A love letter to all mothers on the forgotten art of self-love
Once a year on the 14th of February and leading up to this date, we are bombarded with messages and ads, urging us to buy flowers, chocolate hearts, expensive dinners, clothes, condoms and other tools of the love trade. The airwaves buzz with the songs of crooning singers wooing someone.
Romantics will say “why not?” and cynics will exclaim “bullshit!” Regardless of varying opinions, this day goes on because humans love to love, and love to feel loved (and commercialism loves to thrive), right?
But in this whirlwind of emotion and flying dollars that engulf us on the 14th of February every year, there is one group of people who are neglected. That’s right. It’s us mums. This day has made me realise more than ever why love is so important for mothers.
I’m not talking about the love we get from our partners and children. That we get in bountiful showers every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.
If the 14th of February is good for anything at all, it’s to remind us about the forgotten art of self-love and self-care.
Don’t forget yourself: Self-love is important, too
From the moment you know you’re pregnant, to the day you hold your baby, the next one, see their first smiles, first steps, experience their first day at school, graduation, marriage, hold your first grandchild… mothers fall in love, over and over again. They give love, so much of it. For decades.
The thing about a mother’s love is that it comes in the purest form of this emotion. There are no strings attached. It’s selfless and raw. Our hearts are displayed, throbbing and bleeding, on our sleeves.
We never stop loving our children even when we’re hurting. We show them we’re strong and brave, even though inside, we might feel like hiding. And society has come to accept this as the norm: a mother will always love her children above anyone else.
It’s true. Your selfless love for your children overshadows everything else – including looking after yourself. You don’t have time to even eat properly some days, let alone get a haircut.
Let’s face it. The endless amount of love (in all its forms) that mothers give out day after day, can be downright physically and emotionally exhausting.
And with everything you do for your kids that is fueled by pure love, somewhere down the track, you’ve forgotten to love yourself.
You know how when you’re listening to the plane safety announcements and you’re asked to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then your children? That’s because unless you look after yourself first, you cannot help others.
It’s the same principle in motherhood.
Over time, your mind and body will buckle under the exhaustion of giving, doing, giving, doing.
You do so much for others that you keep putting off your health check or pap smear. You ignore that small lump in your breast. You soldier on despite feeling like death warmed over, until cold depression engulfs you.
You’re so busy with mothering that your social circle narrows down to tiny humans, and perhaps your partner. You’re tired all the time.
This is not healthy. Despite the love you have for your kids and family, you start snapping. You lose your temper, you have meltdowns and breakdowns. You feel like running away from it all. And someday, you might run out of oxygen and not be able to breathe.
Dearest fellow mums, make a promise to yourself today to practice some self-love. You don’t have to feel guilty about leaving the kids with your partner, your mother, your helper to get a couple of hours to yourself to do whatever it is you want to do.
Schedule in time to get that pap smear, that haircut, that dental checkup, that pedicure. Connect with your friends again and go out with them (without the kids) once in a while – it’s good for your mental health.
When you’re ready for it, travel alone. Take up a hobby you always wanted to do. Join a fitness programme. Break free from the school of thought that dictates a mother’s love and capacity for giving and doing is a one-way highway.
Before you can wholly love another and make them happy, you have to love yourself too, and be happy.
And when you learn to love yourself again, your love for your children will glow again, fiercely, renewed.
Rediscover yourself, mummies. Love yourself a little bit more, do more things for yourself.
Learn to breathe again and be the best possible version of yourself.
Self-love is not selfish. Look after yourself too, because you deserve it. After all, you were woman before you were mother – and you know what? You can still be both.
This Valentine’s day, my message to my wife isn’t ‘I love you’
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