Mommy-ing is hard work. You never thought it would be all rainbows, unicorns, and magical glitter dust. But you also didn’t realize how much of yourself you’d give up for your baby, trying to meet unrealistic parenting standards. Okay, you love your kiddo more than anything or anyone and you’d do anything for them. But that should include putting yourself first — at least sometimes. You’re not being selfish; moms have needs of their own. Let’s not forget that you’re more than someone’s mother — you’re a person with your own identity. With that in mind, check out why (and when) you should totally put yourself first.

A mother plays with her son in the park

1. You’re more than a mom. Your life title isn’t just Jane Smith, AAM (Always A Mom). Yes, you’re a mother. But your other identities include spouse, partner, friend, daughter, sister, coworker, boss, skydiver, ice skater, dancer, artist, poet, or plenty more. There’s a long list of things that make up who you are. Underselling yourself and putting aside everything that comes after “mommy” means that you’re only living part of your life. Make yourself whole again and reposition some of those other pieces of your life in front of the word “mom,” at least once in a while.

2. Your child needs you. It doesn’t really seem to jive with the idea of putting yourself first, does it? If that’s what you’re thinking, let’s step back to take a better look at what it means to be a caregiver. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. Think about the times — and there are plenty of them — when you got something like 45 minutes of sleep, total, in a 24-hour period. In your zombie-fied state, you could barely lift a cup of coffee to your lips, let alone change diapers and feed your baby. Sure, it’s not always (or ever) possible to control how much sleep you get. But when there are ways to stop for a break and take care of yourself, do so. The fresh-faced, plucky, “Yay! I got 17 minutes to myself!” — you will be a better mom than the Walking Dead version (and we’re not talking about the ass-kicking Maggie kind).

3. Sanity isn’t overrated. You’re a giver. That’s okay: We all totally appreciate everything you do. Sure, your S.O. and kiddos may forget to say thanks, but your selflessness is kind of the glue that binds your home together. But that glue is so much more, and your mental health is part of it. A complete, total, unwavering sense of selflessness may seem noble, but it will make you a crazy person. Cut the martyr act, and put yourself first every so often. You’ll feel less stressed, be able to relax, and be a much saner mommy for it.

A woman laughs with her baby

4. It’s been way, way, way too long. Every moment of every day is devoted to your baby, and it’s been that way for the past 10 months. Ask yourself what the last thing you did for yourself was. Chances are that you don’t even remember. When taking a moment for yourself to read a book, eat a meal, or brush your hair is more of a distant daydream or some kind of hopeless mommy fantasy, stop and take some time to put yourself first.

5. You deserve it. You’re kind of a superwoman. You change diapers, hand out bottles (or your boob), make play date plans, and fold laundry all at the same time. You’re a multitasking mama, and you get the job done. Everything we just described had to do with the baby and not you. With all the work you put into motherhood, it’s perfectly acceptable (and totally encouraged) to give yourself some “me” time.

6. Don’t dash your dreams. It’s fairly likely that when you were a little girl you never said, “Gosh, I really want to clean poopy diapers all day long when I grow up.” Yeah, yeah, there are plenty of other (less sucky) parts of being a mom. The point here is that you have dreams… that don’t always involve the baby. Don’t freak out! Just because you’re a mama now doesn’t mean following your dreams makes you a selfish mom-b*tch. It makes you normal.

A women and her children bake together

7. Set an example. Your kiddo is like a human surveillance system 24/7, and they know exactly what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. If they see you throwing down on altar of motherhood, sacrificing everything that you are for your children, they’ll think that’s what a woman’s job is, and June Cleaver will be I-T in their mind when it comes to what a woman “should” be. Unless you’re all about being the 1950s version of a mama, put yourself first here and there (or more). Your child will appreciate the life lesson. And that’s not just for daughters: Sons need to see that women aren’t just overly exhausted, coffee-chugging housekeepers.

8. Rid yourself of regrets. When your grandma says, “Enjoy everything right now, because it goes by so fast,” she isn’t kidding. She’s not exaggerating: It really truly does go by — in a blink. Fifty years from now, you don’t want to look back and think, “I wish I’d…” about everything you missed by being too focused on everyone but yourself.

9. Kids grow up. Yes, your child is always your child. Whether they’re three or 30, they’re still your little baby. But some day they will turn 18, graduate from high school, go off to college, and eventually go on with adult life. And there you are — alone. Your S.O. might be right by your side, but whether you’re hanging with the love of your life or not, your kiddo won’t be around 24/7. Even though you’re still every bit as much a mom as you were when your baby was six months old, you’ll suddenly have oodles of time to… well, you really have no clue. That’s because you never put yourself first! Do it. Do it now. Your future empty-nester self will thank you.

How do you make time for yourself? Share your self-care tips with us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)