We hear this statement all the time in motherhood: “Self-care is important!” But what does that really mean? And, come on, let’s face it, with what time?

My name is Kate Kripke, and I have been supporting women as a maternal and child mental health specialist for 20 years. I am also the mom of two teenaged daughters. So, let me be clear- I know the idea of “self-care” in motherhood can seem both cliché and near impossible. And yet. We are doing both ourselves and our kiddos a disservice by not taking this recommendation very seriously.

You see, to show up as the “good mom” that we all want to be, we need to be resourced. If you are anything like me, staying steady and resilient with kids, being able to problem-solve, having the energy to run and play, and staying curious rather than being judgmental and critical is impossible when you aren’t feeling well.  Exhaustion, depletion, overwhelm, burnout, worry, guilt, and general malaise are extremely common in motherhood, and these ways of being simply interfere with our ability to show up with and for our kids the way that we want to.

I have never met a woman who doesn’t love her children fiercely. I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t want to be a great mom. But I meet women all the time who are not prioritizing their health and wellbeing on behalf of their kids. Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

And, you see, maternal and child mental health are intimately connected. When we feel emotionally and psychologically overwhelmed, our kids will too. When we feel grounded and calm, our kids will too. We certainly don’t need to be Zen Mamas (I mean, good luck, right?) But our ability to think clearly, stay present, and steady our nervous systems in the most hectic moments will make a huge difference in the emotional, psychological, and social health and wellbeing of our children.

And, really, it’s the baby steps that make the most difference. We don’t need to move mountains to get to a place where we are steady and stable, but we do need to make daily efforts to come back to ourselves.

Here’s a great question to ask yourself:

What three things do I need to be mentally well? 

These need to be specific and tangible. Perhaps your answers sound something like: get outside every day, drink water, connect with a friend daily, move my body, get to bed by 10pm, meditate/pray/journal/breathe for 10 minutes each morning, take a shower each day, have 15 minutes to myself each day... You get the drill. You choose what three things you need.

But choose wisely. Because these three things are now your non-pharmaceutical prescription for your mental health and wellbeing, Which means that if you want to feel better, you need to do them. They are now non-negotiable.

And, let me remind you. You are doing them for your kids. Because you are their most important person. So, you need to take care of you.

Learn more about Kate Kripke, LCSW, PMH-C by clicking here or follow along with her on Instagram.