“Self care? What’s that?” It’s not that they don’t know the term. Many women just don’t consider ‘mummy-time’ a viable option in the light of burgeoning demands, busy schedules and the never-ending whirlwind of activity that accompanies parenting. Others see it as a privilege preserved for the ‘privileged’, for those who due to deeper pockets are able to disconnect, while the rest of us struggle amidst the fray with no-one to deliver.
Sound a little dramatic?
The truth is, our perception helps forge our reality. I want to dispel some of those myths and provide practical suggestions for maximising our personal time and space.
1. Recognise the importance of caring for yourself.
It is not selfishness to pay yourself some attention, or to let others do so. The benefits of this can aid your loved ones more than for you to near burn yourself out. You’re worth it, and don’t forget it! Reclaim yourself as a priority.
2. Pay attention to the signs.
In the light of Jimmy’s soccer practices, Corey’s CXCs and Tammy’s weight problems, your own needs seem less important. After all, everything’s just for a season. If you struggle along things will get better. Your marriage can wait. Your health can wait. Your dreams can wait. Except often they can’t. They wave as they pass you by. Meanwhile you and your husband are like two ships in the night, you’re overweight and can’t figure out why you’re lethargic, dispassionate, miserable with everybody, and on the crazy train with no idea how to hop off.
3. Spell check the word ‘mother’.
Too many of us spell it like this: m-a-r-t-y-r. That’s right. Martyr. Don’t tell me you can’t identify. It shouldn’t be your personal goal to parent well or die trying. We invite ourselves to these pi-tea parties, and fill an empty cup with tears as if there is no solace and no rescue. Some of us have it rough; I am not down-playing the reality of your situation, but sometimes we need to do what is necessary to survive. Survival requires making room for yourself.
4. Accept your humanity.
We stuff our schedules, enjoying the thrill of accomplishment, but we’re often more manic than productive. We dedicate long hours to fulfilling our family’s needs while misplaced identity convinces us that things will fall apart if we don’t cater to them. People call us Superwomen – we downplay it and internally revel in it. Something’s gotta give … and often it’s our sense of self.
5. Seize your best five minutes if you can’t seize the day.
You may not have the budget for a spa retreat this weekend but you can find at least five minutes to take a walk, stretch, read Scripture, whatever.
6. Set boundaries and encourage others to respect them.
Know when to say yes and how to say no. Boundaries don’t only apply to your children. Teach yourself and those who come into your space to respect your time and limitations. The less time you spend on unnecessary things, the more time you can devote to what really gives you joy. Allow yourself to do one thing at a time; procrastinate temporarily with those things that legitimately can wait.
7. Be organized.
This takes effort to maintain but the results are worth it. I started to save ten minutes daily by keeping my wardrobe tidy. Time saved is time gained to break a cycle of lateness, or give room to divert from the mundane. It sounds trivial but knowing exactly where to find your half slip, or having a clean kitchen can significantly improve your sense of well-being.
8. Call in the reserves.
Seek help, accept assistance. Many of us have someone we can trust our children with, at least for a short while. Those moments can become life and breath to a woman about to lose her wits.
9. Reclaim your space.
Establish a place that’s yours, at least for the time you’re in it. Impossible? Then reclaim some brain space. Relax your mind. Jot things down that you don’t want to forget. Then forget them.
10. Sleep well, eat well, exercise when you can.
Stop the mindless scrolling in the name of ‘thawing out’. Turn off your phone, TV, laptop and let God’s Light replace these lesser lights of distraction. Be silent. Breathe. Don’t worry about inconsistency. So you eat your kid’s left over breakfast and paid for a month of gym membership three months ago. This week try to do a little better. And do the same thing next week. Take the stairs. Make a plan. You just might be able to stick to it.
11. Enjoy something, guilt free.
Find your funny bone. Manic moms stop smiling, they stop laughing. Have some fun. Read something, learn something, keep growing.
12. Escape wherever possible.
Get outside your situation physically if able. Take a trip, take a drive, go get your feet ‘did’ for goodness sake. One friend loves grocery shopping – it may seem like work, but to her it’s an escape. Date your husband. Journal, sing, dance, run. Remember to come back.
13. Combine tasks.
Worst case scenario you can combine tasks. Ironing all day? Put a YouTube video on and let it teach you something new. Spend half your life commuting? Make your front seat your prayer corner. Children attached to your apron strings? Find an activity you all can enjoy. Let them play in the park while you sip a snow-cone. Though not ideal, me-time needn’t always equal alone time.
Ok, I’m not naive. With three boys below seven, I know it’s easier said than done but do the best you can do for yourself, without neglecting your responsibilities. Do it for yourself, and for those you love most, so you can better embrace your season and the beauty that lies therein.
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Tao Howard Parent Blogger
Tao Howard is a little ‘crazy’ – by nature and by circumstance. The wife of one husband and mother of three boys with seemingly endless energy, she is 99% Bajan, 1% Trinidadian and a second generation purple lover and good food lover. Tao is passionate about good design, writing, and helping young people navigate, sustain and preserve their lives and relationships. Most of all she loves Jesus and worshiping Him in various expressions.