Mothers Have Needs Too!

Allison Gilbert, LMFT, Santa Cruz Counselor Lic: MFC 24087

Be a Caretaker

A Caretaker Isn't Politically Correct
So much of a mother's job is about giving, sacrifice and love.  Unfortunately, in our dog-eat-dog society, these kinds of activities aren't valued.  If just isn't politically correct for women today to take pride in being nurturers. 

Even the word, "care-taking" is used by the self-help community to describe dysfunctional behavior.  Being a "caretaker" is seen as unhealthy.  The word "co-dependency" is used to describe a caretaker who's become so involved in another person's life that her own life is a mess.  It's commonly thought that if you're a caretaker, you'll wind up a "doormat" because caretakers allow people to walk all over them.

It's In The Job Description
Truth is, if you're not a caretaker, then you're probably not doing your mothering job very well.  Care-taking is an essential part of the good parenting of very small children who can't take care of themselves.  There's a saying, "Let your baby wake you up when he's young, or you'll lose sleep over him when he's older."  Being there for our children when they're small paves the way for a secure future for all.

Caring for Ourselves
So how can we be there for others while not turning our care-taking into something that's dysfunctional?

One warning sign is when you find yourself getting so caught up in the care for another human being that you begin to lose yourself.  You end up forgetting who you are and what makes you happy.  You forget to ask for what you want and avoid setting limits with those who cross your boundaries.

Self-Care Ideas
Taking care of yourself is just as important as the care-taking you give to others.  And self-care doesn't have to be a major time commitment.  It can be as simple as asking for help from Daddy, a neighbor, a parent, a friend or a therapist.  It might mean going to the movies once a week.  It could mean getting a massage or a good book to read or flowers or an hour by yourself.  What do you need to revive yourself?  A nap?  A walk?  Music?

Setting Limits on Others
Caring for yourself doesn't necessarily mean being selfish and losing touch with your primary commitment to care for your kids.  In fact, caring for yourself gives your children and your husband more of you.  So check in with yourself on a regular basis to figure out what you need.  Voice your limits on behavior you're unwilling to take from your children and your husband.  Be your own best caretaker.

Never Stop Being a Caretaker
Being a caregiver can be the most fulfilling job there is.  Our world needs more people who care about others.  You are not wrong for giving yourself over, for a short time, to this kind of sacrifice.  (If you have 2 children, it could mean 10 years before they are both in school for 6 hours a day.  Seems like a long time, but it's really only 1/7th of an average lifespan.)  Find out how to care for yourself while you're putting your best efforts into your children and you'll be able to give even more of yourself.  In the end, your work will pay off and you'll never have to stop caring for others.

2007 Allison Gilbert, M.A., L.M.F.T.; Free Tips

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