Mothers, Not Martyrs :: Self-Care & Breathing Techniques for Busy Moms

When I became a mother, there was no greater joy than giving myself to the little people who needed me so much. In many ways motherhood can really shift your perspective. I became more thoughtful. It only made sense that I put myself aside; it was the great sacrifice I thought all mothers made. I was happy to be a part of the club: hair pulled back and sweat on my brow all for the GREATER GOOD. Nothing else seemed to matter.

Unfortunately, circumstances were also making it difficult for me to find a balance. In the beginning of that season there was little time to think about me. Our family was growing.  My husband was gone A LOT. I felt like a single mother most days. On top of it all, we were away from family so I didn’t have a lot of support. Funny thing is, I probably wouldn’t have even known to ask for help if it were available.

Mothers, not Martyrs

Running myself into the ground without ever taking a break did not make me a good mom. I considered it some badge of honor that I never had time to myself. That I was always with my children. And those mothers who talked about needing time away and actually took time away from their children? I thought they were just so selfish.

Until one day I became very aware of how burnt out I was. My life was so unbalanced. In my quest to give my children what I thought I was missing growing up, I was daily trying to be the perfect mom. I had turned motherhood into some form of sainthood, but I was realizing that playing the martyr is exhausting.

But I am not a super hero and I am NOT (cue song) EVERY WOMAN, no matter how great an anthem it is. I am a human being who happens to be a mother. But that’s not the only thing I am. I have other roles and lots of gifts and talents that I was literally tossing aside.

Somewhere I conjured up the idea I couldn’t be anything other than mom once I had children.

Just For You

What I know is scheduling time for yourself can look like a lot of different things. These days the coin phrase self care can mean something different for everyone. For some it can be time alone (not the bathroom because you know THEY find you in there). It can also mean time with friends. I think the most important thing to focus on is, how do you feel after you are done? Are you energized? relaxed? Does your cup feel full?

One thing I started just a few months ago is yoga by candlelight. After I have put the littles to bed and my husband is still at work, I go into my room and roll out my mat. I turn out the light and light one of my favorite candles. I sit and just breathe. Then I do about 30 minutes of yoga right in the comfort of my own bedroom.

I have a standing date Wednesday mornings with another homeschool mom where we walk and talk for one hour. It is the most refreshing thing to get to just unpack a little of the load we moms carry with a fellow soldier, I mean, sister.

None of these things cost me money. But it is my time and it makes feel human again, especially when I have had one of THOSE days.

Just Breathe

Self care can be as simple as taking time to breathe differently. In all the busyness many of us are barely breathing, or breathing in a very shallow way. And there are a lot of great techniques that can make you feel like you just had a mini spa day. I know you are thinking, how is that even possible? But I have seen my blood pressure literally drop from a breathing exercise.

There are actually a lot of techniques out there and I am still learning new ones. I’ve learned some through performance and some from yoga. You don’t have to be in great shape or getting ready to go on stage to do any of them. They can even work while you are sitting in your car having alone time.

“According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system.” So this really is a thing!

Breathing Techniques

Breath Focus Technique

  1. Sit in a comfy position or you can lie down. I think it works great right before bed.

2. Bring your awareness to your breath. Try to leave your breathing as normal as possible.

3. Switch to deep breathing. Try to really breathe into your lower belly. Pay attention to how the change feels.

4. Change between normal and deep breathing pattern.

5. Put your hand on your belly to feel it rise and fall.

6. Add a loud sigh to your exhale.

7. Think of a word or picture that you want to take in with each inhale. Say it in your mind every time you inhale. Inhale “joy” or “peace”.

8. Now exhale a word or phrase. Exhale “worry” or “frustration”.

Equal Breathing

  1. Find a comfy position. You can stand or sit or lie down.
  2. Breathe in and out on even counts. A three or four count is a good number to start with.
  3. Inhale for a count of three.
  4. Now hold your breath for a count of three.
  5. Exhale for three.
  6. Then at the bottom of that breath hold for three.

The hardest part is the hold on the exhale. It is an odd sensation at first, but it’s amazing how relaxing it can be. Once you feel comfortable you can increase your number.

Breathing Benefits

Breathing in fresh oxygen can do wonders for your mind and body. Maybe you can start by scheduling your time to breathe in the morning when you first wake. At bedtime, breathing exercises can work wonders to settle you down. Did I also mention breathing techniques can help your metabolism? Giving yourself some attention even in this small way can pay off.

And if this is your first attempt at self care, congratulations. You have to start somewhere. Put it in your calendar like you do other appointments. The more you do the exercises, the more they benefit you, and you are so worth it.

I'm Angela Vaughn. I have been married to Jonathan for 20 years and we have 6 children. I am a Chicago native born and raised. We moved to Texas in 2009 from Virginia where my husband was stationed at Langley Air Force Base. We originally lived in Greenville where I homeschooled and taught theatre and dance for several years at a local dance school. I am a performer/ actor by trade and I am so excited to be finally getting my degree in theatre, I am graduating from Texas A&M Commerce in May. I have worked with several theatre groups in the Greenville and surrounding areas. I serve on the board of Stomping Ground Comedy Theatre which is located in Dallas. I am an aspiring author working on my first children's book that I hope will be finished this summer. I am an ambassador for Noonday collection helping to advocate for people living in vulnerable communities and helping to provide a market place for them through entrepreneurship. We moved to Mckinney almost 2 years ago and we are really enjoying it and hoping to make some friends while being more involved in our community. After moving so much I really believe you have to bloom where you are planted.