Self Care is starting to become a loaded phrase. Beautiful Insta feeds and curated blog posts would have you believe that Self Care is only for the rich. That if you can’t afford lavish “girls weekends” and spa days you aren’t doing it right. Another growing misconception is that the only way to care for yourself as a Mother is to get as far away from your family as you can. That’s sometimes necessary, I get it, but not always. I think it also enforces this idea that children don’t need self care. That they are your problem and that they couldn’t possibly understand what it means to need a damn minute!
So let’s talk about Family Self Care. Taking a trip you can only afford once is a bandaid solution at best. We need to start gearing our lives around balance. Cutting back where we can. Simplifying. A whole lot of what’s dragging us down we’ve done to ourselves by over scheduling or trying in vain to keep up with the Joneses. Are there things you could cut from your schedule, from your budget? Things that might have seemed necessary but really aren’t? When we’re stressing over time and money why does it seem like all of the self care suggestions seem to want more of those two things? We need to be able to think outside the box and simplify things.
That being said, I hesitate to harken back to yonder days when discussing self care. People always want to say “my mother…my grandmother…in the old days…” In the old days a line of benzodiazepines called Miltown were nicknamed Mother’s Little Helpers as they were so widely prescribed to “overwhelmed” middle class Mother’s throughout the 40’s. Y’all, they’re tranquillisers. The Rolling Stones even wrote a song about them. Moms were getting laced on dolls instead of being allowed to organise their lives in a way that worked for them. The expectations were, and sometimes still are, unsurmountable. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Not always. Not anymore.
Here are few ideas to bring some balanced self care to you and yours.
Top 5: Family Self-Care Ideas
Stop Over Scheduling
How many extra-curricular activities are your kids usually signed up for? How many afternoons are tied up driving from place to place trying to fit it all in? How many nights are they crashing into bed well past the point of exhaustion? Ask yourself if your kids wellness might not be improved by cutting one or two. How about yours? What can you cut from the parenting mental load? Can some of those activities be done at home, maybe even together? When things start opening back up maybe instead of signing up for 3 extracurriculars you drop one and dedicate one night a week to movie night, homemade pizza night, or board games night. Sometimes just staying home, curling up on the couch with popcorn and blankies, IS self care.
I KNOW what it feels like to jolt awake to the sound of babies needing you and slamming your eyes closed the second they do at night. It’s a special kind of exhausting to be needed, touched, prodded, expected, every single waking hour of the day. Right now all the Morning People are thinking the same exact thing to themselves, “Candice, I told you to get up early!”. It’s true, they did. Here’s the thing though…I’m not a Morning Person. I am a Night Owl by nature. As much as I wish that I could pop out of bed at 5am and have that time to myself, it’s just not in me. Secondly, that’s E’s time! She was
cursed blessed with the Morning People gene, but also my light sleep patterns. I could wake up at 3am and she’d be right there behind me! It just not possible. I would like to wake up earlier and get more done, but I can’t pretend any alone time will take place. At some point I had to accept that if I was to enjoy any real quiet time it would have to be after bedtime, I wasn’t about to start sending my kids to bed right after dinner though. Firstly they all had a phase where if they even long-blinked before 7:30 they’d be up for hours. Secondly they’d all be up at 5am! As discussed, I can’t….just no. After some trial and error we figured out what works best for us and it’s this: Books In Bedtime! At 7:30 they need to be IN bed. They’re allowed to read or play quietly until lights off at 8 (we allow reading by headlamp or waining sunlight after that). This transition time has eased bedtime in to a much quieter endeavour which means I can get in more consistent quiet time at night. It also eliminated bedtime “arguments” so the kids fall asleep more soundly, which is great for everyone!
Do Your Own Thing
I’m not a Spa Day kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a spa or two and even had an enjoyable time. I didn’t, however, have a relaxing time. Small talk and being touched by strangers does nothing for my wellbeing. Spending money to put myself in uncomfortable situations doesn’t help either. Now if a spa day is what you’re into, by all means, go for it! If that’s your idea of pampering, more power to you. If it’s not though, don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong or like your self care isn’t as good just because it wasn’t expensive. Doing facemarks and nails with the Buttons is a fun way for all of us to unwind. I like that it teaches them how to carve time out for that kind of thing. It lets them see that focusing on ourselves sometimes can be a good thing. If your kids are still really little, slapping on a face mask while watching your after bedtime shows, or painting your nails on the balcony while you drink coffee in the wee hours of the morning are good options too. Little things really do count. Little things worked into your regular life can do more for your wellbeing than one big trip or expensive outing.
Quiet time can seem impossible when kids are young but as they get older it gets easier. There’s also something to be said for just flat out ignoring them… I like to read on Sunday mornings. Whether it be a book or magazines, that’s my time. They’re old enough now to get their own cereal and my husband is more than capable of being the go-to parent for a morning! It’s not always easy to tell (not ask) your family for that time or for that help but it’s so worth it. Not only do you get your “quiet” time but it teaches valuable family lessons. Everyone needs downtime, even parents. When kids see you actively taking that time and sometimes even inviting them to join in, they carry that lesson through the rest of their lives. It’s also important to be able to express to your partner when you need time and for your kids to see your partner ensuring you get it and vice versa. Quiet time, off screen time, reading time, whatever you want to call it is something the whole family can join in on. As The Buttons get older they choose to join me more and more. It’s nice to have them snuggled up under their blankies reading on the couch on a lazy Sunday morning.
Get outside! I realise that in this confusing covid 19 time it can be tricky to get around with kids in tow but, for the most part, not impossible. The trick is to dial it back. Dial it way back! I know there are people who feel like every outing needs to be extravagant or destination based. You know who they are. The ones who always need to have a plan when all you said was let’s take a walk! Around the block after dinner can be enough. Check out your local walking trails, go for a family bike, work on your garden, have a picnic, fly a kite. Even if all you can muster is drinking your morning coffee on the front step instead of inside, it can really brighten your day
At the end of the day self-care is completely personal. It’s not something that can be dictated by curated Instagram feeds, or glossy magazine pages. If your idea of self-care doesn’t match someone else’s it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Finding your own balance is what’s important. You shouldn’t come away from it feeling burned out, and right now a lot of people are. That completely defeats the point.Self-care is never selfish. Giving yourself the chance to be your best you is a gift to yourself, your partner, and your children.
Remembering that our families benefit from this balance we’re seeking. This is a weird time, but also a good chance to see how your kids are doing without all of the extra. A chance to really see what was working and what wasn’t and come at this new school year with some new ideas. As things slowly re-open take this time to consider which things you actually want back in you and your children’s lives.
Wishing you all smooth bedtimes and great after bedtime snacks!