I struggle with self-care almost every day. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to take care of my kids when I can go entire days without drinking water, or forget to eat lunch. They are young (1-and-a-half and 3-and-a-half) so I know it will get easier, but I also can’t just wait two more years to take care of myself. It starts now.
Self-care is often presented as spa treatments, dining out, buying new products. While lovely, these acts of self-care can be expensive, time-consuming, and for various reasons are not accessible to everyone.
The self-care I’m thinking of are the small, day-to-day or even moment-to-moment acts to keep you healthy and sane. Like drinking water now, not later. Like relaxing or napping while your kid naps because today that’s more important than your “to do” list. Like saying “no” to playing that game for the millionth time because it’s actually numbing your mind.
A few months ago I read an article by Janet Lansbury called “The Self-Care Parents Need Every Moment” (https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/12/self-care-parents-need-every-moment/) . It starts with: “Self-care is not only unselfish, but mandatory for maintaining our sanity while raising healthy children.” I highly recommend her articles and podcast, Unruffled, for answers to all your child-related questions. But I’m getting off topic…
Janet Lansbury describes self-care “…as consistent consideration of our own personal needs and boundaries. This recognition will affect the way we structure our home environment and, most importantly, the way we respond to our children moment to moment.” You have probably heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Too many of us moms are running on empty!
I have known the value of self-care for a long time – definitely since my oldest daughter was a baby – but it’s as if I needed permission for my self-care to sometimes come before my children’s wants or needs. I could wait one more hour until they were napping to have lunch; or I would shower after they went to bed. Sometimes it’s fine for me to wait. And sometimes I plop them in front of Peppa Pig and drink my coffee in peace, while it’s hot!
One part of self-care that I had not fully considered before reading Janet Lansbury’s article is boundaries. As moms we give everything we have to our children, often ignoring our own feelings about breastfeeding toddlers who self-serve, having company every time we go to the bathroom, holding a toddler while we make every meal… the list goes on.
I often felt touched out and annoyed at the end of the day, until I implemented some boundaries. Saying no sometimes when my 1-year-old asks for milk has been the hardest boundary to follow through with (she’s very aggressive!), and has had the biggest positive effect on my mood at the end of the day.
Doing my best to incorporate self-care into each day, and implementing boundaries, are for my children’s benefit as well as my own. It’s developmentally appropriate for them to demand every second of my time and attention. But that doesn’t mean I have to be self-sacrificing about it. I want my children to learn how to prioritize themselves and their own needs, and so they need to observe what that looks like first.