Self-care, simply put, refers to the things you can for yourself that restore energy to different parts of yourself - emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual. It's your regular Mother's Day gift to yourself.
To mothers, especially new ones, I think that self-care can either feel impossible (no time) or raise feelings of guilt (isn't wrong to focus on myself instead of my kids?). I feel both of those things, but I also know that I'm a better, and much less cranky, parent when I have a little time for myself.
To help me figure out what self care means to me, I requested the help of Claudia Heilbrunn, a life coach who specializes in working with first-time moms. Her goal is to help mothers with small children "hold onto themselves without shortchanging their kids." She actually does Mother's Day workshops on this very topic through her coaching business, Significant Self.
Here are her questions and my answers:
Set aside some time during which you can relax and reflect. Sit in a comfortable spot. Try not to think too much about your answers - let them come from the core part of yourself. Once you've answered the following questions you'll have a better idea of what you need to thrive. Ask yourself:
What do you miss most from your pre-baby life? Time by myself is at the top of the list. Of course it's gotten much easier as my son has gotten older. It feels hard to admit this, because people who like to be alone are seen as a little strange, and of course a "good" mother is supposed to want to be with her child all the time. Anyway, I know lots of people who get their energy from being with other people; I get mine from being by myself. I also really miss being able to spend a couple of hours on weekend mornings reading the paper with a big cup of coffee.
What activity would renew, recharge, and reenergize your body? Geez. Just about anything. I used to exercise a lot but stopped after my son was born, and I developed some bad eating habits because nursing kept the weight off so well. I did recently commit to starting to exercise again, and while my diet naturally changes when I do, I'm not willing to tackle it directly right now. One thing at a time, right?
What activity would renew, recharge, and reenergize your mind? This area doesn't need any work. I'm a sponge for new information and ideas, and I get a lot of energy from that.
What activity would renew, recharge, and reenergize your spirit? Probably being creative and exploring new places.
What gift can I give to myself today? I once made a list of the things that I want to do - not things that I should do or need to do, but things that were fun and relaxing and recharged my batteries. The list included walking, movies, books, creative things (though I'm a little scared to jump in), and exploring new places with my husband and son. I really love the breastfeeding support work that I do, but I'm also exhausted after I do it. These other things don't feel like that.
When you look back at this time in your life, what will you regret not doing for yourself? Probably not having the courage to really make creativity a priority.
What is one thing - however small - that you can do to make self-care integral to my week? Oh, good - I don't have to tackle everything above, just one thing, right? Well, my answers above make it pretty clear that what's missing is some kind of creative outlet, but I don't think I have the will to make that change right now. It would be a pretty big accomplishment to just not work right up until I go to bed. For now, I think I could commit to making the last hour before bed a time to relax and do something I really want to do. That would mean things in the list I made above, like reading, a bath, watching a movie, or just sitting on the porch with my husband. That would be a small change in routine but a significant shift in how I prioritize my time.
I liked doing this exercise. It wasn't easy, but I did learn some things about how to renew my energy. I'm passing it on to Andi at Mama Knows Breast and Sinead at Breastfeeding Mums for their Mother's Day weekends!