Updated: Mar 2
“If we are happy, everybody looks up and shares our happiness.”
~ from a Yogi tea bag.
Having a baby is so taxing on the mind, body and spirit. It’s like riding one of those big roller coasters at a theme park where you are laughing and crying at the same time because it’s so thrilling yet scary. You may even pee your pants.
Before having a child, I would only give myself a C for self-care. I’ve always been one of those people to put others before myself. This is something I’m finding in motherhood to be a hazard to my overall well-being.
I’m writing this because now that C has become an F. I’ve failed to take care of myself. I’ve failed to ask for help when I needed it. I failed. I really loathe failing, but it’s slowly starting to become something I embrace. To be a parent is to embrace your imperfections and see them as opportunities to grow. In this way, our children become our greatest teachers.
So I’m trying.
First step, admit there’s a problem.
I failed to ask for breaks when I needed to sleep at night and my little one wasn’t. I failed to continue my yoga practice when my body was aching and broken. I failed to even stretch my back and hips at night. It only takes 5 minutes, but I was always too tired. Instead, I pushed myself and ended up very sick. I will save you from the gory details of my illness, but I will tell you, it was all preventable.
2018 is going to be the year of self-care for me. I’m going to make it to yoga regularly. I’m going to ask my partner to trade off nights when the baby is going through a another round of teething or sickness. I’m going to say no when I need to. However, this isn’t specific enough for me. Here are my 4 commitments:
Sit down with my partner and identify 1 hour a week when we trade off kid duty to go take care of ourselves: yoga, massage, pedicure, a coffee break, something to relax.
Set a timer on my phone at night when I have to stop working or watching shows so I can stretch before bed.
Reconnect with friends I have failed to reach out to this last year.
Ask a friend to keep me honest. I need them to check in on me and make sure I am doing self-care and I can offer the same to them. This is kinda like a workout buddy to keep me motivated. Is there an app for this?
Self-care is not just about the big things, but the little things too.
For example, when was the last time you had a hot cup of coffee? I said hot, not the one left in the microwave for an hour. Do you feed yourself healthy food and when you are hungry, not starving? Do you take that extra couple of minutes in the shower to just let it all go? Do you even shower some days?
We do an exercise in our Positive Discipline classes where we identify things that we like to do for self-care and the things that make us angry, stressed out or just drive us nuts. Then, we talk about how we feel when our day is just full of those things that stress us out and how we feel when our day has at least one thing we did to take care ourselves- and the difference in our ability to use connected and effective parenting tools. The truth is, when we prioritize self-care, we are better not just to ourselves, but to those around us. We are better partners, better parents, better friends and better community members. The little things, the to-do list, will always be there.
If we don’t make room for what makes us feel good, we will become that irritation, that stress, that anger, that resentfulness that we feel all day.
I know self-care is something both parents deal with, but I want to take a minute here to reach out to other mom’s and stay-at-home dads. When you are the main caregiver, you become the default parent - meaning you ask to go to the bathroom but your partner doesn’t. When you find yourself here - stop! Parenting takes a team. If you burn yourself out, who will be there to take care of everyone? And if we want it, we have to give it to our partner too. We need to encourage their self care and protect their time as well. We need to communicate and talk about it in a way that changes the notion of self care from a luxury to a necessity.
A Buddhist monk in Kathmandu once told me, “if you give all of yourself away trying to take care of others, then you become part of the problem and not the solution.”
Join me, I need your support to do this too.
Alanna Beebe is a certified Positive Discipline Educator and the founder of Sproutable. She has 10+ yrs experience in public health & early learning communications, and equity & social justice policy development. She is a former board member for WACAP (now HoltInternational.org), an international and domestic adoption and foster placement agency. She is also a parent and former nanny. You can find other blogs from Alanna in the New Mama Blogs.