Growing up in my house, there were lots of things I thought were normal that turned out to be really weird. One of those things was a scene that happened almost everyday. My mom would be driving my little sister and I to school, I would be in the front seat, we would come to a stop light and my mom would turn to me and say “Kayte, I’m going to close my eyes for a minute. Wake me up when the light turns green.” Take a moment to think about what this story means. My mom was so exhausted from her day-to-day life that she would sleep in 30 second spurts at stop lights on the way to her daughter’s school. Imagine what that must have felt like living her life in that tired, scared, stressed-out state. Now imagine what that meant for the two little girls my mom was raising.
My sister and I thought adults taking naps at stoplights was normal. We also thought that level of stress and fear in our day to day life was normal. Because of the way my mom had to live her life, our house was filled with a constant, nervous, tired hum. This hum has followed my sister and I all our lives. Don’t mistake me, there were very real reasons that I grew up surrounded by stress, and I am grateful everyday that my mom chose exhaustion so she could make a better life for her children and grandchildren. Still, that choice I am grateful my mom made has had very real and lasting consequences for me. I am prone to anxiety, depression, not asking for help when I need it, and feeling less than if I feel like I’m not “pulling my weight”. I believe this is something most of us can relate to on some level, but this is not something I want my son to know and it is not something I want to model for him.
So what can I do? What can we stressed-out, overworked parents do to keep our children from catching our anxiety? What are some easy things we can do as parents to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our families? Self-care is going to look different for each person, and something that provides a release one time, might not do it for ya every time. Also, the things that you did to unwind as a person without kids, may not be available to you with kids. That being said, I bet if you spend a few moments thinking about what you want and what you need, you could figure out what works best for you. If you are looking for a little guidance here is how I decided what self-care looked like for me, after having children.
Before my son, I would say about 95% of my self-care could be done relatively spontaneously. Going to see a movie by myself at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, totally doable. Getting a spur of the moment haircut before the end of the week, no problem. Husband and I going for a night on the town, yes please! Take a look at this list and ask yourself where a 6 month old fits into any of these last minute plans. No where! There is no room for a baby in my old, fabulous, double income-no kids life! I can no longer say “I want a manicure” then just leave the house and go get a manicure. Well, I could, but it turns out a screaming baby in the middle of a nail salon is not self-care, it is just stressful. Does this mean that once you have a baby you’re stuck at home for the rest of your life? Are your days of an afternoon to yourself over? No, they just look different.
Before a kid, I didn’t really have to think about self-care, or make time for it, acknowledge that it was happening, or anything. I just did it. But after my son was born, I have spent a lot of time trying to identify what exactly I need, and how I can get it. I’ve made four different categories of self-care that I think every parent should be aware of: things that require planning, things that can be done spontaneously, things that can be done by yourself, and things you can do with others (your spouse, your kids, a group of friends, etc). This would be a perfect spot for one of my handy dandy charts
As you can see by the chart, there are tons of things that someone can do to refill their tank, especially if they do a bit of planning first. This is yet another reason why a weekly family meeting is important http://www.organizedmom.net/kayte-vs-family-meeting/. Not only can you say, “hey guys, I’m stressed and need help,” you can also say, “I have a hair appointment at 6 o’clock on Thursday. Honey, I need you to watch the kids.” But most of us can’t plan for a weekly hair appointment, nor do we have the money for it. What do we do if the only spare free time we have is the 30 minute naps our kids take? Spend those 30 minutes on you, and not on that to-do list you have floating around in your head. The dishes can wait, the laundry will still be there, take a few minutes and enjoy the silence. Pick up a book, pick up a crafting project, watch some trashy TV, or maybe even take a nap yourself. Life isn’t perfect; you can’t plan or count on everything. Sometimes life will hand you a free 10 minutes and when it does, don’t ask questions! Just make the most of it and say thank you.
Another thing you can do is weave self-care into your daily routine. You might not have time for a trip to the salon, but you do have 5 minutes to put on some make-up. Try taking a daily walk with your kids ether after lunch or after dinner. If your kids have a quiet reading or craft time, do you know what you can do during those times? Reading and crafts! As a parent, you often have to share what was your “me time” with kids, spouses, chores, and sometimes another job but that doesn’t mean you have to give up everything that made you happy or relaxed you. Being a parent doesn’t have to mean being perfect and “on” all the time. You can take a moment every day, even if you are not by yourself, to breath.
I think there is a misconception some people make about choosing a more organized parenting style. I think some people might think that parents choose to be organized because they want to look perfect and “on top of it”, or that we choose to clean the house, make the chore boards, hold the family meetings, and have daily routines for our kids because of the pressure to be the best and have the best. This might be true for some people but that is not why I do what I do. I live my life this way because it makes my days easier and gives me the opportunity to get what I need. Instead of the pressure to be perfect and the panic that comes from knowing that I’m not, I have the freedom that comes with planning and the ability to know what I need. Perfection is not a goal that I’m going to reach in this lifetime, but I can make it a goal to take care of myself.