By Melissa Meehan
Sometimes mums need to be selfish.
They need to go to the toilet by themselves, drink a warm cup of coffee before it goes cold, watch anything other than Bluey or even spend a few minutes alone checking Instagram when they are supposed to be showering.
These things aren’t really selfish – but sometimes mum guilt gets in the way and caring about number one is often forgotten.
That’s why Geelong mum Melissa D’Arcy set up an online support group so that mums from around Victoria, Australia and the world can support each other.
The online group, found on Facebook and Instagram, allows its members to celebrate the wins and share tips and tricks to be #selfishmums.
It all started when Ms D’Arcy went to see the maternal child health nurse for her son’s one-year-old appointment.
“After only a few minutes of chatting, she said to me ‘you’re running on empty, aren’t you?’,” Ms D’Arcy said.
“She was right, I was exhausted and hadn’t been taking any time to look after myself. I thought there must be other mums who are feeling the same way and it would be great to connect.”
And that’s where The Selfish Mums all started.
“The name of the group is meant to be a bit playful because selfish is the last thing most mums are – I’d say most mothers are selfless,” she said.
“More often than not, we put others’ needs above our own and if we never make any time for ourselves that’s when exhaustion and burn out can become an issue.”
The group quickly gained momentum and now boasts more than 300 members.
Ms D’Arcy says it seems that despite the fact it is 2020, there is still a traditional view floating around that motherhood must equate to sacrificing your own identity.
She says it’s time for mums to be more selfish.
“I’d encourage mums to build in small acts of self-care into their daily and weekly routines,” she said.
“I’m not talking about grand activities once in a while but small things done consistently like reading, a hobby, walks or catching up with friends – things that will help you recharge your batteries.
“Self-care isn’t selfish – it’s an act of self-respect.”
It’s also important for mums to have their own goals and dreams, according to Ms D’Arcy, not necessarily connected to their families – learning a language, running your own business, mastering a sport are just some examples.
“Mums shouldn’t feel guilty for nurturing their identities outside of motherhood,” she said.
Often when we talk about mums and parenting, dads say they get the raw end of the deal – that the so-called bad dads make the good ones look bad.
But The Selfish Mums isn’t about shaming dads – or telling them to be less selfish, Ms D’Arcy says, it’s allowing mums to step back and see that it is possible.
“There isn’t as much pressure on men to ‘do it all’ as there is on women,” she said.
“This is evident if you look at the recent situation where we have all been spending most of our time at home due to COVID-19. Women, generally speaking, have picked up more housework and managed the bulk of their children’s home schooling compared with their male counterparts.”
She admits everyone’s situation is different, but for many traditional expectations have continued throughout generations.
And for some, society allows (or expects) men to be more “selfish” than their female partners.
“I’d imagine many dads would love to use parental leave and flexible working arrangements available to them but feel pressure they will be judged as not taking their jobs as seriously if they actually use these entitlements,” she said.
“Both mums and dads need time out for themselves and it’s important to communicate that within your family. Spending time together as a couple is vital too, although that can be tricky if you have very young children.
“The key is to be flexible – you might not be able to go out for an entire day but even an hour together so you can talk in peace is helpful.”
Balance, she says, is the key.
As well as having confidence in knowing that being “selfish” is OK.
And she must be onto something.
What started as a group in Geelong, now has members spanning across the globe, with some members in the UK, New Zealand, Canada and the Philippines.
And there are big plans ahead for The Selfish Mums – Ms D’Arcy is already working on a refreshed content plan for the group.
And in the near future she’d like to explore supporting other mums on a one-to-one basis.
“I’ve created a free self care step-by-step guide for mums, which will be available on The Selfish Mum blog, launching in June (www.theselfishmum.com.au).”