Self-Care Made Simple
Aside from the fact that parents these days are spread thinner than ever, we do have a small advantage over previous generations: “self-care” is actually a thing. It is a term that crosses our lips and enters our minds as something we should, just maybe, prioritize.
That being said, it is still super hard to figure out just how to take care of one’s self when one is also responsible for the (numerous, urgent, and much louder) demands of others. As a self-employed/working/work-from-home/stay-at-home mother of three (including 3-year-old twins), some days self-care looks more like self-preservation: locking myself in the bathroom to breathe for a minute so I don’t hurt anyone, for example. When my twins were babies, I remember posting to a mom group on Facebook, saying just how tired and overwhelmed I was. I got some well-intentioned but infuriating responses about how important it is to recharge, and to “carve out the time” to take care of myself. (THEEEEEEEENKS, you think I don’t know that???) Much easier said than done. However, the past seven years as a parent have taught me a thing or two about identifying and prioritizing the things that feel like self-care to me, ranging from those that are fun to those that truly feed my soul. Often, it may be something that your pre-baby self did on a regular basis and took for granted. But if you notice it, savor it, and remind yourself that you are doing this to take care of YOU, then it counts!
I used to be a long distance runner and hardly considered yoga a workout. Since having children, however, yoga is by far my favorite form of exercise, and I know beyond a doubt that it nurtures me in mind, body, and soul. If you can find a class geared especially towards postpartum women, all the better. And remember: some is better than none. For example, I would ideally practice yoga three times a week. In reality, I am lucky to go once a month, but I always appreciate it.
Eat a hot meal, sitting down, slowly, and with two hands.
Luxury, right? But seriously, do it. Give the baby to your partner, or Grandma, or hire a postpartum doula! Take your meal up to your room, put down your phone, and put on some relaxing music (or don earplugs, if necessary). Breathe, chew, taste, ENJOY. Ahhh…
Go to Target… by yourself.
Picture this: your body is unencumbered by diaper bag and babies. You walk boldly through those magical sliding doors, shoulders back, mind clear. You see a tired mom buckling her fussy toddler into a cart, another baby on her back, and you give her a gentle, understanding smile before stopping at Starbucks. You sip your latte as you leisurely stroll to the diaper aisle, stopping to look at a t-shirt, or to try on pair of cute shoes you don’t need, JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN. The world is your oyster, mama. Own it!
Take a long, hot shower
This one seems so simple, but most moms know it can be a challenge! It’s not gonna happen every time, but aim to get at least one shower a week when you are not interrupted by the pit-pat of toddler feet coming into the bathroom, or rushing to get done and feed the baby. Take a drop of essential oil and rub your tired shoulders for a few seconds. Let the hot water fall on your shoulders and lower back. Breathe. If you really want to make it a spa day, shave your legs and finish off with moisturizing after the shower. This is YOUR time–go crazy.
Take a (coffee) break
Ok, so I am biased. A hard-core coffee lover. But seriously, coffee (or, as I call it, the sweet elixir of the gods) makes everything better. As a brand new mom to my first child, I remember re-heating the same cup of coffee four times before I could get it down. Blehck. Now, my THREE children all have TV time in the morning while mommy makes and drinks her hot, delicious cup of french-pressed coffee, because… SANITY. Also, coffee drive-thrus are the most brilliant invention IN THE WORLD. The summer that my girls were about six months old and my boy was not quite five, sometimes sh** hit the fan and everyone was a mess. I would load them all in the car, queue the music, hit up the Starbucks drive-thru, and just… drive. Babies buckled safely in the back. Coffee. Quiet.
Get a massage
Especially if you find a practitioner who is tuned in to the specific needs of pregnant or postpartum women, massage therapy is the perfect way to receive nurturing during this time when we give so much of our time and our bodies to our children. Even if it is a twice-a-year splurge, your tired, tight nursing shoulders will thank you!
Netflix, pajamas, and ice cream
Ok, so this just might have been my nightly routine for, like, YEARS of my life. Kids asleep, pajamas on, Netflix series du jour ready to go, and my pals Ben&Jerry by my side. There have been nights when I literally giggle to myself with delight as I settle into the couch, leave my day behind me, and immerse myself in somebody else’s world for a while.
Read a book for fun
Speaking of immersing yourself in another world, what greater luxury than plunging into a good? (No, not a book about sleep training, or baby-led weaning, or parenting with presence, or any of the myriad options that sit on your night stand untouched). Personally, I aspire to read again, but it is a work-in-progress. I think the last novel was I completed was circa 2009, when nursing my first baby. My mom’s book club is on our fourth book, and I have yet to finish one, although I still go to see friends and drink wine (see number 10, below).
Spend time alone
Research shows that our brains need time to be quiet, time to turn inward to assimilate and process everything that happens throughout our day. I totally dig this. But whether you have one child or five, the demands can feel constant… so how do we find time alone? To REALLY count for me, it has to be time when I am alone AND can rely on not being interrupted or needed for a set period of time. (So… naps are ok, asleep for the night is better, somebody else responsible for the kids is best, preferably taking them out of the house.) I know this ideal situation can be hard to coordinate, so just be on the look out for “alone” moments that you can steal. Take some deep breaths. Notice. AND–when you do manage to secure a chunk of time alone, DON’T use it to do something you think you should do! I hereby give you permission to spend that alone time on something purely selfish and frivolous and luxurious, because you can’t fill other people’s cups if yours is empty. My very first mother’s day, my husband took our son to visit my in-laws and I was home alone for SIX HOURS, which I speant cleaning and making homemade baby food to freeze in ice cube trays. Now, I’m pretty sure I would take a nap.
Spend time with friends
My girlfriends are my saving grace. Some are old friends, and we have become mother’s together over the years. Some are “mom” friends that I met because we are in a similar stage of life in a similar location with a certain number of common interests. All of them keep me sane. If you are a new mom, try meeting with other new moms once a week to walk, or to sit around and nurse, or to watch your babies play outside as the weather gets warmer. Next, try seeing girlfriends at least once a month WITHOUT children in tow, and preferably WITH a glass of wine. Motherhood is joyous and amazing, and scary and intense and HARD and, no matter which phase of it that you are in, it always helps to know that you are not alone.