Motherhood requires more sacrifices than can be counted, and it can wear you out physically and emotionally. In order to parent well, however, we need energy, patience, forgiveness, creativity… all the things that disappear when we are exhausted. What to do? As flight attendants and Oprah both like to say, you’ve got to put your oxygen mask on yourself first. Let’s talk about self-care.
How do you take care of yourself? First, make sure you are getting the basics: enough sleep, healthy food, daily physical activity. Our bodies and brains will stop functioning pretty quickly without those items. But beyond that, your self-care can be as unique as you are. Consider some of these ideas:
Order. Some of us take care of ourselves by maintaining order in our physical surroundings. If this is you, my advice is to remember to find balance. Children pretty much destroy order just by virtue of their existence, and there is no human way to stay on top of everything. So, find places in your life/house where you can create and maintain order, and try to “let go” of wishing everything could be orderly. (Read about my own balancing act with order on my blog here: http://www.katiemalinski.com/2010/04/my-sock-drawer-circa-2001/ )
Girlfriends. When I realize that I’ve gotten behind on my own self care (usually evidenced by a grouchy, testy mood,) one of my favorite ways to get myself back is to go on a walk with a girlfriend. An hour of laughing, confiding and sometimes complaining, away from home and kids and responsibility, plus a little exercise, plus it’s free? Perfect.
Lower your standards. Yes, a home cooked meal is awesome and a clean house is important. (But not as important as a peaceful, centered Mommy!) Can you grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store one night a week? Or use paper plates during crunch time? If those things allow you to steal back 20 minutes of your time one evening, it’s a small price to pay. But make sure to use those 20 minutes doing something that rejuvenates you!
Make something. Are you a crafter? Baker? (Candlestick maker?) If you love to make stuff but aren’t doing it, you probably feel a little bit wistful (or worse!) every time you walk by your unused supplies. Carve out an hour or two and knock out a tiny, manageable project. One finished project can give that craft table a happy vibe instead.
Ask for help. Do you have family or friends to turn to? A church or community group? Maybe they can help with babysitting or trading child care, emotional support, advice, or simply by keeping you company while you do whatever you need to do. I myself have often found that even if someone can’t help me, having their company while I do whatever needs doing is helpful.
Music. Music has an enormous ability to transform moods. It’s also great because it can be combined with other activities—particularly boring ones like cleaning. But I’ve found that if I play great music while I’m cleaning, I end up enjoying myself, the work seems quicker and less difficult, and a lot of the time I end up having a mini dance party with the kids in the middle of it. Crank up the volume!
Go to bed. Everyone says this, but that’s because everyone needs it and no one is getting enough. Go to sleep! I always like to remind parents of very young children sleep deprivation is a form of torture and is listed in the Geneva Convention! There is also research that shows that not getting enough sleep leads to unhealthy food choices and increased caloric intake! So give yourself the gift of a nap, or 8 full hours of uninterrupted sleep. And then do it again. Ahhhh.
So before you click another link—think for just a moment: what will you do to take care of you today? Now make it a priority. You deserve it!