Why moms should nurture themselves, too

I had an interesting conversation with a woman I sat next to on a recent flight. We both have children in college and shared our empty nester woes. After a few moments of silence, she asked about what I am doing now that my child is in college. I told her that I am a writer and speaker and that I had started writing professionally when my daughter was in middle school.

“I wish I had taken up other interests while I was raising my kids. Now that they’re gone, I don’t know what to do,” she said. Her response saddened me and made me think back on my own journey. I could relate to this woman. There were times when I also felt I had to abandon or delay my aspirations while my child was young.

When we decide to become mothers, raising our children necessarily becomes a priority, whether we stay home with them or not.  We make sure, to the best of our ability, that their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs are met. Sometimes, however, moms forget to nurture themselves in this process.

“Taking care of yourself as a woman is like taking care of a garden,” says Cathie Walling, licensed clinical pastoral counselor for Hope and Life Counseling in Georgetown. “Ready yourself for the coming years when your children need you less so that you are not left in a wide open field of uncertainty.”

So how do we nurture our interests, dreams, and goals as we mother? Here’re a few ideas:

  1. Do the things you love.   Love art? Pal up with a friend who has children and stroll the kids through the local museum. Like to dig around in the yard? Purchase kid-sized gardening tools and let them dig holes while you prune the petunias.
  2. Keep learning.   Learning isn’t just for kids. In this season of motherhood, you may not be able to take a full load, but perhaps you can take one online course each semester. Check your local YMCA, recreation center, or college for community education classes. Other online resources, such as Khan Academy, offer free classes and libraries.
  3. Try something new.   Always wanted to learn to knit or paint in water color or give a speech? Go for it. Get a baby sitter or swap childcare with a friend so that you can attend group meetings an hour or two each week. Learning or mastering something new has many benefits, including keeping your mind sharp and giving your self-esteem a boost.
  4. Keep your dreams in focus.   Buy or make a dream board. Attach to it the things that represent your dreams and goals. Want to run your own business someday? Clip a dollar bill or a hand-made business card to your dream board. Add things like clippings from magazines, inspirational scriptures, and quotes. Place your dream board where you can see it every day.
  5. Help Someone Else.   Have a skill or talent you’d like to cultivate? One of the best ways to enhance what you know is to teach it to someone else. Conduct informal classes for your church or civic group or for your children’s teachers. You’ll sharpen your craft while feeling good about helping others.

It may take some creative juggling of your time and commitments, but you can do it. The first step is recognizing that you can nurture your gifts and interests and still be a great mother. Who knows? You just might discover a new passion or fall into a new career. Go for it!

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