Self nurture for mums

By Fiona Howe

Self Nurture. We all need it, but why do women find it so hard to do? In the busy-ness of the Festive Season, it can seem harder than ever, but no less important.

Definition of Nurture:  nourish, rear, foster, train, educate.

Take a moment to think about that. Based on this definition from the Oxford dictionary, how many people are you nurturing each day?

I ask this question to groups of women and invariably get a long list of answers:

  •  Children,
  • Husbands,
  • Aged parents,
  • Troubled siblings,
  • Colleagues,
  • Clients,
  • Bosses (!),
  • .. and pets!

And yet there’s nearly always one person who’s left off that list…Yes, that’s right!  Who’s nurturing you?

 What exactly is “self nurture”? And how do we get some?

I’d like to point out here that “nurturing” is not the same as “pampering”. The dictionary defines pamper as “overindulge, spoil with luxury”. So whilst there could be some marketing mileage in the idea that women like a nice “pamper” session, what we need much more is nurturing.

Dr. Alice Domar is assistant professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and also the Director of the Mind/Body Centre for Women’s Health in Boston. In her book “Self Nurture: Learning to Care for yourself as Effectively as you Care for Everyone Else” she uses this definition “to care for yourself and put yourself amongst your own list of priorities.” Another definition I like is “loving acts directed toward ourselves”.

Motherhood adds a whole new dimension to the need to nurture. Quality time for ourselves is just as important as quality time for kids and partners. It is possible to find ways to self-nurture that include our kids:

  1. Take a walk,
  2. Do some yoga,
  3. Bake something delicious,
  4. Sit down and watch a favourite movie.

You will be a better mother and a MUCH better role model if you take care of yourself, too.

As mothers often struggle with lack of support and isolation, the need to self-nurture has never been greater. Dr Domar points out:

“Women are more socially isolated now than at any other time in human history.Think about it.  Until 20 years ago, for all of man’s history, women lived amongst other women, with mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and sisters.And women cared for each other. They didn’t need to self-nurture because they cared for each other.But in the last 20 years, not only do we have nuclear families, but women work outside the home, so they’re very socially isolated.Women need to be around other women.They have a unique gift in terms of compassion, empathy and sharing.And social support is crucial for our mental and physical health.”

So a good Girls Night Out is not frivolous fun…it’s essential!

Dr Domar continues:

“A number of studies have shown that social support is crucial to our physical health.Women with lots of close friends tend to live longer and are less likely to die from breast cancer”.

Going back to my dictionary once again I found that the roots of the word “nurture” go back to the Old French noureture or nourish.   Nurturing is a form of nourishment, and we all know how essential good nourishment is. Of course, how you nurture yourself is entirely a personal choice.  One persons nurturing could be exhausting, boring or unthinkable to someone else. Whatever form it takes, try to remember you have Physical, Mental, and Spiritual needs that would all benefit from a bit of nurturing.

As women we have to make our own self-care a priority. No one is going to organise our lives for us so that there is magically some “extra time” to indulge in some self-nurture. It’s a cliché but, if you don’t do it, no-one will. Don’t wait round for some magical time when “everything’s done” and you can finally give some time to yourself. I’m reluctant to quote a multinational of dubious credentials, but when it comes to self-nurture : “just do it”

Here are some ideas to help you self nurture:

5 Ways to Nurture: Physical

  • Eat well:  Feed your body the nutrients it needs.

  • Exercise: include your kids in your exercise routine if that’s the only way to fit it in.

  • Get (or give) a Facial:  You don’t have to have qualifications to do a facial with a girlfriend (mum or sister).

  • Foot soaks : Make a 10 minute foot soak a regular soothing ritual – morning or night. Foot soaks are known to reduce pain and relieve tension and will provide healing benefits to the whole body.
  • Massage : In our touch-starved lifestyles massage not only relaxes, it can boost immunity, bring better sleep, reduced anxiety, and a valuable sense of emotional balance.

3 Ways to Nurture: Mental

  • Enrol in a course : it could be a one day workshop or a University degree!

  • Read: get books for yourself at the library, not just for the kids. And then set aside time to actually read them!

  • Listen to your favourite music:  in the car or on an ipod whilst going about your chores.

3 Ways to Nurture: Spiritual

  • Spend time in nature : alone or with the family.

  • Catch up with friends.

  • Show gratitude : and be open to receiving it.


About Fiona:


Fiona Howe is a mother of 3 in Sydney’s inner west and owner of The Nurture Hub : a virtual space for those who envision a clean, healthy future for our children, our planet & our communities . She aims to help empower women to make informed choices and honour their natural inner & outer beauty. Connect with us here on Facebook too.


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