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What Would Mom Do? A Primer on Parenting Yourself

A nurturing woman can teach you to parent yourself

I’ve been writing about self-care for six months. As I reflected recently on the posts I’ve written, a common theme began to emerge. I’ve written about how you need to go to bed, moving for physical and mental health, shutting down your screens, and asking for help. I’ve challenged you to shift your thinking on self-care. (Because it’s rare that expensive “treats” make us feel better in the long run.)

Every self-care practice I’ve written about is one I’ve adopted in adulthood, as I’ve figured out how to take care of myself. (It’s been a lot of trial and error!) And many of those practices are simply what the internet likes to call “adulting.” I like to think of them as parenting yourself.

Schedule that annual physical. Build an emergency fund. Prepare a nutrient-dense meal. Set down your phone and take a walk. Go to therapy. These things aren’t sexy. Self-care rarely is. But they are necessary parts of being a healthy, whole, happy human.

These are things my mom would tell me to do. They are practical, common-sense practices that we may have even learned growing up. However, at least for me, it sometimes takes the pressures of life, adulthood, and parenting to realize how vital they really are. It was only after I became a parent that I began parenting myself.

Imagine Your Own Nurturing Mother Figure

Your mom may not have been a nurturing, loving figure in your life. If she wasn’t, who has been? Perhaps a grandma, teacher, older sister, or pastor. Maybe a Bible study leader, friend, or mentor has held that place for you. Picture her now.

How would she tell you to handle the stress, frustration, fear, or anxiety that you’re facing? What would she say? What would she do? How would she look at you?

She wouldn’t roll her eyes, scoff, and say, “I can’t believe you’re dealing with that—again!” She wouldn’t throw her hands in the air and yell, “Just pull yourself together already!” The woman you’re picturing wouldn’t say, “I wish you could just get it together…,” then walk out of the room with a sigh.

What would Mom do when you’re doomscrolling Facebook, close to tears? She’d smile gently, pry your phone from your fingers, and tell you it’s time for bed.

When you’re rushing out the door, late again, she’d call after you, “Don’t forget your lunch!” Then she’d run outside in her bathrobe and stuff the salad she packed for you in your backpack. (Later, she might delicately suggest setting your alarm fifteen minutes earlier to avoid the frantic morning rush. She might also tell you that you’re big enough to pack your own lunch now.)

What Would Mom Do?

Moms aren’t perfect, infallible people with patience that never runs out. (Just ask my kids.) But they are wise women who love us and will tell us the truth we need to hear. They nurture us, and they push us out of the nest when they know we’re ready. They tell us, “It’s all going to be okay, honey,” when we’re crying into our pillows. Moms also say things like, “Suck it up, buttercup. You can handle this.” Moms parent us, and they show us how to parent ourselves.

The next time you feel yourself spiraling emotionally, or you know your habits need a tune-up, just think to yourself, What would Mom do? Then act accordingly.

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