Fitting Self-Care into Motherhood
As I was browsing through my blog categories, I noticed that my self-care category looked a little bare. I’m not surprised. Life as a mom of 2 little ones zooms by.
During my pregnancy, I pledged to myself that self-care would be a bigger priority through pregnancy and postpartum period. I can’t say that I completely abandoned my pledge but with the addition of a second child self-care took on a less glamorous look. And it happens more often than we’d like to admit.
What did self-care mean before motherhood?
In our former child-free life, self-care meant an extensive amount of “me-time”. It often included going to the gym, getting dinner and/or drinks with friends, reading books/magazines, getting hair and nails done regularly, vacations with or without our significant others, binge watching shows, the list is endless. And given that, when mothers hear the word “self-care” they very often scoff at it and wonder how they can create extra hours in the day for all the “relaxing” self-care they need to include. But they truth is that “self-care” for mothers, especially mothers of young children, does not really look like self-care of their pre-children self. Their self-care looks a lot less glamorous. But it’s essential.
What is self-care in motherhood?
So what does “self-care” for a mother really mean? I think it means something different for every mother because we all have different needs and priorities. (But if you need some ideas, read my Self Care for the Exhausted Parent post).
For example, I don’t do well on limited or broken sleep. And by not doing well I mean, I get debilitating migraines and turn into an angry, spiteful, little gremlin that can’t take care of myself or my children. But someone else may feel the same way if they skip their daily workout or a phone chat with their friend. The point is, we are all different!!!
We change, priorities change
Our priorities change when we become mothers. I used to be obsessed with having my nails perfectly done before I had children. So much so, that I re-painted them at a sight of a chip forming. I thought my world would end if my nails weren’t perfect. But fast forward 3 years and 2 children later, I sport bare nails on daily basis. I get my nails done for rare special occasions and only if I actually have time.
Surprisingly, I have survived and have suffered only minimal psychological damage. I no longer have much time for non-essentials. And even though it took me a while to come to terms with this, I am fine with it now. It’s NORMAL to have our priorities shift once we become mothers. And it’s NORMAL to have different needs.
Aside from our priorities being different, our time is now limited. So tackling things in order of importance becomes paramount to optimal functioning. And while having a list of self-care items is important, what’s more important is rating that list to figure out what you need most. Once you identify which self-care items are the most necessary for you, you will no longer scoff at the idea of self-care in motherhood. You will have time for them because they will be important to you. They will be priorities.
How to make time without adding to your load
You may wonder how you can engage in self-care without adding hours in a day. After all, you need to mindfully engage in self-care. And yes, some self-care requires mindful engagement but some can be done while you’re doing other things. And some can be broken into small chunks of time to make it manageable.
For example, having a mindfulness practice seems daunting when you have littles running around. But when you realize that a mindfulness practice simply means 5-10 minutes of meditation, you can make it a priority and pencil it in. But it is up to you to figure out when you can pencil it in. Is it first thing in the morning, right after you put your child down for a nap, or right before bed?
Same with getting physical exercise. Do you have time to take an hour class at the gym? Maybe, maybe not. But can you break this hour up throughout your day? My guess is, yes you can. You can do some squats and lunges while out with a stroller, you can incorporate your baby into a push-up and plank routine, and you can have a dance party with your toddler. And by the end of the day, you have your work out in and you didn’t even have to struggle to fit it into your busy schedule. Or you can combine both mindfulness and exercise if you engage in a yoga practice. Boom! Best of all, there are many free or very cheap yoga classes online. My husband and I use downdogapp.com and paid a whopping $35 for the whole year.
Of course, a solo self-care activity requires someone’s help. Your partner should be able to take care of the house and children while you go and get your hair or nails done, have a spa treatment, or wrap yourself in blankets while reading a book in peace. After all, I’m sure when your partner wants to take some time for self-care, you take those responsibilities on without a second thought.
Date nights are also part of self-care and should happen regularly. But we all know that life comes at you fast (you are talking to someone who hasn’t left the house without a child for nearly 5 months) and you just do the best you can.
No more scoffing at self-care suggestions
Promise me, that next time you read an article about self-care, you won’t scoff at it. I know that at a first glance it seems just like another to-do on your endless list but when you stop and think about it, you can make it a part of your life. Don’t feel pressured by it, but remember, if your self-care just means taking a nap to feel refreshed, DO IT!!!! Don’t feel guilty or sad that your needs are so simple and just take that nap. You’ll feel better after.