If you’re a parent, chances are you are eating cold meals, skipping showers, and drinking large cups of coffee throughout the day. Family members and friends alike will tell you, “You need some self-care. Take some time for yourself!”
Easier said than done, right?
The reality is, some of us don’t have the support or ability to take large stretches away from our kids. Whether that’s lack of physical or financial support or you’re simply not ready to be away from your breastfeeding babe yet.
So how do you get a little bit more of the old you back, the identity that’s been on hiatus while you navigate parenthood, without leaving all your responsibilities on the back burner?
As a single mother with minimal support, I learned that peace comes in small increments, moments that were intentionally curated just for me. Now, this might sound like it won’t be enough to recover from an exhausting week, but the key here is to have these small increments frequently, so by the end of the week, you feel like you’ve taken accountability for your well-being as a person, not just as a mama.
Here are some ways you can incorporate small weekly wins so you feel more balanced, less drained, and more emotionally available for your loved ones:
Create a Morning Ritual
I don’t know about you but waking up to a screaming toddler and rolling out of bed before I have fully woken up from REM state is far from a peaceful start to my day. When we create a morning routine that allows us to center ourselves and mentally prepare for the day, we handle the day, regardless of how it goes, with much more grace. If you start your day in the sense of chaos or lack of control, that is the perception in which you are now experiencing the rest of your day. If you have kids that wake up early with guns blazing, wake up earlier. Even just setting your alarm thirty minutes before your kid’s typical wake time allows you to use the bathroom (a true luxury when you have small children) enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a morning stretch. If waking up earlier isn’t feasible for you, try incorporating some quiet time by suggesting activities that will occupy your little ones. Once my son was more self-sufficient, I started with a quick breakfast (sometimes I’d even meal prep breakfast) then set him up with his favorite show. This hack gives me time to make my coffee and do whatever I need to do to feel mentally prepared for the day.
When I was still working 9-5, I didn’t have any time to take a moment to myself. My turnaround time was just too tight, and so it was an organized circus until I got to my office. So I decided to get to work a little bit earlier (even if that means my morning window is a little tighter), and I would sit in my office with breakfast and a hot coffee that I packed and enjoyed in silence. Sometimes I’d read an article or casually go through emails. Even though those thirty minutes of quiet time came after a hectic morning, it recalibrated me for the day and shifted the tense energy I was carrying when I got to work.
Give Yourself One Hour to Do Nothing
I know what you’re thinking here; isn’t this counterintuitive? Hear me out. As parents, we are wired to constantly be moving and continuously multitask. When we do have some downtime, we usually plop on the couch with a nice glass of cabernet, but this, too, keeps us away from filling our tank. Does getting time to watch my favorite shows bring me joy? Absolutely. However, this is still providing a sense of constant stimulation, so you’ll notice that even when you do get to binge tv and lounge, it’s just simply not filling your tank.
Instead, try to schedule at least one hour a week (I recommend one hour a day if possible) where you take the time that allows you to just be, in whatever form is best for you. After my kids are in bed, take a hot bath and journal or paint for an hour. This provides some stillness in my life that I typically wouldn’t get if I didn’t prioritize it.
Here’s why it’s important to experience stillness: You need to mute the noise to hear yourself. In this hour of painting or journaling, I can into what’s going on inside emotionally, what I need at this moment, what stress I need to release.
Even if you can only do this once a week, I promise you that in a month’s time, you will feel more grounded, connected, and present. When we feel seen and cared for, we can show up much more authentically in our relationships. The only way we can fill these voids is by showing up for ourselves first.
Plan A Night Out At Least Once a Month
Once kids and marriage come into the picture, our friendships evolve. Planning gets difficult; communication turns inconsistent – Life just happens. As a new parent, I needed to hear that it’s okay to prioritize friend time.
I noticed that once I stopped being afraid of taking some girl time instead of mom duties, I was much more equipped to come home and be the best parent for my children.
Monthly planning, among even the busiest friends, is also very doable. It gives everyone ample time to move around schedules, find babysitters and take time off if necessary. That way, even if your group text chain has gone dry, you know you’ll catch up at lunch in two weeks. This type of quality time with those who are not your children or significant other also strengthens the independence on both ends – you learn it’s okay to do things for yourself, and your family learns it’s healthy to be away from you.
An amazing byproduct of all this is: You’re leading by example.
When it comes time for your children to become more independent and make decisions for themselves, their natural wiring will be to prioritize themselves. As a child who was trained to put others before me, can you understand the power of that knowledge? This provides a new tool in their arsenal to help them not just survive but thrive as adults.
When you create peace in your life, you are showing your children to lead a life of peace.