At my youngest’s 3-month well visit, my pediatrician started by asking my 4 year old, and almost 2 year old how they were doing, then he examined the baby. He turned to me and our conversation went like this:
Doctor: “Wow! The kids seem to be doing great, how are you?”
Me: (Bursting into tears!) “I don’t know…”
Doctor: “I clearly struck a chord, what’s going on?”
Me: (Blubbering) “One child is talking all the time, and the other has never-ending energy, touches EVERYTHING, and climbs all over the place, and I’m exhausted and not getting any sleep, because I have to nurse in the middle of the night, I’m a mess!”
Doctor: “You can’t do it all!! Here’s my prescription: your husband has to get up and do the middle of the night feeding. You need your energy and your sleep.”
Me: (Protesting) “But he has such a demanding job and commutes 2 hours each way into the city, and he works so hard!”
Doctor: “YOU DO TOO!! He can handle this and if he thinks he can’t, have him give me a call. When the Mom is crazy, the whole family is crazy!”
For the next 2-3 months my husband did the middle of the night feeding and I gained some balance and energy back. He barely remembers the inconvenience, yet I remember it as a first act of self-care.
Taking care of yourself it hard, it might require admitting that you can’t do it all, are not superwoman, and need some help. When you take care of yourself you are modeling for your children that working together gets better results than heroically and single-handedly driving yourself into the ground, and it gives others the opportunity of contributing.
Self-care doesn’t only mean spa treatments and yoga classes! If you think you don’t have time, try some of these:
Assess what you are doing well, and what you need
Acknowledge your strengths, and what essential things are not getting done.
You may need to announce you can’t do it all and need help from your partner or the rest of the family. Remember, there’s a reason that it takes 2 people to conceive a child. One person can’t do it all.
Reclaim what you deserve
Honor yourself in whatever moments you can. Self-care is more about an attitude of deserving (and you do deserve it!!) and kindness and respect for yourself, than greediness. Rather than thinking of it as being selfish, it’s self-full. Here are some not-so-time-consuming ideas, many of them can be done with the kiddos around:
- Putting on perfume, shaving your legs, or doing your nails just because it makes you feel pretty
- Mindfully eating a piece of chocolate by letting it melt in your mouth, noticing the taste and sensation
- Try Square Breathing: Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, repeat 3 times
- Track how much water you’re drinking. It should be 1/2 your weight in ounces. Congratulate yourself each day for how much you drank, not how you fell short.
- Do a 1 or 2 minute meditation with your eyes closed, try Headspace or Calm apps – it’s great right before falling off to sleep
- Take a 10 minute walk around the block
- Sit outside for 10 minutes in the sunshine enjoying how it feels on your face and arms
You need space in your head and heart. You’re going to figure this out! You are going to find ways to persevere, your children are going to grow, you are going to make it through each day and learn something from each one. You can’t do it all, and you can do this.