It’s easy to throw around the words that moms should take care of themselves, but self-care, when put into actual practice, doesn’t always come so simply.
For me, self-care is the little things.
Much like my relationship with my husband during these years of raising young children, self-love also involves recognizing the small ways that love shines through on a daily basis.
I care for myself when I make a cup of coffee in the morning and take the time to have that first slow sip before starting breakfast for my kids.
I care for myself when I take ten minutes to have a shower alone.
These tiny rituals are, in my experience so far, the ones that can have the most substantial effect upon my day. (As is fully realized when I quickly leave the house in a bed-head ponytail and not enough coffee.)
Following are truly accessible ways that moms can care for themselves while parenting little kids who, you know, depend on us every second and stuff.
1. Ask for help.
My husband has mornings when he has to leave early and isn’t around to help out with our before-school routine. Even when he is home, our window of time as a foursome with our two kids is limited. However, whenever possible, taking a moment to go to the bathroom alone has the profound ability to alter the rest of my day positively.
Likewise, when my parents are here visiting, it’s great for me to see them, not only the kids. I miss their company and it’s wonderful having other adults around to have conversations with. That said, making a phone call without the baby in one arm or going for a much-needed massage appointment are things I need help with, but often don’t have.
In other words, ask for help and don’t be afraid to do it. Everyone needs help. Everyone. More, this gives other people who love us the opportunity to care for us when we need it most. (And if we are raising daughters like I am, then this displays to them through action that women need to use our powerful voices—and that we can’t, and shouldn’t, have to do it all alone.)
2. Have a massage once a month.
One way that I find to overcome the budget issue with massage therapy is to schedule half-hour appointments.
While more time is typically best, a half-hour is enough to care for my cranky neck and shoulders, and I leave a completely different person than I arrived. This relates directly to suggestion number one, though, because it will be imperative to ask for help. I find it easiest to make the appointment, and then ask for either my parents or my husband to be home with the kids that day. With the time already booked, I’m more likely to be assertive in following through.
Also, if you have a baby like I do, then our bodies are still recovering from pregnancy and birth, and, frankly, those baby carrier/car seats might be convenient, but they are horrendous for small body frames. (Insert massage therapy.)
3. Go outside and take five breaths.
Go outside. Step onto the front porch or open the back door and take five breaths. Trust me.
People are not meant to be cooped up in the house all day, but, for me as a stay-at-home mom, I’m often dealing with the kids indoors or in the car running errands. Taking the space within our every day to pause and breathe outside reminds me that I’m a healthy animal, and that the world is there to hold me up when the day has been a rocky one.
4. Practice yoga.
If you have the ability to go to a yoga class, then great. I, typically, do not.
Instead, I unroll my mat and have my baby smile up into my face in downward-facing dog, pulling not-so-gently at my hair. I unroll a smaller mat for my oldest daughter, but she usually creeps onto mine. In other words, I try my damndest to have a “real” home yoga practice on most days, but my “yoga every damn day” basically involves me sitting in a pile of kids and doing a few postures that make my body feel good. (And taking those deep breaths outdoors.)
In short, yoga, and exercise in general, do not have to be full, hit-the-gym-for-an-hour sessions to make our bodies feel good. Just five minutes of abdominal and back strengtheners rev my energy back up when I need it and help me feel good about myself, so I can be a better mom to my kids.
5. Run errands alone.
To be fair, I am rarely without my kids.
I went to Earth Fare yesterday to pick up pizzas for my baby’s first birthday party, and I realized how strange it was to be there without children.
Similarly, when I run to Target to grab my prescription on a Saturday morning, I feel like I’m forgetting something. (Oh, yes—kids! At home with their dad!) Sometimes it feels like a waste of good alone time to do something mundane like run errands, but each time I do this I know it’s not.
One of the most challenging things about motherhood is that I often feel like I need to be doing something productive in order for my alone time to be “worthwhile.” Writing, exercising—these things, sure. But sitting on the front porch with a glass of wine just looking at the treetops skim the setting-sun skyline? Nah.
And then I look—I really look at the way those rough evergreens brush against the orange clouds, as I take an easy sip of my favorite, slightly tart white wine. I breathe in those five breaths and slowly exhale one long one out at the end, and I feel truly rejuvenated.
My whole body relaxes into sitting still in this short moment of my life, and I am a better mother for meeting my own needs, independent of the needs of those around me.
Because self-care doesn’t have to be fancy pedicures out with friends—although it can be; it doesn’t have to be of a certain length of time to be effective. Instead, self-care is the way we show ourselves love every single day, and our kids are seeing this.
Our children are learning how to love themselves through our example.
Do you have self-care rituals that make your day feel happier and more fulfilling? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.