When I recommend that clients make more time for self-care, they act like I’m nuts. Sleep?! What is that?! I can’t do that!
I know, I know. I’m right in the thick of it with you! My kids are little; my youngest is still not consistently sleeping through the night, my daughter is a stage five clinger, and, sorry to throw him under the bus, but my husband isn’t exactly an equal parenting partner. Add a stomach bug and we’re a hot mess.
I used to be right there with you, filling in the martyr role quite nicely as an exhausted, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived mom that could never possibly insist my precious angels let daddy warm up the soup they wanted for dinner or manage them alone at the store for thirty minutes.
Just do it after they go to bed? Ha! By the time I picked up the kitchen and washed the bottles, I was lucky if my baby wasn’t already up and crying for his first snuggle of the night.
Speaking of trusting that everyone is capable, just yesterday, after a long night with a sick child, my husband loaded up the kids to take them on some errands and suggested that I stay home and sleep. Nope, no way… can’t let them all go off on their own and leave me here…. ALONE. What was I thinking?!?
Actually I was thinking that I probably wouldn’t sleep anyway, so great would be the temptation to have some child-free time to clean the war zone that is our house on the weekend.
It took months of hearing this message, of the importance of self care to being a present and patient parent, before I finally understood what it meant for me and every parent: I had to put myself at the top of my to-do list.
Self care had to be something that I consistently placed on my daily tasks and made certain that I created time for or it just wouldn’t happen. What I found, more often than not, however, was that I wasn’t TOO BUSY for it, I was actually just checking out so much that it SEEMED like I was too busy for it.
I’d lay down in my bed and scroll social media for an hour before I fell asleep. Other nights I’d turn on Bravo, send an email that could have waited, or stare at the wall while my kids bounced around before bed, so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open. I’d work through lunch, thinking it was making me more productive, but not realizing the toll it was taking, or the missed opportunity for self care.
I want you to know that even parents of young children can have the restorative quality of self care, too. Here are some ideas for fitting in self care throughout the day for all of you brave moms deep in the trenches of these oh-so-important years of madness, during your young child’s life:
1. Meditate During Quiet Moments
This is actually at the heart of conscious parenting, but it can be so difficult to remember. Rather than focusing on our breath to keep us present and aware while we, say, do the dishes, we think about the million things we still have to do. So any time you don’t have to talk, try to focus on your breath while doing the task at hand, going back to the sensation of breathing once you notice your mind has wandered. Anytime your kids are happily engaged in something, take the opportunity to meditate. It will rejuvenate you!
2. Invite Your Kids to Join You
Taking a bath? Have them get in. Like to draw? Set them up with paper and pencil, too. Doing yoga? Have them follow you, or try something like the Cosmic Kids Yoga videos on YouTube with them. Walk in nature? Kids need nature too. Let them explore and take their time on the trail.
3. Meal Planning/Prep is Self Care, Too
If you are the one that buys the groceries and cooks in your house, know that the time spent doing that is an important investment in yourself. Planning nutritious meals and preparing healthy snacks is something we all need to make time for, but especially as parents. Your kids will go to what’s available and so will you when you’re tired – so make sure you have easy access to something that will actually fuel you instead of zap your energy.
4. Nap With Them
Once you lay them down, resist the temptation to get everything done. Sleep.
5. Invite Friends Over
Sure, it’s not a girls night out, but spending time with your friend while your little ones play is still a great time to connect and good for your kids, too!
6. Accept Help
Explain to your husband/partner what you are feeling and needing. Ask if he has any ideas how you could nap or go back to sleep in the morning. Explain where you need help with tasks to free up more time for yourself. Call in family or friends to either babysit or just play with the kids while you do whatever is at the top of your self-care list.
7. Empower Your Kids
You would be surprised how much kids can do once they start walking! Don’t forget to teach them how to do little tasks as they are able – soon, they’ll be a big help!
8. Find a Shortcut
I used to hand wash the bottles every single night. I had this mental block about running the dishwasher if it wasn’t full. Then I started doing tasks like these daily to make them more manageable and started adding everything I could to the dishwasher! Are there any shortcuts you could take that have the same or better results?
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