“I was flattened, just flattened,” Julie Burton says of a time in her life when she found herself overwhelmed. Burton, who lives in Minnetonka with her husband David and four children—Sophie, 21, Jeremy, 19, Abe, 14, and Josie, 11—knew something had to give. Little did she know that putting pen to paper would also lead to a fresh chapter in her life, so to speak. Burton’s first book, The Self-Care Solution, “grew out of a desperate plea to myself to figure out a way to take care of me, as I felt I was literally gasping for breath while being swallowed up in the sea of motherhood,” she writes.
Burton, a writer, speaker and former editor, started a blog, Unscripted Mom, in 2013 (she’s since moved on to other projects). She’s also the cofounder of the Twin Cities Writing Studio. What’s engaging about Burton is that she has so much to say, as many authors do, but she is also keenly interested and curious about other people’s points of view. As she dove into writing The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Essential Guide to Health and Well-Being, which will be released this month by She Writes Press, Burton was eager to share her search for health and well-being while she journeyed through motherhood. But she also knew that wisdom grows from the seeds of many. While Burton’s perspective anchors the book, she sought out stories from other mothers, highlighting their travails and enlisting their perspectives.
After interviewing and surveying nearly 400 women, the focus of Burton’s book shifted. “I started out trying to write a parenting book,” she says, but the responses from the women reshaped and refined Burton’s manuscript. “The single most important aspect about being a good parent is being intentional about taking care of yourself,” she says. It can be done, Burton assures, and she has the personal and anecdotal illustrations to prove it.
Through her research, Burton discovered that women who are the best at implementing self-care are those who find the “sweet spot” of being good as a mother and as an individual. “It’s really about setting boundaries and being very intentional about self-care,” she says. This can translate into major transformations or simple steps, like going for a walk during lunch or regularly meeting with friends. “Whatever they need to do to make themselves a priority, they do it,” Burton says. It can be 15 minutes or an hour. “They just know it’s there, and it’s sacred,” she says.
Encouraging mothers to care for themselves is illustrated by the proverbial “filling up your gas tank” adage. While some women embrace the need to refuel in order to pilot (or co-pilot) their family, other mothers might feel like taking time away from their children and spouse as selfish. “Self-care is not being self-absorbed,” Burton explains. “Self-care, in its true form, is the opposite of selfish. You are taking care of yourself, so you can care for others better.” Burton further explains that staking out time for self-care and well-being speaks volumes to children. “Children watch your behavior,” she says. “If you put yourself last, what does that say to a child?”
Modeling healthy behavior for her children is very personal for Burton. Her own experiences as a teen and young adult are still fundamentally relevant to her today as a parent. It’s clear that Burton is intentional about listening to her inner voice as much as she is about empowering her children to speak their truths.
In her book, Burton writes about watching one of her daughters have a seminal experience by honestly expressing herself during a familial encounter. “And there it was—her inner voice, her truth, her voice of self-care and self-advocacy—and I was thrilled that my daughter had enoughself-awareness and confidence to assert her feelings, as well as her fears of letting people down,” Burton writes in her book. “This is the exact voice that I am still working to cultivate for myself, and the voice that all mothers continually need to listen to and respect as we pour our hearts and souls into raising our children and caring for our families. This is the voice that tells us that, if we are truly going to be able to care for those we love, we need to start by caring for ourselves.”
There is a whole industry of how-to and what-to-expect books and classes for pregnant women and mothers of youngsters, but what about mothers of teenagers and young adults? As the saying goes, the bigger the kid, the bigger the problems and Julie Burton also extends a helping hand to mothers of older children. "I feel this book caters to moms with kids of all ages," she says.
Burton recommends that mothers take eight steps to nurture their own health and well-being:
- Honor your body.
- Embrace sleep and rest.
- Cultivate happiness and joy.
- Find gratitude and connection.
- Set boundaries.
- Nurture your partnership.
- Find work-life balance.
- Never give up.