How often do you recognize the need to take care of yourself? Now that the craziness of a month full of three day yamim tovim is behind us, it’s time to focus on something new. You. As a mother, one of the hardest things to remember is to self-care and self-nurture. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
It took me a long time to realize that in order to be a productive wife, mother, employee and human, I need to find time for myself. Even still, I very often forget until it’s too late. I’m going, going, going, and a minute before I crash, I tell myself, “I could really use a massage.” What I have a hard time remembering is that I could have really used the massage earlier. I need that time to myself in the middle of all the craziness, simply so that I can continue to keep doing what I have to do.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, as a mother, nothing ever calms down. I always tell myself that next week, things will be calmer. When school starts, things will be calmer. When yom tov is over, it will be calmer. You get the picture. But it never calms down. Every morning, I open my eyes and something else comes up. The only key to an old minivan is lost and needs to be replaced immediately. The kids have lice. The baby gets sick. Emergencies crop up. Bills need to be paid, kids need to be chauffeured, meals need to be cooked (again?!), and linens need to be changed.
And, in the middle of all that, I need to take time for myself? Are you kidding? That’s the reality we face. This is motherhood- in all it’s joy and glory, it’s chaos. Somewhere along the way, we need to realize that yes, we are supermoms, but no, that doesn’t make us any less human. We have very real human needs. Needs that include sleep, exercise (ha!), proper nutrition and TIME. Time to just sit and be. Read a book. Bake cookies just because. Take a walk through a lovely, scenic park. Get a massage.
Taking care of ourselves, and prioritizing our needs, is an investment. It’s an investment in ourselves, and even more so, an investment in our families. We are so much better at taking care of our families when we take care of ourselves first. Yep, I said first, not last. Don’t put yourself last, as easy as that may be. We are the most important person in our families’ lives and we can’t forget that.
Finding the time to take care of yourself
Now that we’ve established that we must prioritize our needs, the question remains: when?
When do we find the time? You need to know yourself. Would you rather stay up late, after everyone else is (finally) fast asleep, and revel in the silence? Would you prefer to set your alarm an hour ahead of when the kids need to be up and use the time to take a power walk- or even a stroll? Do you work only part time? Can you find even 15 minutes in between all of your errands?
I like to tack on an extra 10-15 minutes of errand time. When I’m in the supermarket, I’ll pick up a snack for myself- a danish or sushi. I’ll put the groceries in my trunk, drive to a quiet street, turn up the music and enjoy my snack. It gives me energy to continue on to the house, unload all the groceries and get them into the fridge.
Do you get regular mani-pedis? Many nail salons offer a 10 minute massage service while you wait for your nails to dry. It costs a little more, but it is so worth it! I get manicures very infrequently, but I always count this service in. It makes me feel pampered without taking an hour of my time for a full body massage.
Only you can know your needs, and know when you can really squeeze in the time. You know what they say; if you want something done, give it to a busy person to do it. We’re all busy, we’re all dealing with so much. But if we anticipate our needs properly, we can definitely find the time to fit in our most important task: self nurturing.
How to take care of yourself- 6 tips
1. Treat yourself
I can’t tell you what kind of treats you will enjoy but I can tell you what works for me. Some starter ideas include:
- chocolate (keep a stash hidden in a bag of peas in the freezer for emergency use.)
- a good magazine- even when funds are low, one of my most important self-care treats is my weekly magazine for Friday nights. I rarely have time to read during the week, so Friday nights are me time. Even my kids know not to bother me for the first twenty minutes or so after candle-lighting.
- A manicure- once a week, once a month, it’s up to you. Without the baby, maybe with some music in your ears, this ritual can be very relaxing and a good way to get out of the house for a short time.
- coffee- I don’t mean the kind of coffee that gets microwaved four times in one morning before you give up. I mean treating yourself once in a while to go out (either alone or with a friend) and indulging in some frappucino latte chai whatever. Whatever makes you happy, calm and ready to focus again.
2. Pamper yourself
Of course, basic hygiene is crucial. But pampering is more than just a quick shower while the kids bang down your door. Establish a nightly routine for yourself, for after the kids are asleep. Remove your makeup (if you managed to slap some on that day. Take a long hot shower. Have a glass of wine if that’s your thing. Invest in a beautiful smelling lotion or some bath bombs. Use a face mask. Whatever pampering means to you- do it!
While some nights won’t be as indulgent as others, getting into a routine can be very helpful in reducing anxiety and aiding in a good night’s sleep. We do it for our newborns, so why not do it for ourselves as well?
3. Feed yourself
No, don’t nibble on the kids leftovers. Sit down and eat three meals daily. Of course, I am telling you something that I find very difficult myself, but it is so important.
I like to make my breakfast after the kids are out. Lunch is usually at work or on the go, but make sure to have it! Don’t skip meals or your energy will wane right when you need it most- during that crazy homework-supper-bath-bedtime rush.
Some of you may like to save dinner for after the kids are in bed, possibly when your husbands are home. I like to sit with my kids and eat. I do get up more often for spills and ketchup and drinks etc., but I get a decent meal in and I get to talk to my children about their day without homework or the like getting in the way.
4. Keep up with friends
This one is quite difficult to schedule, but so important when it comes to staying sane and in control. We all know how important date nights are for a healthy marriage, but don’t forget about date nights with your friends. I try to go out with different friends (I like to do mostly one-on-one) every few months. It’s a great way to reconnect, and to re-energize myself until next time. It’s fun to dress up and go someplace new and just relax without thinking about kids and bills.
5. Take a walk
There is a couple in my neighborhood, in their high sixties, that go walking together every night. It’s cute to see, but it’s also inspiring. Getting outside does not have to mean exercising. Find a time that works well for you, either with hubby, baby in a stroller or on your own and just walk. Walk to the grocery and get your stuff delivered. Take a walk to nowhere in particular. Take your toddler to the park even in the winter. Getting some fresh air is vital for self-care, and it can be hard to remember that when you are cooped up all day at home or just running from work to pickup to errands etc.
6. Learn how to say “No”
Saying “no” is a little different than the other ideas on this list. It sometimes seems easier when you’re already handling so much to just say yes- to making dinner for a new mother, to hosting yet another guest on Shabbos, to going out of your way to pickup someone else’s child.
But know your limits. If doing something extra will hurt you later on- either in the long run or even that evening, say no. There is a way to say no that enforces your boundaries without hurting anyone’s feelings. If it is something you struggle with, start by saying no to very small things that really won’t matter to the person asking.
7. Pick a hobby
Beyond the Balagan is something very important to me- I enjoy writing, I enjoy the blogging process and to me, it is an important outlet. Whether you are creative or athletic, or anything in between, pick something to do and do it! Put yourself first. Adult coloring books are a great, inexpensive way to release some tension without much effort.
Of course, you may not have time to paint a masterpiece every evening, but chances are you can find some time somewhere- Motzai Shabbos in the winter, early Sunday mornings, or even half an hour on your day off.
I love music- it calms me, helps me focus my attention to the task at hand, and is always on in some form in my home or car. Put together a playlist of your favorites and don’t forget to press play!
9. Take care of your health
We are always so on top of our kids appointments- dentists, well-visits, occupational therapists and the like. Don’t forget to take care of your health, too! Schedule your appointments and stick to them! You will feel so relieved when you visit your doctor regularly, even if it’s only once a year.
Motherhood is full of sacrifice; unlimited demands on our time, budget, emotions, and bodies. Let’s put ourselves first.