Self care is the buzzword du jour, I guess.
After I gave birth, everybody talked about it, including the doctor, my friends, my mom’s group, and a random person in the drugstore aisle. And while they meant well, I always wondered how?
How can you possibly care for yourself when time is in short supply, money is tight, and all your energy is given to the tiny human who depends on it?
I do think it’s true that moms – and new moms especially – require a solid dose of self-care as a necessary part of caring for others.
But putting on the oxygen mask first before you care for others feels counterintuitive as a new mom. Moms routinely eat cold food as they feed their own children first, abstain from sleep to tend to another, and do without the resources they need in order to provide for the babies. It doesn’t surprise me that women report higher rates of extreme stress than men.
Whenever my well-intentioned acquaintances offered suggestions of self-care, like, “You should treat yourself to a pedicure!” I couldn’t help but laugh like a maniac. Yeah, I know my needs should come first, but who will take the baby? How will I pay for it? Is it worth the guilt I’ll feel for spending resources like time, energy, and cash on myself?
There has to be a better way to self-care.
After 2.5 years of mothering, I think I’ve finally realized I needed to change my own definition of what it means to treat myself. Self-care doesn’t have to be a costly day at the spa. It doesn’t have to involve spending money. And it doesn’t always mean spending a large chunk of time away from the family.
It’s anything that returns your focus to you. It’s making room for at least one happiness in a day of chaos and poopy diapers. It’s recognizing that you and your health needs are essential.
And then it’s integrating this into your daily routine.
As the writer and activist Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”
Here are some suggestions for doing just that:
• Cross something off your to-do list.
• Play your favorite song and have a five-minute dance party with your child.
• Unplug from electronics for an amount of time, whether it’s a half-hour or an afternoon. Put the phone on vibrate. Don’t answer email. Turn off the news.
• Plan some healthy snacks ahead of time. Cut up veggies or fruit, make bean dip, freeze homemade juice popsicles, have a smoothie ready to go.
• Light a candle.
• Put flowers on the table.
• If your child is doing something crafty, join in. It’s fun to draw, scribble, paint, or get your hands in clay.
• Cuddle an animal.
• Look at beautiful things, whether that means window shopping or an art museum.
• Use your old coffee grounds to make a bath scrub that feels decadent but costs almost nothing.
• Get some fresh air. (During my son’s naps, I often brought the baby monitor outside while I sat on the front steps. Just having a few minutes of air and sunshine made my entire day better.)
• Take a walk.
• Do something nice for someone else.
• Play on the playground. (My non-scientific opinion: Swings are the best.)
• Drink an extra glass of water.
• Stretch. Find some good videos on YouTube.
• Go to bed early.
Images by Maggie Downs, and Unsplash and iStock
This post was originally published in March, 2017.