Many moms make sure everyone else in their family is taken care of before tending to their own needs. Well checks, dental appointments, haircuts for your kids? You’re on it. Your own stuff? Self-care? Not so much.
As moms we’re conditioned to think exhaustion and fatigue are a normal part of motherhood, so we don’t always recognize that these symptoms could mean something is wrong. When we ignore our bodies’ warning signs, we could be missing an opportunity to protect ourselves from preventable medical issues in the future.
Taking charge of our health in spite of all the reasons we have NOT to isn’t easy, but we stand to gain so much if we do it. I was shocked when my doctor recently told me that I was deficient in Vitamin D. I live in sunny Southern California and spend time outside with my kids every day! If I had continued to downplay my symptoms, I would have deprived myself of a simple solution that made me feel much better.
I hope our strategies help you overcome the following hurdles you may be facing:
1. Scheduling is too hard.
You’re overwhelmed by your daily responsibilities, and scheduling one more thing feels impossible, especially if you have to take time off work.
Think of a time when you will have more breathing room and make all of your annual appointments in that same period each year (e.g., in September when kids are back in school or in February after the holiday hustle is over). Perhaps you have a few weeks over the course of the year when you will have a family member visiting and you can take advantage of the free childcare. Some people even take one whole day off and schedule all of their appointments on the same day each year. Getting these things on the calendar will give you the satisfaction that the appointments have been made and that you are prioritizing your health.
2. You don't have a great doctor.
You’ve had a negative experience with a doctor in the past, or you’ve moved and haven’t had time to find a new doctor.
If you don’t have a doctor or you don't like your current doctor, take the time to find a new one. Get recommendations from Yelp, mom friends, or even a Nextdoor or Facebook group (local moms are often willing to candidly share their experiences with other moms). If you lean towards natural remedies, look for someone who embraces that approach. If a doctor with a background in certain specialties is important to you, include that in your search.
Once you find a doctor, make an appointment even if you aren't sick. Bring a list of the things that you want to talk about and any questions you have. Once you establish yourself as a patient, it’ll be easier to get in quickly in the future if you are really sick. Plus, having been once will help you determine if you like the doctor, how much parking costs, how long it takes to get there, etc. All of this will make your next visit even smoother.
3. Childcare is so expensive.
You don’t want to drag your kids along (and face those eye rolls in the waiting room when kids are just being kids), but getting a babysitter can really add up.
Bringing kids to the doctor with you can be challenging. If you have a partner, ask them when they can make the time to stay with the kids. If you are a single mom or your partner isn't able to help, see if you can make a deal with a mom friend or a neighbor to take each other's kids while the other goes to the doctor. Encourage each other to go; leading by example will often inspire your friends and family members to attend to their health too.
If you can’t find anyone to help you out, just bring your kids (and lots of snacks). Chances are there’s a medical assistant or nurse who can step in for a couple of minutes and help while you focus on what you need to discuss with the doctor.
4. Money is tight right now.
You’re concerned about the expense. Even if you’re lucky enough to have good insurance, it seems like there’s always a charge you didn’t anticipate.
If you have health insurance, check your provider’s website for a list of doctors and services covered by your plan. Most major insurance companies have web portals that allow you to create an account, check benefits, and print temporary insurance cards; some even have live chat to help you with your questions.
If you don’t have health insurance, you can call around and find out if your doctor will accept a cash payment for your visit. You can also look into using public assistance through a community health center, your county health office, or a local nonprofit organization.
5. You don’t feel that bad.
You’re worried the doctor will think you’re making a big deal out of nothing, or you’re concerned about something but scared of what you’ll find out.
If you’re putting off getting a checkup because you don't think your health concerns are a big deal or you want to get healthier first, pick a date for an appointment a couple of months away and get it on the calendar. Then, monitor your symptoms to see if they’re staying the same, getting worse, or getting better. In the meantime, you can work towards your health goals and track your progress.
At your visit, talk to your doctor about what you’re doing and see if he or she has any advice to help you achieve your goals. If you’re looking to improve your fitness, the best exercise is the one you will do, so figure out what you like, and do that! If you know that your diet needs to improve, make an achievable goal (one or two home-cooked meals a week or adding veggies to one more meal each day), and work on building small but positive habits into your daily life.
While we know how hard it can be to make time for one more thing in your schedule, a healthy mom is a great gift to her children. Consistently taking care of your own health will help you feel your best, which will help you feel great about other areas of your life. It will also set a positive example for your kids to follow, teaching them that self-care is important. You do a great job loving on your family every day; don’t forget to take the time to care for yourself too.