Hi everyone,

Self-care is the latest source of “mum guilt” for Aussie Mum’s, a survey of 1,000 mothers of young children across Australia has revealed, with 85 percent of mothers surveyed admitting feeling guilt about not spending enough time on their own self-care, while paradoxically, feeling guilty when they do.  

The research, conducted by Australian pregnancy multivitamin brand, Natalis, revealed that while the vast majority of the mothers surveyed (94%), admitted they would benefit from more self-care, nearly the same amount (96%) reported feeling guilty for spending time on self-care activities at least some of the time.  

While the overwhelming message from mothers surveyed was that self-care was extremely important to their wellbeing, more than 1 in 2 (53%) reported feeling pressured to practice self-care and feeling like a failure when they don’t get enough.

According to Emmy Samtani, parenting expert and founder of parenting app Kiindred, which used its platform to survey mothers, the concept of ‘self-care,’ popularised across social media by ‘mumfluencers’ and celebrities alike (#selfcare), has been both a blessing and a curse for Aussie mums.

“On one hand, the self-care movement has been great for highlighting how important it is for us to take an active role in protecting our own wellbeing and happiness, but on the flip side, it’s become another item on the to do list,” said the entrepreneur and mother of three children under six. 

“If we don’t get to it, we feel guilty about it, and if we do, we feel guilty about everything else we’re not doing.”

Other key findings: 

  • Two in three (76%) admitting that the state of their house and the piling laundry was reason enough to strike self-care off the list, followed closely by the guilt for taking time away from the children (61%) or their partner (48%).
  • More than 1 in 4 (28%) typically have less than 10 minutes per day to put towards something for themselves, while 8% have less than 5 minutes.
  • Many admitted to sacrificing sleep, with nearly one in two (43%) going to bed late, and a quarter (24%) setting their alarm earlier, just to find a peaceful moment alone.  
  • When asked what mums did regularly to fill their cup, self-care was a fairly tame affair, with nearly half of respondents (47%) acknowledging that scrolling on their phones, or chilling with Netflix (37%) was their most common activity, followed closely by enjoying a coffee while hot (36%) or washing their hair (35%). 

When asked to reflect upon what the ultimate self-care experience might involve, date night was deemed the ultimate self-care activity (44%), followed by a night of uninterrupted sleep (34%) a hot bath alone (30%), and socialising with friends in person or via phone/text (20%), all rating well and truly above intimacy with their partner (8%).  

Proving they’re not a fussy bunch, 17 percent of mothers surveyed said they’d consider being left alone for more than 10 minutes for any reason at all as a desirable self-care activity, while 15 percent said they’d be satisfied just drinking a coffee while it was still hot.

“It’s not news that as mothers, we’re time poor, but while celebrities and social media superstars might be conjuring up images of #selfcare as a luxurious spa day or beach-side meditation session, the reality is that self-care for mums of young kids is probably going to look a little less glamorous,” said Samtani.

“Self-care should not be about shame or comparison, but about finding the thing that fills your cup.  If for you, that’s mindlessly scrolling on your phone, or sitting outside in the sun for five minutes to drink a coffee while the TV babysits the kids, then that’s self-care,” she said. “If you can carve out time to have a long, hot bath, or get a babysitter and head out with your partner, that’s great too,” she said.

Samtani cautions though, that self-care is definitely a practice.  “Nothing changes if nothing changes: Start by scheduling 10 minutes each day. As hard as that can be with little ones, work with your partner or support network to schedule in those moments.”

Samanti concludes that allowing yourself to reflect upon all the things you do and provide for your family is a great place to start in freeing yourself from guilt, “There is no point in taking ten, fifteen, thirty minutes for yourself if you’re going to spend that time feeling guilty for being away from your family. We are all so busy in the day-to-day ‘doing,’ we forget to look back and see how much we’re doing for the kids – washing, cooking, kisses, cleaning, craft, homework, cuddles, lunchboxes. In the grand scheme of things, taking time to nurture yourself is not worth feeling guilty about, because honestly mum, you deserve it.”

I know for me personally as a mum of nine children under thirteen years age, self-care is important for my health and well-being. Self-care to me, is a nice hot bath, Saying some prayers, or a quick coffee break in the garden, a shopping trip, or a pamper night with my eldest daughters. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. It’s the little things that make a difference.

Claire Louise Hooker

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