The phone rings, the baby cries, the dog knocks over a vase full of flowers...just as the doorbell rings, you have to sign for something and then the oven timer goes off; the cookies are burning!!
Life, am I right?
It sometimes feel like we're trotting along just fine until something (or a few somethings) tips the scale and we engage in what I like to call, an adult temper tantrum. When stress takes over, productivity goes out the window.
Self care for parents is more than just a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s a self-less choice. As parents, we bend over backwards for our kids; we wouldn’t hesitate to rework our plans, abort plans altogether, or otherwise shift gears to care for our kids. The least we can do, is extend the same courtesy to ourselves.
When life happens, it can be exceedingly difficult for parents to put themselves first.
At some point in your parenting, maybe more than you’d like to admit, you hit a wall where you think—I just CAN’T do this. Then by some act of fate, karma, divine intervention— your calm returns. You wipe your tears, you wash away your self-doubt, and you make it happen. The struggle is real.
As a new mom with a boatload of experience and education in child development—I admit, I have totally been there; and it’s only been 3 months, and boy does it induce guilt. So, what’s a busy parent to do, to avoid hitting the so-called brick wall of parenting?
Two words: self care. So, how to make it happen while on the daily grind? A quick Google search will point you towards community resources, recreational programs and government initiatives aimed at supporting parents; you’ll skim through the list and you immediately think “but who has the time?” The truth is that many of us don’t have the time to spend an afternoon each week playing squash, attending parent-support groups, painting the town red, or indulging in the spa. So now what?
Making Self-Care a Daily Priority
My advice is threefold:
1. Self-care is not a once-a-week, once-a-month or once-a-year endeavor. Embed self-care into your daily routine and make it a priority (like flossing your teeth...you NEVER forget that right :P)
2. Self-care does not have to be an afternoon affair; it does not have to take an entire evening, or an entire day (as dreamy as THAT would be). Self-care can exist in those stolen moments that pop up without warning in your day.The 5 minutes before your laundry timer goes off, before your son wakes up from his nap, before you have to run your daughter to her class, or before you dog needs a walk...that's your time.
3. Don’t feel guilty about self-care; it’s a self-less act that makes you better equipped to deal with life.
There are tons of ways (OK, realistically maybe not TONS but there are SOME ways) to achieve stolen moments in your daily routine; it requires you to spot an opportunity, to consider yourself, act fast and jump on it! Stolen moments are just waiting for you to find them and capitalize on them.
A Roadmap to Finding your Stolen Moments
-Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier and get up before you have to (the benefit will outweigh the cost—I promise!)
- Are your kids old enough to entertain themselves? Set your kids up with a safe activity and step aside! Set a timer for 5 minutes and establish a routine where they know that you are unavailable for 5 short minutes. You’re still in the room, so hold the ‘neglectful parent’ thoughts and embrace the moment!
-Instilling independence in your kids is an essential life skill; schedule time for your kids to be ‘by themselves’ (obviously in a structured, safe way). Send your kids to bed 5 minutes early to read quietly or look through picture books. Again, set a timer if you think your kids need a concrete way to know “how much longer?!” Timers are your friend! Celebrate their success in these moments, and recognize that “me time” is as important for your kids as it is for you.
-Co-parent and use a tag-team parenting approach that affords you 5 minutes to consider yourself.
Self Care is a Priority for you, so now what?
You may be thinking that 5 minutes isn’t much time, and it’s true. But consider this—5 minutes every day for 5 days is 25 minutes! That’s 25 more minutes than you started with, and that’s a good start! What can you possibly do in 5 minutes? Here are some of my go-to ways to steal a moment for myself.
-Meditate (I’ll write a follow up post about how to do this; a quick Google search will suffice for now; or you can click here for a good article: http://goodlifezen.com/how-to-start-meditating-ten-important-tips/)
-Write in a gratitude journal; counting your blessings really does put ‘it all’ into perspective.
-File your nails, pluck your eyebrows or otherwise engage in short-term pampering.
-Get your heart rate going! Jumping jacks, crunches, leg lifts, push-ups. It’s amazing what a little sweat can do for your morale.
-Put on some music and sing your heart out.
-Relax. Put your feet up, and allow yourself to just exist; push your thoughts, worries and fears aside and be unapologetic about just being in the moment.
-Read; make it something light, or something thought provoking—depends on the kind of break you need. -Eat a yummy snack, but don’t do it on auto pilot! So often when we’re rushing around, we deprive ourselves of the simple pleasures—like eating something delicious.
-Wash your face; it might seem crazy, but I can’t tell you how much better I feel after I wash my face. Treat yourself to an exfoliating scrub, be present in the moment and wash away your stress.
What you do in your stolen moments is so much less important than the fact that you are actually doing it. Making self care a part of your routine will prevent those adult tantrums, and generally equip you to be the best parent you can be. It won't always go according to plan; sometimes, the phone will ring, the oven with beep, the doorbell will ring and the baby will cry...but hey, there's always tomorrow right?!