As I write this blog post, I am sitting at a table in Starbucks on a Wednesday afternoon. I have a cold pressed juice in front of me, a delicious blueberry scone in my belly, and LJ is 6 miles away playing at a friend’s house. And I’m not going to lie, it is downright glorious.
I love my role as a work from home mom. I am so thankful I get to spend my days with LJ and also make a small income (read more about how I strive to balance these here). When I got pregnant with LJ, Justin and I decided that the best situation for our family would be for me to take a break from teaching to stay home and now almost two years after that initial decision, we are both extremely happy with how this has worked for us.
That being said, I can’t be “on” as mom 24/7 and never take a break to recharge. I can’t give 100% of myself 100% of the time and not refill my own tank or I’m just running on empty and that helps no one.
Self-care is an overused buzzword these days, but I do truly believe that it is critical for a healthy, balanced life. While I love my days at home, I know I need to have a little “me” time in order to be the best mom, wife, woman I can be. It’s been on my heart lately to write a post about the importance of taking care of yourself, so that’s where we’re headed today. And just for the record, self-care isn’t important for just moms. If you are single and work full time, you need to take care of yourself. If you are in grad school and working part time, you need to take care of yourself. If you are married, dating, divorced, no kids, seven kids, mid-20s, mid-60s, etc. you need to take care of yourself. This is important for everyone! I’m going to be specifically speaking to why it’s important for me as a wife and mom, but you just insert your own labels to make this fit you. It is important for you, regardless of where you are in life, to take care of yourself.
Better self = Better wife, mom, and human
Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. In fact, taking a little time to recharge and refresh is actually selfless, because it allows you to be your best self when it comes to pouring into others. Before every plane ride, you are given the safety instruction that if the oxygen masks are activated, you need to take care of yourself first before helping someone else. You must make sure that you are functioning well enough to be able to adequately help someone else.
If I spend my day in sweats and I don’t take a few minutes to wash my face or brush my teeth because I’m so busy taking care of my son, I feel pretty crummy about myself. If I spend every single nanosecond of LJ’s awake time personally engaging him in play, preparing him food, feeding him, and diapering him, and every nanosecond of naptime cleaning my house, preparing food for dinner, completing work for my job, doing laundry, etc, I feel completely depleted and exhausted by lunch. If I don’t get a little mental escape occasionally, my brain feels fried. If I don’t move my body and get a workout in at least 2-3x a week, I feel sluggish and low energy. And when I feel crummy, depleted, sluggish, and exhausted, my temper shortens, my frustration heightens, and my patience wanes. Sounds like a happy, fulfilling life, right?
But. If I take a few minutes to quick wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into clean clothes (even if they’re just clean sweats), I feel refreshed. If I take just a few more minutes to swipe on some make-up, I feel put-together and prepared. If I allow LJ to play with his blocks independently while I finish my morning devotional nearby, I feel centered. If I carve 20 minutes out of naptime to read a book or paint my nails (or take a nap!) I feel recharged. If I take advantage of the YMCA childcare or complete one of my E&E workouts at home while LJ watches, I feel energized. And if I take a friend up on her offer to watch LJ for a couple hours one Wednesday afternoon so I can have some time to myself at a Starbucks, I feel rejuvenated. When I feel these things, I am kinder, more patient, flexible, and happier.
Now. Crummy, depleted, sluggish, exhausted, short-tempered, frustrated, and impatient OR refreshed, put-together, prepared, centered, recharged, energized, rejuvenated, patient, kind, flexible, happy. Which version of Sarah do you think is at her best mom/wife/woman self? It’s not a very tough call is it?
Sounds great. But I’m still a busy mom. HOW can I take care of myself?
Find “mini” boosts. I wrote a whole blog post about small ways that I can get a little mental boost and recharge my batteries on days where I need a little lift but don’t have a ton of time. It doesn’t have to take an hour or cost tons of money. Most of my mini boosts take just a few minutes or can be done with LJ. These things are extra beneficial on days where Justin works a super long shift (sometimes up to 24 hours) and I have to fill both our roles at home.
Communicate with your partner. If there is a week where Justin has several long shifts or we’ve had a lot going on and I need a little break, I communicate my needs with Justin. This might be “hey, I’ve had a crazy day today – can you take care of figuring out dinner or should we order pizza?” or it might be “this week is about to do me in – is there an afternoon or evening where you’ll be home with LJ so I can go to a coffee shop for an hour?” I thrive on a time to myself in a coffee shop to read a book, prepare a blog post, catch up on work for my job, etc. This does WONDERS for me. I always return happy, refreshed, and ready to jump back in to life and be the best mom and wife to my guys. It’s gotten to the point now where if we have a slow day at home, usually on a Sunday afternoon, Justin will ask me if I want to go have “me” time for a while without me even mentioning it. (Once it even involved me going to Panera and actually eating dinner uninterrupted by myself. Nirvana.) He has seen that this time makes a difference for me and I appreciate that he’s supportive. On the flip side, I support when he needs time away too. Just this past weekend, he got asked to join some friends for laser tag and I wholeheartedly supported this. He enjoys golf in the summer and we find days in our schedule where he can work it in so he can recharge and be his best self for us. It’s a give and take! But it doesn’t happen if you don’t communicate what you need. It’s not helpful if I am frustrated and snappy and just expect him to know what I need.
Say BUH-BYE to any guilt. Mom guilt, man. What a crock. I have had to come to terms with the fact that self-care isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom. It doesn’t mean I’m loving my child any less. I cannot, I repeat, can NOT give 100% of myself to my husband and child every moment of every day. It leaves nothing left. How can I function on nothing? Not one person would try to tell you it’s a good idea to keep driving another 150 miles once your gas light comes on, yet it seems that our culture often makes moms feel bad for taking time to take care of themselves. That is crazy! I know that when I take care of myself I am able to actually do a better job. I am a happier, more patient mom. I can be my best self, which is what I want to be. I want to give Justin and LJ my best and I’m at my best and brightest when I’m running on a full tank. And my tank is fullest when I’m making myself a priority too.
What do you enjoy doing to take care of yourself?