This topic has been weighing heavily on my mind a lot lately. I feel the reason is because I’ve seen so many people take it to extremes, taken it too far to where it’s purely just selfish acts and self serving. Self care, to me, is finding peace in the chaos, joy in the hard times, and occasionally being a little selfish with my time so I can hit that “reset” button. But what I don’t feel self care is, is creating more chaos or wreaking more havoc on my life or finances. Being single and self care is whole different ball game. I haven’t been single for the last twelve years so I really don’t have an opinion on that. What I do have an opinion on is being a mom and a wife and what self care is in that aspect.
I’ve seen so many posts and so many rants on social media and other blogs about how moms can’t obtain self care. I just feel that isn’t true. I feel we need to change our outlook on this, change our mindsets and how we look at self care as moms. Let me just drop a few #truthbombs in your wake to help you understand or see that self care happens, that maybe you just aren’t recognizing it fully. Ever hear that saying, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit?” Yeah? It’s not just a saying for kids, folks. It’s for adults too. As moms we aren’t always going to get those breaks from our kids and the chaos of life. So when you get a moment to just breathe, or you force yourself to just breathe midst the chaos you have to embrace that moment because that is an act of self care. That means, take it while it lasts, hold on to it for as long as your mind will allow. I know it never feels like it will be long enough. Nothing joyous ever does, my dear. Be thankful it happened. Simply be thankful and grateful and I’m sure that will calm you more than anything, just changing that mindset is all it takes, even if, for just that one moment. No, you don’t have to do this one hundred percent of the time. If you need to be mad and cuss through a situation, then by all means, do it. Maybe that’s an act of self care in embracing those emotions. We can’t be happy creatures one hundred percent of the time. With the good comes the bad, always. No good deed goes unpunished, I believe is how the saying goes? Correct me if I’m wrong. It is certainly part of life isn’t it? Part of the meaning of it all? I mean, we keep hearing that life is all about balance, right? Doesn’t that mean both good and bad? If everything was good 100% of the time then we’d never learn, we’d always be complacent and we would be perfect. But that just isn’t fact.
What is Self Care?
Even if you just google this, it will give you a dictionary definition right out the gate. Google says that self care is, “practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health,” or “practice of taking an active roll in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” What this means? We are making our doctor’s appointments (physical or mental), we are brushing our teeth every day, we are bathing on the regular, we are taking care of our bodies and our minds. Because our bodies react to stress it is even more important that we are practicing some self care during times of stress. As moms, that’s extremely hard. We house babies and grow them for nine months. That wreaks havoc on our bodies, doesn’t it? They deplete our calcium and other nutrients (hence why it’s important to take prenatal vitamins), they expand our bodies in ways we never thought possible, they deplete our energy. Being a mom is almost completely self sacrificial. It sounds extreme, I know, but think about it… there are women who die during childbirth! Most of us would take a beating or a bullet for our kids and spouses. So as a mother it feels as though self care is nonexistent. It feels unobtainable. It feels like a fantasy or a wish. It feels like, when we do get it, it just isn’t enough to fill our cup. Self care, when we are moms, is extremely hard, or is it? Like I said, maybe we just aren’t looking at it from a different angle, a more appropriate angle. Maybe we are too busy wishing for something we want (not need) that we don’t see the acts of self care we do give ourselves. Maybe we aren’t being grateful enough to know that that small act of self care gave you just enough time to be able to deal with another 30 minute fight and lecture to your children. Seriously, pause and rewind the day in your head. Your kids were fighting all damn day long. Each time something happened and you needed to help them problem solve, what did you do to get through that situation when you just thought you couldn’t take another minute more? Did you let them fight it out a few times and walk away and distract yourself? Did you take a few deep breaths and then enter the situation? Did you yell for them to stop and to be separated for a while? Aren’t each of those steps part of self care? Wasn’t each of those steps something you did to preserve your own mental well-being? Yeah, it really was! No, it wasn’t selfish my dear, not at all. What you did helped the entire situation, not just yourself. Sure, you may have been thinking selfishly, but honestly, with all that fighting it was what needed to happen for everyone! You need to refill your cup even if for just a moment so that your children can have the best of your mental status, not just the yelling, screaming, lecturing side. Hell yes I defensively stonewall my children in times like this. We all need a moment to regroup and then we revisit the issues when we are calm. No, it doesn’t happen all of the time because I am far from perfect. I don’t always realize this needs to happen. Some days I, too, get stuck and hung up on the anxiousness and the angst and fail to recognize. I can say, however, I’ve been more consistent with it and it sure has improved my mental health. Any ways, I want to move on to some more specific examples of self care as a mom.
Take What You Can Get:
I don’t do this all of the time and I have zero expectations for you either. I’m looking for progress, not perfection. Sometimes, however, we have to take certain moments when we believe we can. This means that sometimes we have to take a few extra steps in order to obtain our self care for the day. Sometimes, that includes getting up before everyone else, before the crazy schedules begin, before breakfast needs to be made, before breastfeeding, before pumping, before starting our entire day in chaos. Get up once or twice a week before any one else does. Drink your coffee or tea or water, check your social media, read a few chapters in a book that interests you, do some homework, meal plan, go for a jog, get dinner prepped and in the crockpot early, wash your face and brush your teeth, put your face on (makeup), take your time picking out your outfit, do a workout, or sleep in those few extra minutes because the pumping and the breastfeeding and the changing of the diapers has exhausted you beyond your measures. Our bodies are pretty miraculous. Sure you might leak a little bit while you’re sleeping in those few extra minutes, but your milk won’t dry up all of a sudden. Just because you slept in those few extra minutes doesn’t mean your entire schedule is off balance for the day. Continue as you normally would. Keep pumping and feeding at the same times you have been. Those few extra minutes of sleep won’t hurt that schedule. It doesn’t mean you have to push back those feedings and pumping another 30 minutes which feels like that means you won’t get to bed on time. It doesn’t have to be that way. Adjust your expectations. Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you have to believe you are super woman.
Working OR SAHM:
Ok, so you’re at work. You’re tired. You’re tired of work. You’re struggling. You feel suffocated by the morning routine, the commute to work, the actual working, the going home and working and doing it all. The Lovett Co. (can be found on Facebook or you can listen to their podcasts or find info at: www.successinblackandwhite.com) actually suggests getting your blood pumping. Move around folks! Get up and walk for a minute. Your project isn’t going any where. Take a minute to get that blood circulating and if you’re super annoyed, frustrated, etc with it walk around and count your steps, take deep breaths to clear your mind, but work that heart to keep it healthy! Ok, so you work at a job that already helps you to get that blood pumping? The Lovett Co. also suggests listening to music! Turn on the radio, or pop in your earbuds (this was hard to do at my outside job so I had to leave one earbud out). Listen to some music that’s good for your soul. April from the Lovett Co. says that if she’s working on a project and needs some music she listens to music she knows the lyrics to so that she’s not distracting herself from her work. How true this is! Above all, working moms, practice your basic care. It is important that you visit the restroom (take it from the girl who would wait 6 hours just to pee because I thought if I went to the restroom I wouldn’t complete my tasks on time and therefore wound up with bladder infections on the regular). It’s important that you eat (at my last job I would sometimes have to “eat on the run”). It’s important that you drink water (or at least some sort of beverage, preferably healthy but that’s just my opinion). These, albeit, small acts I just described are acts of self care. They aren’t selfish, they are needs for your physical and mental health. Now, if I could implement a little more than an opinion here, I would really have to say to you working moms or parents, I would highly suggest or hope that you would listen to Darryl and April in their podcast, Success In Black and White. They are some very real, and very inspirational, informative, enlightening, encouraging, and just all around wonderful folks whom I’ve grown to love and enjoy listening to all of their success tips on their podcasts. It’s not always about work either. They apply their tactics to everyday life and personal development too! They talk about an array of subjects that I couldn’t be more thankful to have listened to (while working nonetheless)!! Their podcast is part of my self care routine!
Ok SAHM’s. I didn’t forget about you. Right now, you’ve cleaned up breakfast, diapers have been changed, you’ve read kid books, you’ve done tummy time with baby, and baby has been officially rocked to sleep for his/her midmorning nap. And, there’s the toddler. Toddlers love to learn. They are far too curious and often times, far too smart for their own good! With that, comes help! Have them help you with those essential chores: laundry, dishes, and picking up. Developing their team building skills now will only help in the long run; both you and them! Now that that is done, turn on the cartoons for 30 minutes. During those thirty minutes utilize that time for some self care time. Read a chapter in a book. Read an article in a magazine. Put your earbuds in and listen to music, an audiobook (while you rest your eyes on the couch), a favorite podcast, or if you’re lucky like me you have some sort of streaming on your electronic and watch an episode (or half) of your favorite show. Take a 30 minute snooze if you need to because we all know that when babies start to grow their feeding schedules can change so you may not have gotten enough sleep even though you slept in those few extra minutes. Ladies, taking care of kids alone is enough for any one person. You don’t have to be doing all of the stuff every day. Your house does not need to be perfect! Girl, if you came by my house right now, and with all the other priorities I have going on, well, chances are you are going to find that I haven’t picked up the morning toys yet, or you might find shoes everywhere because my girls are obsessed with shoes and honestly, I purposefully leave them out. I’m teaching them to be self reliant which means they need to clean up their messes, so those shoes might have to stay where they are (or at least out of the walk way) just to be able to remind my girls that they didn’t pick those up before leaving. Adjust your expectations (that doesn’t mean lower your standards by any means). You aren’t super woman and you certainly aren’t wonder woman. Please don’t lie to yourself like that. Don’t set those unreasonable expectations for yourself. Those expectations are not part of self care. They are belittling and you deserve better.
Ahhhh at last the lunch hour has come mama! Yes, I very well remember this hour. It felt like there just wasn’t enough time to do what I needed to do. Eat and run errands, pay bills, and the driving time. It just doesn’t seem like enough. But what if we took the time to appreciate this hour given to us, for just ourselves? What if we actually took a few days to just simply enjoy our lunch hour? Eating is self care people. It’s essential to our very survival. You can either pack your lunch or go out to lunch. Either way, eat something. Sometimes, just eat the dessert! Eat in a different environment, one that creates a space for peace. Sure, you might be at the park with beautiful sights, but the noise of traffic is there. Use your senses, block some of them out if you have to (the noise). Focus on the good. Breathe. Smell (ok, it smells like smog, don’t smell). Again, listen to some music! Read a book! Read a magazine! Feeling guilty about that dessert? Walk to and from the destination. These are acts of self care.
Alright SAHM’s. You’ve done the lunch thing. What time is it now you ask!? NAPTIME!!!! Alright, so earlier you decided to snooze a little on the couch for your act of self care. It’s time to get a few tasks out of the way before we indulge in the self care acts again. Blare some music (or really, quietly play your music so we don’t wake the tiny humans). Do a dance while you’re doing dishes or sweeping up those spaghettios. Sing along while you wipe down the counters and table and mop where the toddler spilled his juice. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be music. Let your show play on in the background and listen to it while you do this. Stop in between each chore and take a drink of water. Break to run to the restroom. It’s time for a feeding? Drink some water and watch your show while you do it. Leave it on a low volume if you want baby to nap afterward. Baby’s asleep now? Snuggle her or put her down and go take a shower or a bubble bath. Continue to catch up on shows, or read some of your book or magazines, or watch a movie. Baby doesn’t want to sleep? That’s ok. Bonding time it is! Play with baby! Tummy time, patty cake, peek-a-boo, bicycle baby’s legs and talk to her, change her butt. Baby is asleep now? Meditate, pray, do some exercises, catch up on bills, build a budget to save for something special, grab an espresso, drink your favorite beverage, take another nap, call a sitter so you can go to the gym, call a friend to catch up, plan a playdate, go to a playdate, plan a date night with your spouse, set some personal goals, make lists of chores needing to be done at certain times, do some homework, look into a post secondary education, volunteer somewhere, call those debt collectors you’ve been meaning to call, just get that over with because then you won’t have to continue to worry about it. Above all, don’t you dare put yourself on the backburner to where you haven’t peed for hours, you haven’t eaten, you haven’t taken a sip of water, you haven’t gotten any rest, you haven’t done anything that is vital to your existence. Don’t make any more excuses as to why you can’t go to the restroom or take a sip of water. They are acts of self care and you need to see it that way, not as an annoyance.
Dinner Time = Crunch Time:
Not all of us work outside of the home. A lot of SAHM’s have time to run to the store at leisure in order to obtain the ingredients necessary for dinner time. We also, especially if we are caring for multiple children, become forgetful so the rush of dinner time and running that into bedtime can be just as chaotic and messy as it can be for a working mom. Dinner time probably looks the same for both. What I used to do right after wor, when I got home was change into comfortable clothing, typically my pajamas. I would wash my face too because the good Lord knows I will forget if I don’t. Then, I would do homework on the couch (kids and myself). I would get dinner prepped after that while they would have an after school snack. This is where it was nice to have a smart phone so that I could stream my shows while the other minions would hog the tv. I’d pop in my earbuds and listen to my shows while I worked on dinner. Or I’d listen to music and dance a little bit while I worked on dinner. Then we’d eat and if we were done soon enough and everyone pitched in for clean up, we would hang out outside for about an hour or so. While they played around in the yard I either read books, hopped on my social media, sun bathed (with sunscreen, duh!), I would write, I’d even play with the kids, or they’d be kicked out outside because they were nonstop fighting and I’d stay in with the kitchen window open so I could see them and clean up. I would take these small moments while I was watching my children to provide myself with bits and pieces of self care. It didn’t always look like self care, but what else is it suppose to be? We need dishes right? Even if I was single I’d need my dishes. It’s essential which, to me, means self care and while doing all of that I did something I enjoyed (multitasking at its finest).
Then came the task of getting kids ready for bed. My family is mostly night time bathers. So, while the littles played in the tub I would brush my teeth, I would do more of my skincare routine or haircare routine, or I’d work on my nails, or I’d read and/or watched my shows while I monitored them (because if I didn’t they’d probably drown the bathroom floor or each other). Quiet time always came after bath time. We’d get into pajamas and read books together, watch a movie together and cuddle, or watch shows together. Sure, I feel that if you wanted to have a family, part of our self care is doing family activities, even quiet ones. Bonding time is important to my mental health so that I know I haven’t neglected them. This would kill my mental health if I didn’t spend time with my kids or husband. I would be riddled with guilt. How is that any good for my mental health? It isn’t. This is why I feel bonding time is also a self care act.
Craving Peace At Bedtime:
Bedtime is sometimes excruciating on our mental health. This is when our kids like to come up with millions of excuses as to why they can’t go to bed just yet. And when they finally get to sleep, we breathe the biggest breath we’ve ever breathed. No, it isn’t an all of the time thing that it’s that dramatic, but it is worst case scenario right? I know these times so well it’s not even funny. My five year old, after all, had a sleep delay and I had zero acts of self care during bedtime except for two to four hours of sleep a night for many many nights in a row. And now, now that we have it mostly under control, I have finally been able to discover things I need before heading off to lala land myself. A lot of the time I catch up on shows or read or start writing new things for my blog or have a chat with my spouse or paint my nails or lather myself in my sleepytime lotion. I relax and take a beat for sure. Sometimes I’ve even indulged in a glass of wine or a beer. I’ve caught up on social media or did some online shopping planning (remember, I live in very rural America where a shopping mall or outlets can’t be found for hundreds of miles). I really take this time to reflect on what I did right for the day, my achievements. No, sometimes this doesn’t happen. Sometimes I hit the pillow and I’m out because I’m that exhausted. But all of those things I do after the kids go to sleep are acts of self care. Now days, when I realized the things I do to keep my mental status up I’m performing acts of self care and I need to be proud of that. I used to be that self sacrificing person who wound up complaining about what didn’t go right. But I changed my way of thinking. I reflect now, on hard days especially, about what I did to take care of myself. I then think of how I can improve those small acts because I have to take what I can get. I’m raising tiny humans and all of my time isn’t my own any more. My money isn’t my own any more. I have to share but I can’t pour from an empty cup either. It wreaks havoc on all of us if I do. And all I can do is improve those situations. I will never get it perfect one hundred percent of the time. I have to accept that.
I see a lot of the self care movement moving in a direction I don’t agree with, however. I am seeing so many more mom’s out there doing it ever so selfishly. Self care is not selfish. I understand that it is a necessity. But I want you to read that again: self care is not selfish. What I feel that really means is that, as moms, our self care acts are not jeopardizing anything or any one. Our self care acts don’t include putting our families in harms way. By all means if you see that shirt you’ve been eyeballing for months go on sale, buy it. Did you necessarily need it? No, but it was on sale and it isn’t hurting your budget. If it’s something you know won’t stick around because it’s so trendy? Save for it and then purchase it. And don’t be like me and neglect buying a new set of undies for a year or two or three. You need underwear and even though they get washed that doesn’t mean they aren’t worn out and the cotton in them is depleted and therefore your underwear are no longer healthy for your lady parts. Buy them. They are a necessity. That is a responsible act of self care.
Self care, though, isn’t “treating” ourselves to luxuries. Luxuries as we know it come with a price, sometimes a hefty price. When self care becomes selfish by way of luxuries, well, we are jeopardizing areas of our life. Self care when it’s completely selfish isn’t necessary for our existence, it’s only there to fill a void. And, it usually does not benefit others, only ourselves. Self care, real self care is necessary for our health, physical or mental. As moms, we need full(er) cups in order to serve our family as caretaker. That’s why it’s essential that occasionally we are getting a break from kids or spouses, or it’s essential that we go to the restroom, or feed ourselves, or bathe, or brush our teeth, or go to counseling, or talk to friends, etc. These are necessary things for self care. But multiple girl trips within a year is not necessary. Taking away from the budget so you can go on vacation is not self care. You would be taking away from your kids. Put it this way: last year you spent decent money on shoes for your kids because you found they lasted longer. This year and next year you’ve decided to make them tough it out with Walmart or target shoes instead so you can save a little extra money so you can go on these girl trips. That is not ok. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Walmart or target shoes. Seriously, there’s nothing wrong there. But if you’re taking away from your kids, then it isn’t self care. You don’t go get your nails done every week if your kids can’t have fresh fruits for snacks, or at least healthier snacks and not cookies and crackers all the time. You don’t do things outside of your financial means in order to obtain self care. Do you understand what I’m saying? You can’t neglect your children on the regular so that you can go drinking with your buddies. That is not self care. You don’t drink alcohol every single night to “take the edge off.” That is not healthy; therefore, it is not self care. Self care equals needs. Selfish equals wants. The wants are things we should earn. Save up for the things you want as that means you will have earned them.
All of this is merely my opinion on self care. I understand that sometimes, life presents us with once in a lifetime opportunities that we have to take or they may never come around again. But make an after care plan. Make a plan to pay off that debt that exceeded your means at the time and stick to it. That is also self care. Self care is commitment. Self care is healthy and self care is sustaining!