How do we, as parents, find the time to take care of ourselves? For some, even that question can provoke anxiety. As in, "I have so much to do today, so honestly, how the hell am I supposed to fit in one more damn thing called self-care into my schedule?" I get it, so I asked some moms to reveal the ways they practice self-care every day and learned that while it can be difficult, it's not impossible and it's always worth it.
Sadly, however, I also realized that most moms don't do any self-care at all. That's not surprising, considering how adamant our society is about "mom martyrdom," constantly telling new mothers they must sacrifice absolutely everything in the name of parenthood. Even thought most moms know self-care is important, even vital, it's still difficult for these amazing humans — who give so much of themselves to their little ones — to find the time to fit themselves in.
Take me, for instance. I have been practicing yoga since I was 18 years old. I have wanted to deepen my practice with an immersion teacher-training program for the last four years. This was not a passive "maybe someday I'll consider it" four years. Nope. It was an active four years of cancellations, postponements, and rescheduling the beginning of the program. Why? You guessed it! Because I'm a mom. It actually took me four years before I could say, "F*ck the poor timing. I'm doing this."
Dearest reader, who may be reading this article as the only self-care you do all freaking week, you know what? I think that is just tragic. We moms, and other primary caregivers, need self-care. It shouldn't be something we fit in if we can find the time. No, it should be mandatory. In order to take the best care of our kids and be present for them with our full love and attention, we must care for ourselves first. Here's how a few mothers managed to do just that:
"I started running for the first time in my life when my oldest was 3 and he started going to a county program for kids with severe disabilities. Until that point, I was with him almost literally 24/7, despite the fact that I worked full-time (he attended childcare in the same building where I worked). Years later, self-care continues to include running, exercise in general, taking a nap, and drinking with friends on the rare and exciting evening when I do not have kid-duty."
"We take care of ourselves?! I'm just learning to do this after 13 months.
I'm just barely trying to do this now. Therapy has helped! My therapist said being a parent is a lot like what to do when the oxygen masks come down on a plane. You're supposed to take care of you first and then others."
"I pump so I have time to relax. Everyday I get an hour to sit down, pump, and fiddle on my phone or watch Netflix. My boobs remind me when it's time to take a break. Multitasking to accomplish me time and make milk to feed my baby and toddler."
"I try really hard to get both kids to sleep at the same time in the afternoon at least a couple times a week. Then I gather whatever food I want and a cup of coffee and watch a show. Like a real show, not Paw Patrol. No cleaning or cooking allowed if both kids are actually sleeping at the same time!"
"Set really firm boundaries with my partner when I need a break, a shower, a walk, to clean (yeah, yeah).
"It's amazing to know I'm not asking too much. It's my right to let him know what I need. So far it's working beautifully."
"Run, books, bath, and coffee. I need to run more. Like, every day."
"Saying 'no' to activities and volunteering when I am depleted. Also, asking partner/family for more help, epsom salt baths, and going to bed early."
"I am awful about taking time for self-care but two things I have done better about: getting to bed on time more often than not, and saying 'no' to stuff. Also, and this is kind of silly, but I try to take some time off my work schedule during the week when the kids are in school for my own stuff. You know, either appointments, cleaning, catching up on stuff, taking a nature walk, or just having time alone. I also try to get out into nature more even if it's just for a quick walk."
"I go on 'solo dates.' I take myself to the movies, get a decent dinner at a place that doesn't have a drive through, and get a coffee at a Barnes and Noble Starbucks. Then I peruse the aisles to my heart's content. I always buy one book to read that month, and won't have another solo date until I finish it."
"I'm still trying to figure this out. So far [my partner] and I have taken a day off of work, still put the kids in day care, and just hung out. We took a mini road trip."
"Hide in the bathroom and eat ho-hos. Thank the hairy gods my kids grew up."
"I do very little self care, for a few reasons — including financial — and it is not good."
What does this say to me, dear reader? We could all stand to spend a little more of our intention on self-care. Parents need it most of all! We can only be good mamas if we are also good to ourselves.