Every single time I leave the house with my three children (and I mean EVERY time), a stranger inevitably will remark how busy I must be. To which I smile and affirm their assumption. The second thing I hear on a very regular basis is something along the lines of "what do you do with all your free time?" (said in a sarcastic tone), or "you musn't have any time for yourself!" I generally offer a pleasant smile and remark "I make time" without really delving into the details (since the disbelief on their face speaks volumes)
I am always surprised when I have new clients coming to me and confessing the time with me is the first thing they have done for themselves in months. Years even. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I have been there. I have experienced the day-to-day chaos of little ones constantly demanding your attention, shoveling food down my throat because I have to tend to everyone else first. I have spent days in my pajamas. I have plopped myself on the couch for hours after putting my kids to bed, not an ounce of energy to be found to do anything but exist.
After I had my first child in 2009, my world was completely rocked, to which I think many first time Moms can relate. Suddenly my time wasn't my time anymore, it was someone else's. It didn't matter when I was hungry or tired, someone else's needs took priority and it was a tough adjustment, especially those first 6 weeks. When I had my second child in 2011, I became a seasoned veteran, and I instinctively knew I needed to care for myself FIRST if I wanted to stay sane and hold on to my identity in any way. When he was two weeks old I began weight lifting 5 or 6 days a week. I explored new interests, made new friends and was determined to not get lost in the role of Motherhood.
Now here I am with 3 children and I feel as though I finally have a pretty good handle on what it means to balance myself with ME and my children, and everyone else I choose to share myself with. You know when you are on a flight and the attendants go through safety procedures? They always tell you to put your own mask on first before anyone else's. The reasoning for this is that you cannot care for another human being unless you are tapping into your own oxygen. Without it, you would die and so would the person or people you are responsible for
Such is the metaphor for life, though perhaps not quite so dramatic. If you aren't equipping yourself with "oxygen" (in the form of love, passion, exploration, creativity, meaningful relationships), you are not equipped to guide another in a way that is meaningful or complete. So in the chaos of everything that is life, how does one begin self-care?
1. Carve out the time
If things don't get scheduled, they just don't get done. So write it out in your Mom calendar if you need to, for all to see. Schedule it in your life to show the value you hold in self-care. Is it before the rest of the house wakes up? In the middle of the day? Later at night? Or even better, a mix of all three? You don't need hours here. It could be a 20 minute bath. No excuses, everyone can find 20 minutes.
2. Communicate the importance
My husband can feel it coming when I haven't taken enough time to care for myself. I start to feel agitated at anything and everything and hold an unpleasant look on my face. He will then casually state that he can deal with the kids and I should get of the house. If your husband or partner, or friends and family members aren't in tune with your moods quite as well as he is (yet), make sure you communicate to them the importance of caring for yourself. Some people may not get it. Some people live their lives believing that indulging in pleasurable things is selfish time wasted. I can assure you these are the people who later go on to deal with high blood pressure and heart disease, or will eventually require the help of meds to get through their days. Your job is to demonstrate your unwavering support for yourself. How everyone around you responds is not your concern or responsibility.
3. Find things you love
Spending time with yourself can easily become last priority when you're a Mom. There are so many other things that could be done instead. So if you're going to be away from the kids and home and corresponding responsibilities, you need to make sure that the space you fill that time with is something that fills you and brings you joy. Otherwise, let's be honest, it won't be worth the hassle. Here are some ideas:
- walk in nature
- epsom salt baths
- reading a good book
- laughing with good friends who raise you up
- trying a new class (cooking, sewing, fitness, scrapbooking)
- creating things with your hands
- giving yourself a mani/pedi
- enjoying a tea at Starbucks all by yourself
My typical day of self-care looks something like this:
5:00-6:00 I work out alone in my home gym, listening to a playlist that matches my mood or to a podcast if I don't need the extra motivation)
1:00-2:00 I may spend 30 minutes or 60 minutes during my son's naptime doing something for me. Sometimes it's a hot epsom salt bath while reading a book, sometimes it's sipping an herbal tea while reading interesting articles, sometimes it's listening to podcasts while prepping dinner. There's always some element of love in this hour
8:00-10:00 I have a couple hours of quiet after the kids go to bed. Oftentimes I spend time working, other times I'll just take the last half hour to read in bed. Sometimes I connect with others by sending little love notes out to them. I love nights for setting goals and intentions for upcoming days and weeks
I also go to a yoga class at least once a week. It's something that fills me up and allows me to be in a room full of like minded people. Every Wednesday my in laws spend the day with my youngest and the day is mine. While I devote the day to work, I spend the first couple hours working at Starbucks with a Jade Citrus Mint tea in hand, a small pleasure that allows me the ability to get work done while treating myself to something I enjoy.
How are some ways you care for you? Leave your ideas for us Moms who could use some pampering