day is already booked!
5. Embrace hobbies and projects that make you feel like "you"
Especially when children are young, it's easy to set aside our own interests to focus on our children's needs. But by modeling the importance of doing what we enjoy (and maintaining a strong sense of self), we model what taking care of ourselves looks like. "As a result, not only are we a positive example for our children, but we feel more whole as a person by incorporating the activities that keep us inspired and engaged," Graff says.
Try this: Think about what you used to do before kids for fun. If you loved working with your hands, check your local library for a free art or gardening class. Fan of the outdoors? Book a sitter and plan a long hike or bike ride to get yourself a little sunshine. Love spending time in the kitchen? Use nap time as dinner prep so you can enjoy the process, or involve your kids in preparing simple, healthy snacks you can both enjoy.
6. Validate your own feelings
Just like our children, adults often have feelings that are difficult to cope with. "If we can acknowledge our own anger, disappointment, sadness, fears or frustration, for example, we are more likely to take ownership of these feelings and practice coping to address our feelings," Graff says. Plus, it's a great way to model healthy expression and reflection of difficult emotions for our little ones.
Try this: Make time to talk about the not-so-pleasant feelings with your kids too. Try saying, "Sometimes things don't go the way Mommy planned, and that makes me frustrated. Do you feel frustrated sometimes too?" It's a great way to open the conversation and raise both of your emotional intelligences.
This article was sponsored by Califia Farms. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly + mamas.