Motherhood and the art of self-care:
I had a really challenging week. But the thing about being a mom is that we have to keep pushing forward. Life with kids is full and chaotic, and beautiful and truly “never dull”. Because of this, I practice these six arts of self-care as often as I can.
1. Walk away.
I’m not only talking about trying to walk away from a frustrating situation and give it some space. More, I’m suggesting that, at least from time to time, we walk away and let someone else handle it.
Example: my oldest daughter has been getting emotional easily. It’s frustrating. It’s especially frustrating because I feel sorry for her, but my own temper still rises at so much crying and screaming. This morning my husband dealt with it completely. I took a shower. I drank hot coffee instead of letting it sit there and drinking it cold later like I did for most of this week.
For one, it’s good for my kids to have a different adult’s perspective on how to handle challenging moments in life, and for another, when that other adult is their dad it’s best that I let him parent his own way and refrain from infusing my parenting into his. While we parent our kids together, we aren’t the same, and the way we spend time with our kids isn’t the same either. I’m the one home all day and he’s not. This means that when he walks through the door in the evening, or it’s Saturday morning like today, I need to remember that their other parent is home and I don’t need to do everything anymore. Letting go of control can be tricky when we become so accustomed to it, but it’s good for everyone involved.
Not to look a certain way. Not to get our “pre-baby body back.” (Ugh.) We should exercise because it feels good and it makes us feel good inside. Working out is such a wonderful mood and energy boost for me, and it’s also a great way to relieve stress.
I spend so much time reading books with pictures with my kids. My girls love reading, and the voracious reader and writer in me is ecstatic about this. Still, at the end of the day, it’s difficult to muster the desire to want to read my own books, when all I want to do is spend time with my husband or veg out to Netflix. Yet I find again and again that once I pick up a novel and read two pages of it, I end up reading more, and I finish books, just not with the same speed and ease as I once did.
Reading is fantasy, and entertainment, and it’s a reminder of all the various parts of me that exist outside of this often consuming role of “Mom”.
4. Spend time alone.
I’ve always been the kind of person who needs a lot of alone time, and I don’t get nearly enough. If I have time to spare, I honestly love to spend some downtime by myself. Not only is this an excellent way to regroup and refocus on who we are as an individual, in addition to being a parent, but, for me, it’s so rejuvenating to take care of myself by remembering that I’m my own friend.
Little kids are hilarious. Each day I have many reasons to laugh and smile, but the reality of being home all day with small children is that it’s also exhausting and frustrating. Watching a silly YouTube video, or sending funny text messages with my best friend and my sister, or watching something on TV that makes me laugh after the kids have gone to bed can make even the hardest of days feel ultimately like a good one.
6. Cut ourselves some slack.
Easier said than done. I keep replaying a scene from earlier in my week when I acted in a way with my daughter I wish I didn’t. I wish more than anything I could take my reaction back. But I can’t. I’m not perfect. More, I’m filled with flaws. But the thing is, my kids will be filled with flaws, too, and it’s my job as their mom to teach them to love themselves because of their humanness. (And we all know what they say about learning through example.)
And I know these suggestions are simple, but that’s what’s interesting about self-care—it’s often these little, basic rituals that are easily infused into everyday life that have the most significant impact.
Taking care of ourselves doesn’t have to be extravagant. Often, it’s the tiny ways we show ourselves love that reflect back the most powerfully, and not just to us but to our kids, who are learning from us how to love themselves. It’s these small things we do that become our habits, that become our days, that become our years, that become our lives.