This collaboration with my dear friend, soul sister and frequent writing partner Kate Bartolotta was first published by elephant journal.
When Jennifer and I first started to become friends, our plans to chat were often pushed off by the busyness that all of us deal with—especially moms.
It’s something I think we often do as women: we save what we need for last when, really, to be more effective caregivers, we need to attend to ourselves first.
Think about the oxygen masks on an airplane. They always instruct you to take your own before you help someone else.
It’s not my analogy, but it’s one I’ve read a few times and it always resonated with me. If we don’t take care of ourselves, eventually we will have nothing left to give. The time I take for myself (especially as an introverted parent)makes all the difference in how well I take care of my kids.
So here is my list: 25 things all moms need to do to recharge. ~ Kate Bartolotta
1. Take five minutes to meditate, twice a day. Longer if you can, but even five is tremendously helpful.
2. Read an article that just interests you. Not a parenting article. Not something for work. Not recipes. Not relationship advice. Just something that intrigues the you underneath all that.
3. Keep and/or cultivate friendships with your child-free friends. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s good for both their friendship and the perspective.
4. Spend a third five-minute burst (or 20 minutes when you can find it) with your tea or coffee and your journal. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer” it’s good to have a place to put your thoughts where you don’t have to re-frame them or edit them for anyone else’s consumption.
5. Once in awhile, stay out too late and behave inappropriately. You know, not so bad you end up in jail, but bad enough that you wouldn’t want your mom in on it.
6. Soak in the bath. Make it as hot as possible; salts or bubbles optional.
7. Get a tattoo. Somewhere you get to choose who you share it with, something that’s meaningful to you.
8. Play Robot Unicorn Attack. Okay, if that’s not your cup of tea, choose anything silly, frivolous and of no use to anyone to do for a few minutes. Enjoy thoroughly.
9. Ask for help. Learn what the halo of the onset of that overwhelmed feeling looks like and ask for help before you are depleted.
10. Go skinny dipping at least once a summer.
11. Pause. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. (I stole this one from Jenn. It’s that important.)
12. Let your phone go to voicemail at night. It can wait.
13. Get up and watch the sunrise at least once a month.
14. Take a few pictures of your child or children sleeping peacefully. You will need that reminder sometimes.
15. Read Neruda, preferably a sonnet, when you get up in the morning. Or read it to someone you love before you go to sleep.
16. Watch Moulin Rouge and sigh about true love (and Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman and the beautiful sets and costumes and El Tango de Roxanne).
17. Read The Little Prince, for the child that’s still inside you.
18. Read Little Birds, because you’re a grown woman.
19. Eat with your hands—it isn’t just for kids. Pomegranate, mango, blackberries. Let yourself slow down and enjoy.
20. Pay attention to how your body feels before you answer “yes” or “no” to doing something. It’s okay to say no when it’s what you really mean.
21. Stay up and watch the sunrise with someone you love to talk to.
22. Write! Keeping a journal is like writing your own history.
23. Go out with friends that make you laugh so hard you cry. (And skip the “friends” that do the mean girl, competitive mom or gossip thing. High school is over.)
24. Make a wish. Use a star, a wishing well, a four-leaf-clover, 11:11. Keep that whimsical place in your heart that allows for wishing.
25. Lay down in the grass in the middle of the day and look at the sky.
It’s absolutely true that there’s no better job in the world than being a mama.
Hands down, it’s the most rewarding—yet demanding—career path that a woman could follow.
Thankfully, there are plenty of rejuvenating things that mothers can do for themselves when they need a pick-me-up, be it large or small.
Here’s my little list—from my mother’s heart to yours. ~ Jennifer S. White.
1. Spend time with a girlfriend talking about your deepest thoughts and feelings—and then listen to hers.
2. Paint your nails—yourself (moving meditation in action).
3. Get a massage—regularly.
4. Sleep in.
5. Wake up early—by yourself.
6. Dance without music.
7. Read a book that opens your mind.
8. Read a book that opens your heart.
9. Learn how to say “no”—and then do it.
10. Yet remember when it’s important to say “yes”—for you.
11. Share dessert with someone you love (friend, lover, child or furbaby).
12. Take a yoga class. (Bonus points: a different style than you usually practice.)
13. Look in the mirror and tell yourself—out loud—that you are the most beautiful woman in the world. (Repeat as often as necessary.)
14. Think of one thing that you’ve wanted to do for a long time and have put off for others, and then make steps to doing it now.
15. Buy yourself a piece of jewelry.
16. Wish on the first star you see tonight.
17. Take a book to bed—in the middle of the day.
18. Have a girls night out that extends beyond 10 o’clock.
19. Learn to ask for help before you desperately need it. (Good for the entire family.)
20. Pause. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
21. If you don’t have much “alone time” during your day then make sure to look up at the sky and drink in the beauty and joy of your life—nothing lasts forever. Enjoy it—all of it.
22. Buy a new CD or download a new album—new as in contemporary/current—and listen to the entire thing without stopping it once.
23. Smile. That’s right—right now—smile. Hold it….hoooooold it.
24. Take a pottery class. (For me, personally, see # 14.)
25. Write your own list—every damn day.
Photo: Hans Splinter/Flickr.