I suppose you could say that my What Feels Right list from yesterday is all about self care. And it is indeed a way to take care of myself. But if I’m being honest, I usually think of self care as more of (By My)Self Care. I’m an introvert through and through. And usually when I need to take care of myself, its because I have been spending too much time taking care of someone else, in other words, my sweet children.
But being alone in my day is a fleeting dream. If I waited to take care of myself until I could be gloriously all by myself, it would never happen. And I would be a very cranky version of myself. Part of being a noticer is working with what you have. And what I have is children around me at nearly every turn.
And so, here we are in the swirly deep of winter, with 329 snow days so far accumulated, thus ensuring copious minutes of togetherness just me and the kids. I could whine (I have), I could self medicate (oops, done that too) or I could try a different option. Slowly I am learning ways to practice self care WITH my children, not just in the absence of them. I found this list to be quite helpful for those who partake in the long stretches of solo parenting weeks. When there isn’t a partner to tap into play at the end of the day or on a weekend for a few hours, I have had to practice caring for myself along side my little ones.
My *What Feels Right* List When I Can’t Be Alone.
Move WITH them. While a solo run or exercise class is lovely in theory, I would never work out if I let this be a requirement to move. Instead, I rely on three things: a stroller, a baby carrier, and the power of screen time. My favorite exercise of choice with children in tow is to strap everyone into the stroller, give them a good dose of vitamin D, and put my ear buds in with a good podcast. I have also learned the power of a good youtube workout video wearing a babe who refuses to be put down (also he will probably never walk but I’m not complaining about that yet.) Squats have never felt so fierce. And I also discovered when I do a workout video with the kids around, they feel like its a bonus chance to have screen time and enjoy it along with me.
Be ready to Write anywhere. The greatest lesson I have taught myself this year is how to write down an idea the second it comes to me. Instead of waiting for a quiet moment alone or a long stretch of time on the weekend, I jot down notes on my phone while they play at the park or the children’s museum. I write blog posts with my tired thumbs and arms falling asleep while holding a baby who won’t nap. I use moments together to snap a picture that might be great for a future blog post. And I always make a point to tell them I am writing so they know how hard I work on my dream.
Create WITH them. Seeing the way in which my children approach creativity with such abandon is inspiring. They are in it for the process and are immensely proud of their work. If I can stop and pick up a paintbrush while they paint, I am always surprised at how freeing it is. Creating without a purpose opens up wonderful possibilities. There must be some hormone connected to that.
Read TO them. Reading for me is always restorative. But I also learned that reading to them, especially when it is a book of MY choosing, is resetting for all of our hearts. When I just can’t say yes to play, I can say yes to a book.
Kids like Rituals too. Just like us, children notice when something is special. If you bring them along on your own personal rituals like a tea party in the afternoon or picking a record to play while we make dinner, they tend to respect this as important. Music especially resets the mood for everyone.
Smile, hug, and breathe. There will be moments I am not proud of. There will be mindless scrolling or thoughtless eating or guiltily agreeing to another hour of screentime. There will be yelling. Plenty of it. But if I remember to smile at the silly way they say a word or wrap them into a hug when I might prefer to throw them into bed, it stands as a reminder to pause and take a deep breath. For just a moment, I can wash away the negative feelings that made themselves known in my heart.
There could be another benefit to incorporating self care into my days with little ones. We all know that children are watching. But how will they ever learn that reading and writing and creating and moving are important parts of my healthy life if they don’t ever SEE me doing these things. When a self care moment becomes a teaching moment you know you are doing something right.