The title of this article may sound ridiculous, but being kind to yourself as a mother is a rare occurrence. A mom can sometimes be her own worst enemy. Being kind to oneself as a mother is a priceless gift to give yourself. Most times, you forget that you’re an individual with your own wants and needs. You become so wrapped up in everyone else’s needs that you forego your own and no one even asked you to.
Think of the scenario of counting a roomful of people at a party. You count ever single person and forget to add yourself to the count – it’s crazy to think of it this way, yet this is what happens daily. Many times I think, “why don’t I take care of myself?” I seem to continuously put myself at the bottom of the list, or not on the list at all! A perfect example is when I hand out vitamins every morning to my hubby and kids to strengthen their immune system, but I don’t take the time to pop a few vitamins myself. Shameful!
When you treat yourself with respect you say, “I’m worth it.” You should actually give yourself the same respect that you would grant to a best friend. The way you treat yourself is a measurement of how you will treat others and allow others to treat you. Self-kindness is being generous and applying a warm-hearted approach to yourself. This in turn, creates empathy and understanding from yourself, towards yourself.
Don’t confuse being kind to yourself as being self-indulgent. Kindness is a gift that benefits you and others, whereas self-indulgence is when you don’t resist gratifying your whims and desires just because something feels good. To give you an idea of how to be kind to yourself without being self-indulgent, let’s look at the example of a busy stay at home mom who has attended to the needs of her young kids most of the day. The mom who displays self-kindness answers the questions this way:
What am I feeling? “Pretty tired after a being with the kids so long.”
What can I do to feel better? “Take a break, have a tea and a bit of chocolate, maybe take a shower and definitely loosen up on the household a bit.”
The mom who displays self-indulgence answers the same questions this way:
What am I feeling? “Exhausted, I wish I didn’t have to do this everyday!”
What can I do to feel better? “I’m going to watch some TV and eat that bag of chocolate because I deserve it. It’s my hubby’s fault if I get fat because he should help out more.”
Self-kindness is accepting your situation and setting limits for yourself so you do not go beyond what you are capable of doing. You realize that you are in a tough situation but you make the best of it and find ways of relief that are not harmful to you or others. You also don’t feel guilty for taking the relief because you realize that it will make you a better person. You take responsibility for your life and don’t blame anyone for your situation.
Self-indulgence is resenting your situation and finding ways to gratify your feelings of being robbed in life. You indulge your whims because you tell yourself you’ve earned it and may blame others for your situation. This makes you justify addictions and bad habits which may be harmful to yourself or others and is the opposite of being kind to yourself.
If your self-worth is not paired with self-respect, then kindness to yourself can turn into self-indulgence. Self-respect leads you to say “I do not need to eat the whole bag of chocolates to feel rewarded.” Self-indulgence says, “I deserve to eat the whole bag of chocolates to feel rewarded.” When you are proactively self-kind, you realize that a certain habit or behavior is self-destructive, and then you choose to be kind to yourself by gradually changing the habit or behavior.
Genuine self-kindness originates from having self-esteem and self-worth. When your belief in yourself is positive, you feel valuable and capable as an individual. Saying to yourself, “I am worthy enough to be kind to myself” may seem like a small accomplishment, but it is difficult to convince yourself of it. Practice being kind to yourself as a mom and you will notice the fulfillment you feel in your life and with your family. Don’t only do it for yourself, but do it so your children can learn this valuable lesson in self-respect as well.
It’s funny how something as simple as self-kindness can instill a more enriching life and help you develop a thoughtful and compassionate approach to your family and yourself. Kindness is also a spiritual virtue that will thrive even more when merged with your faith. The more you practice the art of kindness to yourself and to others, the more you’ll be aware of the blessings it unfolds in your life. I leave you with the words of our beloved Prophet SAW who said:
يَا عَائِشَةُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَفِيقٌ يُحِبُّ الرِّفْقَ فِي الْأَمْرِ كُلِّهِ
“O Aisha, Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all matters.” (Sahih Bukhari 6528)