According to the Pew Research Center, mums in 2016 spent an average of 14 hours a week on childcare, up from just 10 hours a week in 1965. And it’s even more in the summer - maybe up to 12 hours a day!
Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly, eat right, get enough sleep, and find satisfaction in their work and personal lives experience less depression, anxiety, and chronic illnesses, such as heart disease.
6 Facts about Mums in USA (I couldn’t find similar stats for UK or Europe but imagine it to be similar):
1. Women are more likely now to become mothers than they were a decade ago, and this is particularly the case among highly educated women.
2. Women are becoming mothers later in life.
3. Mothers are spending more time in the workforce than in the past, but also more time on child care.
4. About one-in-four mothers are raising their children on their own.
5. Most Americans say women face a lot of pressure to be “involved” mothers.
6. Foreign-born moms account for a rising share of U.S. births.
*Pew Research Centre
With all of this in mind, I know that over the summer break women are going to take the lion's share of the childcare responsibility, even if they are working at another job!
Self care for mums is one of the most important, yet neglected, things. And at this time of the year (i.e. the summer holidays) it is going to be forgotten even more. Let me say it loud and clear - self care is absolutely essential for mums, particularly in the summer holidays.
You may be wondering why I am not commenting on self-care for dads, and you are right to raise that point (because there are more and more single dads, but the statistics do not show self-care for dads being as much of an issue as it is for mums). I think there is something about the biology, or the spiritual, emotional, psychological DNA that results in mums taking a much bigger share of the responsibility for what happens in the summer break. Of course it is not always the case. This can show itself in a number of different ways, including organising activities that might otherwise not happen, taking responsibility for all meals, household chores, and everything else related to the family when everybody is at home.
Now some may say that it is the responsibility of the mother. I would say that if you are trying to raise good wholesome human beings, regardless of their age, then they should all take responsibility for some aspect of running the house. This can start at the age of 3, or essentially when a child is able to speak! For example, you can ask your child to pick up their clothes and putting them in the wash basket, this is not shirking your responsibility as a parent, this is called training future leaders.
So now on to self care, when a mum takes responsibility for pretty much everything she is unable to find time to take care of herself, unless she has help. Chances are that she will have less sleep, eat more leftovers, and give up things that are important to her in the summer break. If you are reading this and are in this category then I want to offer you some tips for self care at a stage of the year where your workload may increase quite substantially.
A number of physical and psychological changes take place during the transition to motherhood, including the reorganisation of identity, roles and responsibilities (Knox, 2014; Slade et al., 2005) - you know all about this, right? And if you feel guilty about self-care, know this - taking care of yourself isn't a luxury—it's an essential part of being a good parent.
I am going to offer you some tips for how you can take care of yourself. You know that when you are ill you are unable to operate at the level you wish to. Mums also know that when they are unwell, really, the whole family suffers. Taking care of your health is paramount, and I would like to offer you 5 tips for how to do this.
1. Go for a 20 minute walk everyday, preferably in the morning, and preferably by yourself. But if the only way that you can go for the walk is another time of day or with the kids in tow that's fine - just get out for some fresh air.
2. Take vitamin D supplements. Many medical practitioners have told me that's 90% of the world's population should be taking vitamin D supplements. This is not because they are not exposed to enough sunshine or are covered up, it is because the body finds it very hard to absorb vitamin D, and supplements are one of the most efficient ways. You can buy vitamin D easily so take a supplement, particularly if you are feeling lethargic, anxious, slightly depressed, or have low mood. I suffered from all of these symptoms as a result of low vitamin D, and this was ironically in Egypt where there is plenty of sunshine.
3. Drink more water. I know you have heard this millions of times but it works. When you drink more water and are more hydrated your brain works more effectively, your body is able to flush out more toxins, and you have more of a glow on your skin. However much water you are drinking every day start with at least 2 more glasses. I don't want to make it hard for you by saying drink 3 litres of water a day - that is the target I'm going to ask you to aim for.
4. Increase your sleep by 30 minutes. Of course you should try and get 8 hours of sleep a night, but I know that sometimes that is a big challenge, particularly in the summer where the weather may be slightly different, and your routine is a bit more out of sync. What I am going to encourage you to do is to try and find a way of increasing your sleep by 30 minutes. This in itself will have a very profound impact on your quality of sleep and your mood.
5. Take a day off. Or half a day, or even a couple of hours, whatever is within your reach. Having a short period off every now and then is critical to your keeping on top of your self care. Sometimes you might spend a few extra minutes in the toilet just so that you can catch your breath, I know I've done that to, but that is not enough. Try and find a few hours just for you - you might go to the coffee shop, go out and meet a friend, or even do nothing for that time. I’m asking you to choose to do something that you enjoy, that gives you the opportunity to reconnect with who you are. That is the key thing in all of this.
Women need to nurture themselves emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. THIS is your invitation to do just that.
How do you do self care? What are the things that work best for you? Please share your tips below, and why not share this post with someone who might need some ideas for realistic self care?