As I write this, I’m almost 37 weeks pregnant. All I really want to do is go to sleep. The next few weeks will move both crazy fast…and super slow. And frankly, I’ve learned, if I don’t take care of myself…I won’t make it.
Moms need to learn this idea in general. It’s so important to take care of yourself! You are the center of the home, the one who sets the tone, and the one who cares for everyone else. You are important. You are worthy of care and respite. And no, you don’t have to “escape” your family to do it.
With that in mind, let’s look at some tips for taking care of yourself.
1) Move Slowly and Deliberately
Moms do not win awards because they checked off all the items on a long to-do list. They do not get extra praises for falling into bed at the end of the day completely exhausted and keyed up, but their home is spotless. Rather than trying to push yourself all the time, move more slowly. Give yourself time to wake up in the morning and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, talk to your children, pray together, and get ready slowly. Take breaks to just sit with the kids or put your feet up. Read stories, or enjoy your own book if they are occupied. Take time at the end of the day to unwind alone or with your husband. You will ultimately get more done anyway if you are slow and steady about it.
It may help you to keep a daily or weekly “must do” list, and another list of “like to do.” If, over a few days’ time, you can get the “must do” stuff checked off, and maybe even a couple “like to do” then you are a success. But you don’t win awards for projects completed so keep your lists realistic! (Not to mention the day is more pleasant if you’ve built in time to sit, time to wait on a toddler to pick the “right” socks, and so on!)
2) Choose Small Things That Make You Happy
Do you love starting or ending your day with a hot cup of tea? Having a small bite of dark chocolate mid-afternoon? Reading a book? Whatever it is that you love — something small, that easily fits into your day, like the examples here — make time for it. Keep a small stash of dark chocolate. Take a walk with the kids everyday after lunch. Spend a few minutes just watching the sunset. Do these little things as a reminder to have joy and feel calm.
3) Teach Kids to Help
My oldest is now 5. She’s capable of a lot more than she used to be, and she’s eager to help. (She likes to jump ahead and “do” whether I’m ready or not!) I’ve taught the kids since they were a year or so to help clean their playroom. I’m teaching my 5-year-old to cook now. All the kids can bend, reach, and “fetch” items for me. My 18-month-old can get me a towel, wipe up water on the floor, or hand me his plate when he is done eating. The more eager they are to help, and the more able, the more I rely on them, especially if I’m having a rough day. They are happy to step up, and the time I’ve spent teaching them how has paid off. Teach your kids to help, so that when you really need even a five-minute break, they can find their own snack or even just entertain themselves while you have a few minutes to breathe.
Take a deep breath as you’re teaching and ask your kids gently and with a smile. I have learned the hard way that taking a strict “You need to do this right now” stance (even if I am not yelling) results in absolute refusal and a power struggle. ”Hey buddy, can you pick that up for me? Good job, can you help more?” goes really well. We all feel more cooperative when someone smiles and asks us nicely and shows appreciation for what we’ve done! And it does take time to learn as well, so have patience!
4) Tend to Your Health
What do you really need to be healthy? I know that I tend to skip meals or simply not eat enough because I’m focusing on feeding the kids. I need to eat more! I also enjoy getting regular massages (therapeutic, not always relaxing!), chiropractic care, enough sleep, etc. These needs are important! If you’re tired, put everyone down for a nap or “quiet time” and go take a nap yourself. If you’re hungry, eat. If you know that taking certain supplements or doing certain exercises help you feel better, make time for those. When you feel strong and healthy, you have a lot more to give your family.
5) Get Together with Friends
A lot of moms struggle because they feel isolated. They’re home alone with kids a lot and feel like they “need” to be (in order to cook, clean, homeschool, etc. — all that “stuff” that has to be done). They can feel a bit unhappy, angry, depressed, and like they are the only mom who yells at their kids or can’t keep up with the chores. Many of us have begun to cling to the TV or, more commonly, the internet — an outlet so that we can at least talk to other moms! Instead, plan play dates. Plan a mom’s night. Get together with your real-life friends, even if your house is messy, even if your kids are wild. Talk to the other moms and realize you’re not the only one and it’s okay to struggle. This camaraderie can really help moms to feel less anxious or unhappy, and it is so worth it. Remember, though: skip hanging out with the moms who only want to pretend they are perfect and “one up” you. There are a few out there who feel the need to put on this “shield.” Forget about that and be real — we all have struggles and sharing them makes us human and makes us better. Pretending we’re perfect doesn’t help anyone.
6) Go for Easy Food
Fill your freezer with a double or triple batch of dinner or whatever you’re baking, then pull it out when you don’t know what else to make. Buy a few “snack” foods even if they’re compromise items (think about dried or fresh fruits, cheese, nuts, etc. — and maybe the occasional bag of veggie chips!). Basically, have options on hand that are simple, so that when you or the kids are hungry you don’t have to prepare anything. This also works if you make several quarts of yogurt at once, or milk kefir, or chocolate milk (my kids love this — raw milk, cocoa powder, raw honey — and my 5-year-old can make it herself now). If you can do nuts, make nut butters and keep veggies around. My kids are always going for peppers, celery, carrots, mushrooms, etc. straight out of the fridge. I let them munch on cheese, fruits, and veggies if I don’t feel like cooking. They always want to eat the very second they wake up, but I’d rather sit for 10 or 15 minutes and wake up and move more slowly (see point #1), so if I have these items around, everyone’s happy.
7) Enjoy The Blessings
It can be easy to look around and think “WHY can’t they remember to close the door/put shoes in the closet/pick up their clothes?! Am I the only one around here who does anything?” Or, to focus on the fighting and the frustration, or any other negative aspect of kids. Instead, remember first that you do these things too! I don’t always put my shoes away, or take my dishes to the counter right when I’m done eating, or put my clothes directly into the laundry baskets. I forget. (And yes, I’m the one who *eventually* does it, which makes it easy to rationalize that I can “break the rules” since I ultimately do clean up after myself — but this isn’t helpful.) Don’t look at the bad stuff, though. People aren’t perfect and this stuff will never go away. Instead, think about:
- How quickly your kids are growing up and how soon these days will be gone
- The adorable things they’ve said recently
- How nicely they share and play together sometimes
- How much they love you — and tell you so, often
- How your husband steps up to help even when he’s tired too
- How lucky you are to get to know these awesome little people
Children and family are blessings. There are hard days and crazy moments but overall they are blessings. If you see it instead as a burden with a few shining moments, you will always be unhappy. See it as a blessing with occasional hard times and you will know that you can get through those hard times because of the blessings to come on the other side. And don’t be afraid, in those hard moments, to call a rest time and just sit down and snuggle in front of the TV or with some music on. Hold them, enjoy the peace, and who cares if you aren’t the “perfect” mom who “never” lets her kids watch TV! You’re a realist who just turned crazy into calm, and showed her kids love instead of anger.
Take care of yourself, moms. Life isn’t perfect but it is a whole lot better if you feel happy and blessed!