Today has been busy.
Actually, scratch that, the past two months have been buuuuuusssssy. There have been weekends away and celebrations and work and, well, just life. But I’m feeling the side effects of doing too much. Too many late nights reading or working, a sick child, too many weekends spent rushing around trying to do everything and see everyone.
Pre-child this would haven’t been an issue. I would’ve scheduled in a few extra yoga classes or runs, maybe meditated a bit more. Or even just luxuriated in a Sunday sleep in followed by brunch at a cafe with some friends. I would’ve been back on top and feeling good.
But (and I’m sure you know what’s coming) motherhood came and made much of that impossible, or at least far more difficult. With that, self care came to mean something vastly different, and how I fill up my own cup has also changed.
I’m becoming more aware of just how much can fit in my day, and when naptimes are spent working and Steve and I split our evenings between life admin – cooking, cleaning, toddler wrangling, prepping for the next day – as well as attempting to spend some time just being together, I’ve noticed that there are choices to be made. I can take some “me time”, but it now comes at the cost of the “we” time that is also priceless. Sometimes I choose the first, but most often I choose the latter.
In those early months when the babe only napped for 40 minutes at a time – and on my chest more often than not – I had to work out what made me feel good, replenished me and enabled me able to constantly give (and give and give) to a tiny babe, and life was shaped around that.
But then the babe became a toddler and the shape of my self care changed once again. No longer was it sleeping when the child sleeps, quick solo walks around the block for a small breather, stretches on the yoga mat during naptime or calling in the troops on the days when everything just went south. Now it’s finding space within my days that are just for me but that also work alongside our daily happenings. Because every minute of every day it is getting easier – just like mum said it would. Note: we should always listen to our mums. They are very wise.
So here are my current must haves to feel sane, healthy and (mostly) relaxed while juggling chasing a toddler around alongside being a working professional. I should add that for my own sanity I’ve removed the emphasis on solo “me time”. Sure it’s great, but even nicer is family time spent doing something cool.
Exercise: Always. Each day I try to do something whether that’s a walk, a few sun salutes in the backyard while the little man is playing happily, or mad dancing. Any movement will suffice and makes me feel great. But when I want to really move I’ve stopped relegating this to naptime because I found that’s a sure fire way to not do it. Now I just put on the yoga video or some music, roll out the mat and just do it. I may be tackled a million times during it, but that’s just life now – and no one said it had to be perfect.
I am also conscious that it’s at this stage we’re cementing some life habits for our son, and seeing mum dance around the house or making time for sun salutations and heading out for walks, or dad pushing the whole family into the backyard for some footy is pretty damn priceless. On a personal note, many many years ago I reframed exercise away from something that maintained a number on a scale to something that made me feel happy, my body loose and healthy and my mind clear and that’s something I’m also keen to pass on.
Also, does anyone else have vivid memories of parents doing Aerobics Ozstyle? I can remember joining mum in the lounge room when I was about three, donning a sweat band and bouncing around. Pure ’80s gold there.
Get outside: When I’m tired I find it easy to veg on the couch with a book, scroll endlessly through my phone or binge on Netflix. But all that screen time normally leaves me feeling anxious, unproductive and time poor. Plus I’ve found that screens and Jman don’t mix well. We know when he’s overdosed because he starts melting down a lot more and is super clingy and whiny. Actually, so am I.
Those days when I put on some music and head out into the yard are the days when things flow easily. For my second Mothers’ Day I asked for a veggie garden, and Steve and I have created a little area for my plants in our backyard and I’ll potter here most days. Parks are also the absolute bomb.
Sometimes a shower makes all the difference: Goes without saying really. Coconut oil massaged into the skin afterwards makes it even better. A bath tops the list.
Turn a page: Books are strewn throughout my house daily, so that whenever Jman is happy playing by himself I can pick one up and settle in for a page or two. Audiobooks are also the bomb. I’ll put one on while walking, while cooking or while driving. Multi-tasking may be bad, but this one feels luxurious.
Having a little grace: I love cooking (even though Steve is the reigning chef in this house. The man can cook!) But frankly when it comes to our food a little grace goes a long way. Sometimes I (we?) have the space, time and energy to cook up amazing meals each night, mostly from scratch. But life is busy, and sometimes leftovers pulled from the freezer is all I have the energy for. So I should probably add in being well organised, utilising leftovers and meal prepping here. Want more inspiration? Look here.
Sometimes you do have to leave the house solo: Slight contradiction to what I’ve written above, but I’ve realised when I get anxious, prone to snapping off heads and just generally dull to be around then I need to step away. And really step away. Head out for a catch up where I can complete a sentence before having to run after an errant child, dedicate a whole 75 minutes to a yoga class, or *gasp* a solo movie. I return happy and ready to stomp around the house like a dinosaur again.
Make a list, check it twice: This goes hand in hand with having a little grace when it comes to those just CBF’d days. I meal plan religiously, work out which meals will be frozen for those days when defrosting is all I’m good for and shop accordingly. I’ve found this makes us less likely to duck down to the local Thai joint for take away, saves us money in the long run while also reducing our food waste, means I always have something delicious (that I actually want to eat) in the house and reduces the 4pm panic about dinner. Then I can sit down with a wine instead and glory in a sunny afternoon in the backyard.
The power of saying no: This has been a lesson I’ve only recently learned, but sometimes I just have to say no. Sometimes it’s no to a catch up so I can spend a quiet afternoon at home just catching up on things, sometimes it’s no to the pile of laundry so I can go for a walk or sink my fingers in the dirt. Most often it’s no to the importance I’ve placed on doing something that actually doesn’t have to be done. Case in point – the absence of blogs on here for a few weeks. I love writing, but when it became just another thing I had to do, I stepped away.
Romance the everyday: I’m stealing this one from a former editor of mine, who would make her tea in the beautiful tea cup and saucer, burn that gorgeous candle or buy the bunch of flowers just because every day was a special occasion. I love that idea!
Looking back on these, it all seems quite obvious. However, I really notice when I let my self care slip and know I’m not the only one out there.
So now over to you – how do you look after yourself?