I Should Practice Self Care, Why Don’t I?
As a mother, I find that I develop new habits pretty fast. Things like picking up my kid’s old socks from random room corners or secretly eating dark chocolate in the bathroom leap to mind. Then there are the routines that developed when I first became a mom. A few were discarded with those middle-of-the-night feedings, but others stuck. I’ve heard that “old habits die hard” but I have a big one that’s relatively new and coincidentally as old as my son: I’m out of the habit of taking care of myself.
Looking back, I can see this habit had its beginnings during my first months of motherhood. Since I was the last in my friend group to become pregnant, my friends thought it wise to give me their newly found parenting insight so I could be prepared. I was told that caring for my newborn would become my world—and this little nugget proved that right. My infant needed everything at all times, so I was prepared for the feedings, the diaper changes, and, of course, the cuddles.
As my little one grew, how I cared for him changed but my level of caring did not. My first thought when I woke up may have shifted from the quick removal of overfull diapers to a quick jog to the toddler toilet, but my initial thought process was always about my child. My first order of business was about caring for my family. Now, though, as life picks up the pace, I’m finding it harder and harder to take care of myself, too.
Honestly, during the baby days, I think I was too busy to notice. Then all of a sudden my son was out of diapers and off to pre-school and I was feeling emotionally full up. The usual space I had to help my family with their daily issues had shrunk like that load of laundry I accidentally dried on high heat. I was morphing into an eerie superficial sitcom version of myself complete with my very own catchphrase: in a minute. I put my husband, son, dogs, cat, and hamster on hold because I forever needed a minute to calmly recenter before helping. Clearly, I needed much more than a minute.
My brain was telling me to take some time out to rejuvenate, but it was way easier to stay caught up in the momentum of taking care of my family. Scheduling time to care of myself felt like a daunting task, so I stayed stuck in my comfortable habit. The last straw broke one night when standing in the kitchen meal prepping and listening to my husband talk about his day. These two tasks took up all the available space I had. And when I threw out my catchphrase absent-mindedly to my kid who needed me, his slumped shoulders and downcast eyes said it all. The emotional space I held for my family had decreased. I needed some “me time” to balance my “them time.”
It feels overwhelming to create a new habit, but this is why I’ve decided to take small steps toward my larger goal of "all the self-care.” I’m adding in manageable moments of alone time that include activities that fill me up in positive ways—spending time in nature, lunch with friends, and asking for help are all ways that take care of me. I know I don’t need to change my habit of caring for my family, I just need to add a new one in taking care of myself.