Before I became a mother I remember reading an article about taking care of yourself after having children. The details are hazy but I can still recall a comparison between an airplane oxygen mask and parenting- you have to put your mask on first, before you can help anyone else. For some reason this visual has stuck with me over the years, burrowed a little hole into my brain, and resided there over all of this time as I've become a parent to one, to two, and now to three little ones.
And every so often I check to make sure my own mask is on tight. Am I doing everything I can to love myself fully? Any of the times I've felt my worst I can look back now and see these were periods where I sorely lacked self-love. That love comes in so many forms- it's taking time out to nourish your relationships and in turn nourishing yourself, it's getting enough sunshine in the winter, it's sweating every day...eating well, prioritizing yourself, looking in the mirror with love instead of judgment...the list goes on. And over the years I have found that when I don't have all of these moving pieces in my life working together, the wheels start to come off the wagon a little. And being a mama, this has a ripple effect on my entire family.
But knowing what works for you means knowing yourself. And this can be a journey all in its own. It can take a long time to get to a place where you can read the signs your body is showing you, where you can anticipate and react before beginning to feel bad- preventing rather than constantly cleaning up messes. I'm grateful I know myself so much better now. I understand what works for me and what I need in my life to be the best version of myself, and in turn the best partner and mother possible.
In my world, I need a few things daily- exercise, sunshine, time spent alone, healthy food, lots of water, and to feel connected to those I love. It sounds like a lot, but once I began to recognize how important each of these things were, I saw how easy they were to fit into different parts of my day, even on a small scale. This is self-love to me. Taking care of myself so I can take care of my family. Loving myself first, so I can love everyone around me with everything I've got.
A couple of years ago Hank and I attended a New Year's Eve yoga workshop. It was part yoga, part intention setting, and there was a lot of talk about self love and getting to a place where we spoke to ourselves with only love, all of the time. It resonated with me so much, because as someone who has experienced periods where self-love was lacking, I have learned that what we say to ourselves, we eventually believe. It's my job to teach this to my children, in the hope that maybe one day they'll have an easier time figuring it out than I did. Little ears and eyes are paying attention, and I feel lucky for this, because it's a daily reminder that I only get one chance to do it right.
"Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion." -Margo Anand
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Photos by Morgan Pansing