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Sunday, May 31, 2015

MOMMY SELF-CARE: learning that it's OK to put yourself first - #momMEchallenge

The month of May was ROUGH in this household. Everything that could happen, did. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong.

Behaviors were out of control from lack of routine and too many activities, exhaustion and lack of patience set in big time among all of us.

We were spread too thin.
Not home enough.
Didn't get enough sleep.
Sick with allergies and viruses.
Run down.
Overwhelmed, stressed, so tired, and just done.
Not eating as well or making good meals at home.

You know how this feels, don't you?

My husband had a work trip for a week so he was gone and I ran the show at home. I got sick for a couple of weeks with a terrible virus. My kids had swim practice and T-Ball three times a week. Birthdays and goodbye parties at work, plus my husband and my busiest times of the year at work, plus some other family stuff... just busy!

It didn't set us up for calm, peaceful, relaxation at all.

Two weeks ago I knew I was losing it. I lacked all patience, I was snippy, sick, dark eye circles, and just frustrated with life.

So I called in sick and took a personal day. A mental health day for mom.

SO important!

I spent a relaxing morning with the kids. Stayed in bed longer than normal, sat on the couch to watch cartoons with them instead of rushing around packing lunches and getting everyone out the door by 6:10 which is our norm.

We ate breakfast at the table together, laughing and talking about our day, instead of me eating breakfast standing up in the bathroom while I apply makeup and brush my hair or a kid eating a bagel on the run in the car.

We arrived to school a little late, which was fine because we were enjoying each other's company.

I cleaned a few things before we left the house, but mostly it was kid time. Love starting my day like that. I then headed to my favorite place on earth: the beach.

I walked the beach. Talked to a good friend for like 45 minutes straight without having to say "Just one second, kids stop it, quiet please, yes, in a minute, etc." I picked up sea glass, enjoyed the beautiful scenery, drank my whole water bottle instead of parts of it when I remember, read an entire magazine, and just relaxed.

It was slow, thoughtful, quiet, serene.

I was there almost two hours, and left feeling so rejuvenated, like I could take on anything in the world after that.

Sometimes we need a break.

Sometimes we realize we aren't thinking clearly, we're so unfocused, easily distracted - more than our typical Mom Brain Syndrome. We can't make sound decisions like this. We sure as hell can't be responsible to take care of our family like this if we can barely function ourselves.

Sometimes we need to take a Mommy Time Out, a moment to pause, breathe, think, figure things out, and just relax. 

I know mommy and relax don't usually go hand in hand. I get that. Motherhood is the toughest job out there, I swear. 

But ... here's what I've learned lately: we NEED to take a break. We DESERVE to take a break. Our families are BETTER if we take a break.

I've learned this time and again, usually when I feel I'm at a breaking point, where I can't do one more thing or hear one more whine, or after I've yelled and feel bad about it or when I'm sick and physically run down and cannot focus from the pounding sinus headache.

I'm a school counselor by day and we counselors are professionally trained to take care of ourselves. It's called self-care. It's the airline motto: you cannot do a good job taking care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. It's so important to make sure we are well-rested, fed healthy foods and frequently nourished, mentally and emotionally talking out issues and talking to someone as needed, connecting to our family and friends, etc.

If we neglect ourselves, we are not good workers, friends, spouses, and certainly not good parents. It's that simple. 

I know it's bigger and more difficult than that to actually do the work of taking care of yourself as a mother.

I'm just here as a reminder to tell you that it NEEDS to become a priority of yours, or else you face burnout - as a friend, worker, parent, etc. We cannot sustain running all engines at all times without crashing and burning.

I'm grateful I took the time to take care of me that morning, because later that day we got some difficult news about a family member's health. I needed to be ready, focused, able to think clearly and there for others. I'd not have been able to do an ok job with that if I'd not had a little time to myself making sure I was in good operating order first.

I started this project last summer #momMEchallenge on Instagram. 
I made it a point last summer to take care of ME, do things I want to do like read, and take care of my body by exercising. I posted pictures all last summer of me resting on the beach, reading a book for fun instead of something about parenting, taking a run while the kids played with dad, taking a nap in the middle of the day instead of washing dishes, etc.

I chose to do this challenge during the summer months because I work in a school so am off more in the summer, but you can do the challenge all year round.

I'm hoping some of you will join me on this #momMEchallenge this summer! Please use this hashtag on all of your social media so we can cheer one another on with this project.

I know some of you look like me below, wide eyed, open mouth like "um is she crazy? I don't have time for ME! when will I find time for me?!"

I know it's tough, but you CAN do it. Sometimes, all you need is 5 minutes. For me, if all I have time for is 5 minutes, I get myself an Ice Chai and sip slowly, drive slowly to pick the kids up. It's 5 minutes of peace, quiet and purposeful ME time. It doesn't have to be a huge walk on the beach or morning like I spent last week. Yes, those times are GREAT and I hope you plan a few of those every now and then, but honestly, focus on little things at first.

Here are some great tips for necessary MOMMY SELF-CARE:

  1. Schedule it. Your life is busy. That's unavoidable, BUT things are more likely to happen if you schedule them in on the calendar. Aim for once a month at first, then try once a week... until you reach daily self-care moments. Again, look for shorter bursts of self-care at first.
  2. Keep it simple. It doesn't have to be an extravagant day at the spa - although that would be A-MA-ZING! Think about getting a cold drink, deep breathing for 5 minutes, reading one article of a magazine, reading a book for fun for 5 minutes or one chapter, taking a nap instead of cleaning the dishes, choosing to do one chore instead of three, going to bed a half hour earlier, etc. 
  3. Realize the importance of self-care. Keep reminding yourself of WHY it's important to do things for yourself. See the results after you do take time for yourself. Keep track of how much better you feel mentally, emotionally and physically. See how you respond to your kids, how perhaps they listen to you better when you aren't snapping and impatient with them. See how your partner treats you kinder when you are kinder to her / him. See how your body feels stronger and you're better able to spin your child around or pick him up when he asks you to after you've been walking a few times this week. 
  4. Some is better than none. Develop this philosophy. If you can't do a full day at a spa or keep up with running three times a week, at least do SOME self-care. It's OK to start small and progress. It'll be contagious actually once you start, you'll want to continue doing small things for yourself. 
  5. Give yourself permission to focus on YOU for a change. I know some moms feel selfish or guilty all the time for doing anything for themselves, including date nights out with partners or meeting girlfriends for dinner or shopping, etc. I know friends who feel guilty even leaving to go grocery shopping alone. What?! That's like my dream vacation! It's NOT bad to be selfish sometimes. Selfish has this terrible connotation. But honestly, I'm telling you to be selfish sometimes. To listen to your music on the radio sometimes. To ignore messes even though you know cleaning would make the house run smoothly. To go to bed early instead of making those Pinterest projects for preschool. To leave early, arrive late if necessary. To laugh more, hug more, slow down and rest. It's OK to focus on you. You used to be YOU, a girl, a woman, an individual before having kids. It's awesome being Mother, but it's not the only part of who you are. Remember that. You are a friend, daughter, sister, partner, etc. Make sure you take care of those parts of yourself, too. The other people in your life besides your kids deserve to have the best version of you, too! It's GOOD to do things for yourself. Remind yourself of this. 

Try some of these and tag yourself with the #momMEchallenge

  • Take a nap when kids nap
  • Go to bed early
  • Lay in your bed later when the kids are asleep and you're thinking, "I could get up and do something before they get up," just lay there longer
  • Call a friend
  • Go out with friends
  • Plan a date night out with your partner 
  • Go grocery shopping / clothes shopping / to the mailbox by YOURSELF! 
  • Read 
  • Watch TV
  • Take a walk / run / swim / bike ride 
  • Breathe
  • Yoga
  • Exercise or dance video on You Tube 
  • Get take out for dinner
  • Indulge in wine, chocolate, ice cream or all three at once! 
  • Paint your nails
  • Have a mini spa at your house - facial mask, hair treatment, nails, foot lotion, bubble bath, eyebrows, etc. 
  • Reorganize YOUR closet and clothes
  • Go shopping for YOU, and refuse to buy anything for the house or kids or food 
  • Clean out your purse - sometimes doing something for you can be a type of chore, but it's focused on YOU so it's OK! Add little things to your purse that make YOU happy (not just crayons!) - fun smelling hand sanitizer, chocolate, gum, lipstick, etc. 
  • Read inspirational quotes
  • Look at a photo album of fun pictures and memories
  • Write 
  • Bake 
  • Color in one of your kids' coloring books or paint or use play doh or blow bubbles - seriously! Play is FUN and relaxing. 
  • Sit at the beach or lake, just listen to the water 
  • Listen to music 
  • Take a hot shower

Whatever you decide to try, DO IT! 

Make yourself a priority, moms. It's the only way to make sure we can be our best mommy selves in taking care of our children. 


Follow me on Instagram @themommystories 

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