Self-Care: Where do I start?
I don’t believe it’s necessary.
I don’t have enough time.
I don’t have enough money.
I don’t want to be selfish.
I don’t have the energy.
I don’t want others to think badly of me.
I don’t know where to start.
These are just a few of the reasons that we don’t participate in self care.
There was a time when I didn’t think that I needed to take care of myself either. It wasn’t this overwhelming sense of, “oh, I couldn’t possibly because now I’m a MOTHER and mothers don’t take care of themselves - they take care of others”. It was more subtle than that. Have you ever heard yourself thinking any of those statements above? I’m pretty sure we’re all guilty to some extent.
When my oldest two kids were younger, there were many times when my husband would offer to take them for a bit so that I could go and do whatever it was that I wanted. He would come home from work, and happily suggest that I get out of the house by myself. Delightful it sounds, yes - but at the time I had buried myself so deep in motherhood that I didn’t even know what it was that I loved anymore (and I think that’s normal). He’d offer and I would just meander around the house getting ready to leave, wasting time deciding where to go instead of just GOING. Usually I would end up at the nail salon or at Barnes and Noble leafing through magazines, but was I there because that was where I wanted to be? Or because that’s where I just so happened to land? Usually it was the latter.
I don’t want to sound like a brat. I’m thankful for my husband and for those times - they definitely weren’t wasted. BUT I also don’t believe that I used those times as effectively as I could have. It was if I was driving, but never got out of first or second gear. Or I was spinning my wheels. Or just simply stuck.
Part of my problem was that I had some serious FOMO. I didn’t want all of my guys to go to the park or the beach or the skate park and have fun without me. Yes, I wanted them to have fun but I wanted to be there to witness it too (this, I eventually got over). I was a firm believer in family time - in us being all together - but what I didn’t realize was that my little boys needed time alone with just their dad, and their dad needed time alone with just them. I really loved and enjoyed my kids. They were fun to interact with and talk to, and Seth needed to experience that for himself.
My other problem was that I wasn’t prepared. We didn’t have a consistent day every week or month when I would have a couple hours to myself, so when it was suggested that I go ahead and take off, I’d completely draw a blank. What I needed was a game plan. I never thought that I was the kind of person who needed structure. I thought that I could easily be spontaneous and carefree. There was whimsy in my life, right? Wrong. Apparently I was quite mistaken. So what is the solution? There are many, but here are a few suggestions that would have worked for me in that season of life:
Have a conversation. This seems BLATANTLY obvious, but oftentimes it’s not. Talk to your husband, your partner, your mother, whoever it may be and explain to them the situation. You need time away from the responsibilities of daily life; we all need that every once in a while, but our reasons are different. Ask yourself why? Are you overwhelmed? Are you sad? Do you feel lost? Do you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore? Do you just need space? Silence? Explain how you’re feeling and suggest that the way to remedy this may be to have a set amount of time every month to focus on yourself and your well-being. “But what if I don’t feel overwhelmed or depressed?” you may ask. I’d say that you’re not excused just because you feel okay. You still need this time too. Think of it as a preventative measure. I didn’t think I needed it at the time, but looking back, If I had established some healthy self-care rhythms when life WASN’T as difficult, maybe things wouldn’t have seemed so hard over this past couple of years.
Prepare a list. What do you love? What WOULD you do if you were given the opportunity. Even if it isn’t possible to have a consistent day to yourself at this very moment in time, take some time to think about what makes you smile. Do it while the kids are napping or on a weekend when they’re watching a show or eating. Or even better, create a note in your phone that you add to as ideas come to you. Have ideas written down so that when the time comes for you to have some time to yourself, you don’t waste an hour trying to figure out what to do, you can just GO. For me? I love the beach, journaling, flowers and solitude. It could be those things for you too, or maybe it’s a coffee date with a friend, going hiking, getting a pedicure or taking a book or magazine to your favorite spot and reading.
Make it happen. This is easier said than done. It can take a lot of effort to arrange things so that they fall into place, but it can be done. You can do it. And you deserve to do it. Pick a date where you have childcare (whether it’s a family member, friend or babysitter), and put your list into practice. Maybe it’s not until next month, or the month after but LOCK THAT DATE IN. Snag it now. Don’t say to yourself, “No, forget it. That date is too far away to make a difference” because you know what? Time will go by. Days and weeks will go by, and as you get closer and closer, you’ll start to look forward to it and forget that you almost didn’t snag that date.
Let’s start taking care of ourselves. Let’s invest in our own well being. I believe that you can’t take care of others well if you’re running on empty. You can do it for a while, but before too long you’ll really start to feel the effects of it. Maybe you know exactly what it is that you need to do to recharge. Maybe you don’t. And that’s what’s coming up next in this self care series. As humans we are constantly changing and evolving, day by day, year by year. In the same way that I don’t fit into the same jeans I wore in high school, something that once worked perfectly for me in the past may not be effective anymore. Let’s look a little deeper at who we are and why, because something I’ve realized lately is that you can’t take care of yourself until you know who you are.