It’s nearing bedtime for my son as I draw his bath, checking the temperature carefully to make sure it’s just warm enough to ease him into that sleepy feeling, but not too hot for his sensitive skin. I pour the expensive, aromatherapy bubbly baby soap in and line up his favorite bath toys. I press play on the classical baby music playlist I’ve had on my Spotify account since he was born, and dim the lights down low. I gently run my fingers through the barely-there hair on his head and pour the warm water over his back.
Before tucking him in, I dust him with baby powder, run my nails through that peach fuzz-like red hair again, give him a bottle of warm milk, sing a song, rock him, and then kiss him goodnight.
I can’t remember the last time I took this same type of care for myself: lingering in an unapologetically long shower, using any type of aromatherapy, following a skincare routine, or going to bed at a time that is well-calculated to ensure a full night’s beauty rest. I tend to assume that it’s not necessary for me to explore this type of self-care, and that turning on the TV and vegging out is just fine.
Shortly after my son, a very active 18-month-old, wakes up in the morning, I usually prepare him a well-balanced breakfast of protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains—or at least some combination of these. I make sure he drinks plenty of water throughout the day, and try to avoid giving him any sugary drinks. His health is my number one priority, but, sometimes, I don’t give my own health a single thought throughout the busy days.
His health is my number one priority, but, sometimes, I don’t give my own health a single thought throughout the busy days.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I don’t have the energy to extend that level of care to a second person, myself, or, if I just assume that since I’m a grown-up, my body’s fine and well-adjusted to a much lesser nutritional diet. I usually run on cups of coffee, a few bites of toast, or a couple of sips from a shake. And I definitely don’t drink enough water.
When it’s time to run errands or go for a walk, I gather all of my son’s favorite snacks, a full, fresh cup of water, his tiny, supportive sneakers, a suitable coat and a hat to protect him from the cold weather this season brings with it. I’m so worried about his comfort and not catching a cold, that I nearly obsess over his clothing when heading out the door.
It was just another one of these cold days recently when my son was snug in his car seat, comfy and warm. I had his bag fully packed for a trip to the store. We were backing out of the driveway when I realized I didn’t have a coat on in this 30-something degree weather. In fact, I had on a light shirt, leggings and flats with holes in them. Definitely no support. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time or energy to put on proper clothing. I think, again, I dismiss myself as not deserving of the level of care I give my son. After all, I’m 32, and my body can handle it. Right?
A million other moms likely do a version of this routine every day. We prioritize and idolize our children. They are deserving of this level of protection and love. Our babies’ imperfections are adorable. Their inabilities inspire us to fill in the gaps. Their weaknesses are worth working on. Their curly hair is beautiful and doesn’t need to fry between a straightener. Their belly fat only makes them cuter. Their skin is worth protecting and nurturing. Their silly senses of humor make them so lovable. Their temper tantrums are just opportunities to learn. Their shyness makes us smile. Their strong-willed natures make us smile, too.
So, in the nature of this love-driven month of Valentines candies and love notes, I propose that we moms start feeling about ourselves the way we feel about our children. Let’s start loving ourselves a little more; let’s start giving ourselves a little grace. It’s OK to assess your own mental and physical health; in fact, it’s necessary. After all, we were once babies, and even though we are older and are used to the harsh realities of the world, we matter a whole bunch, too.