Self Care. The buzzword heard everywhere from mommy bloggers to doctors, talk show hosts to girlfriends. It is especially popular at the start of a new year with resolutions aplenty meant to bring us happiness, with an emphasis on treating ourselves with the same grace and patience we afford to those whom we help raise. Unfortunately, the ink from our ambitious resolutions still has yet to dry and we have already, most likely, abandoned them. Because, life.
I’ve read articles telling me I should make self care a big priority because we cannot, as mothers, take care of our families if we have not first taken care of ourselves. Noted. Agree. Self-care and mental health go hand in hand. These articles list “luxuries” such as long, hot showers and making time for haircuts. Ummm, ok. Those, to me, are not self-care. They are things in which we should be afforded, despite the craziness of life, work and parenting.
I have read other articles telling me I should be making time for a weekly date night, scheduling frequent vacations with my girlfriends and never missing a bi-weekly pedicure appointment. Those all sound amazing! Would I love to make them happen? Absolutely! They also (don’t kill me) are kind of exhausting. While a regularly-scheduled, Friday night, adult-only meal would be a breath of fresh air, I also know in reality what all it entails. It means finding and securing a babysitter who doesn’t already have her own, much-cooler night planned. I will probably need to wash and fix my hair, which, let’s face it, is a feat in itself. There will need to be reservations made, tantrums avoided as we sneak out of the house, and dealing with cranky kids who missed their regularly-scheduled bedtime the night before. Is it worth it, in the end, to connect with your spouse or to simply get some time for just yourself? The answer is always yes. But I know me. Most Friday nights I barely have the energy to order pizza, let alone put on regular pants for a nice dinner out. The same type of energy would be needed for a Saturday spa day or weekend away. Therein lies my conundrum. How do I practice self care when it means an extraordinary list of other to-dos in order to accomplish?
I THINK, for now, in this particular stage of life, I may have found my middle ground. It falls in between the hot shower and the extravagant girls weekend. It does not involve making my already ridiculous list of to-dos longer. After almost eight years of waking before dawn to nurse babies or get them ready for school, my body is now conditioned to rise before the sun. I’ve tried to sleep in, and it usually results in me staring at the ceiling to the sound of my husband’s snores. Instead of flipping though social media to pass the time, I get up and make the early morning hours just for me.
Sometimes, I am productive and have accomplished a day’s worth of check marks by the time I hear the first little footsteps bounce out of their bed, and that feels really good to my go-getter personality. But most days, I brew a big pot of coffee and take a deep breath in the steam while I relax on the couch under my softest blanket. My favorite news show is flickering in the dark while I sit in solace. I might read, workout, or peruse emails if I feel so inclined, but mostly, I enjoy waking without the feeling of being rushed. For those 30 minutes everyday, before I’ve met anyone else’s needs, I’ve met mine. Alone time is my way to reset and recharge, and it has become an integral part of each day to allow me to be the best mom (and person) I can be.
It wasn’t long ago when the thought of rising so early sounded dreadful, and when long days turned into long nights with children (sometimes, it still does). But for now, I am trying to enjoy this little sweet spot of life. My kids are finally sleeping (a little) past dawn, and I am happy to use those few minutes to be mindful of what helps me feel grounded. Girlfriend time and the spa appointments still need to be scheduled, but they don’t feel as urgent when I know I have done something that feels good to me every single morning.
My advice: find those moments that are only for you. We, of course, all deserve more than a few minutes, but the reality is that life never really lets up. There is never a moment, at least for me, where I feel like I can relax enough to say I’ve accomplished all the things, satisfied everyone’s need for love and attention, and oh yeah, go ahead and make time for me in the midst of cooking dinner, rushing to basketball practice and cleaning up the dog vomit. When I know I can look forward to hot coffee and my favorite news anchor greeting me each morning, it doesn’t seem so daunting. I am able to hit the ground running, with a renewed sense of day.
Make it work, because you deserve it.