Sunday, December 4, 2016

Mom, Take Care of Yourself

Moms, how many times have you been reminded about self-care?  Never?  You're sick of hearing about it?  Not often enough to get you to actually do it?  I'm betting that for most of us, it's the latter.

Self-care is in some ways a relative term.  What looks like self-care to some looks like torture to others (I'm looking at you, moms at boot camp!)  And what counts as self care for some (a shower once a week) is complete self-neglect to others.

So sit down, for 5 minutes.  Take a breath.  Think about what self-care is for you.

Consider the things that fed you before you had kids.  Do they still feed you?  Think about what (besides your kids) makes you the happiest, and calmest.

Consider your current actual energy level and average nightly sleep; if you're currently being awakened multiple times a night, now is not the time to start training for a marathon or writing a novel.

Consider the ages of your kids; what's appropriate for a mother of 2 children over 6 is likely not appropriate for a mother of 3 toddlers.

Consider, with a large grain of salt, what your friends and family suggest.  They know you, and they see things about you that you can't see.  But they are not you, and you know yourself better than anyone else does.

Consider how much time you can actually squeeze out of each day.  A daily 3 hour break while all the kids are at school is different from catching 5 minutes here and there at unpredictable times of the day.

Now, write down your self-care plan.  What activities qualify?  How many times a week?  For how long?  What enables you to check off your self-care for the week? 

Photo credit Flickr, Kanoktham Massage

Five self-care steps to take every day:
  1. Drink water - most of us don't drink enough
  2. Eat - eat nutritious food throughout the day
  3. Sleep - at least 8 hours uninterrupted (if that's not possible, then do what you can to increase sleep - take naps, leave the dishes and go to bed earlier, get someone to take one or two of your child's night wakings)
  4. Use the bathroom - No seriously.  Use it as soon as you need to, not 20 minutes later when you "have the chance"
  5. Get outside - you don't have to walk or run, but get some fresh air every day, even when it's cold and wet out (also clean your indoor air with house plants)
Five self-care steps to consider incorporating into your weekly routine:
  1. Exercise - not everyone likes to exercise, but everyone benefits from it, in the short and long term.  It can be boot camp, or it can be restorative yoga or a walk at lunch.  Don't undertake more than your body can handle.
  2. Sex - obviously moms of small babies are completely exempt from this one.  But moms who are romantically involved and have older kids should spend a little time on this, not just because it fosters a healthy relationship, but because it releases endorphins, so it feels good.
  3. Down time - it doesn't need to be yoga or meditation, but a few minutes alone, completely removed from screaming kids and nagging chores can do wonders for your sanity.
  4. Do something you did before kids that nourished you - whether it's writing, reading, baking, volunteering, or anything else, if it fed you before, it may feed you again.  Try it and see.
  5. Talk to a friend or family member - sit down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, face to face or on the phone, and connect with someone you knew before you had kids.  Re-connecting with a grown-up loved one feeds your brain and your heart and reminds you there is life outside your child-rearing bubble, which is sometimes a good thing.
Again, you know you best.  So take these 5 ideas with a grain of salt (you are required to do the first set of 5!).  If they resonate with you great, otherwise, skip it and move on.  Do what works for you.

I meet more and more moms (and dads) who are doing more and more with their time.  We can't put self-care on the back burner, and then push it farther and farther back until we lose it.

Remember the oxygen mask on the airplane; put yours on first, and then help your kids.  We are better parents, partners, friends, and workers when we spend some amount of time taking care of ourselves.  It's a win, win, win.


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