Self-Care is any activity that restores, replenishes and balances physical, emotional, mental and spiritual parts of oneself. The demands of caring for and raising children can make self-care seem like a luxury; something to look forward to when children get older or are in school full time, or to catch up on during one vacation.
Self-care may sound like psychological babble. A created construct for something many people can do intuitively or without being reminded to make a priority. The reality is; we live in an age of intensive mothering. Many people believe any time away from one’s children and putting one’s needs ahead of her families will have a negative impact on her child’s development. So much so that women get lured into a belief system that she must sacrifice herself to work, volunteering, and in the home, putting everyone’s needs in the family ahead of her own.
When a mother sacrifices taking care of herself, the result can be a trickle down effect of stress on the family because when moms aren’t functioning effectively, everyone feels it.
Moms need to make the time to take care of themselves because raising a family and all of the accompanying roles is lovely and such a blessing, and it can be exhausting and draining at the same time.
Now that summer is here; it’s challenging to find the time for self-care. The sacred hours of school and activities are replaced with often a new schedule of unstructured time for children. And while unstructured time is lovely in the summer, it can also equate to limited time sans children.
So how can moms balance the demands of self-care during the summer months?
1. Get up earlier than your children. The early morning hours can be the most productive time of the day for many people. Of course, if you need the extra sleep or your children are already early risers, this may not seem like a doable task. However, setting your alarm fifteen minutes before the kids rise can mean a short but beneficial morning routine spent any way meaningful to you. A cup of tea or coffee in quiet, a few minutes of meditation, a couple of yoga poses, just a few examples to bring in self-care more regularly.
2. Keep some structure for part of the day. Children need some structure in the summer. A break from school means more free-time that can put pressure on parents to fill children’s days with activities. By providing a structured activity or outing for part of the day, you may find your child can then engage in free-play, without your direction giving you more time to fit in time for self-care.
3. Find parallel activities to do with your child. Create time where you and your child can engage in separate activities around the home. For example, create quiet time where everyone can choose an activity, perhaps reading, playing, or crafts. Use this time to do something that is restorative to you such as read, journal, exercise, connect with friends, garden or another activity you enjoy.
4. Find a babysitter or mother’s helper in your neighborhood. A mother’s helper is someone who can entertain and play with your children while you are at home. Where I live, mother’s helpers are often ten years old and older, whereas babysitters are thirteen and older and may be left at home with your children while you leave the house. Check your state regulations for minimum ages children can be left alone and in charge of other children. By finding reliable support, you can schedule self-care time as your budget and schedule allows.
5. Schedule and plan self-care time each week. A favorite quote in my husbands family is, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Most successful events and outings take some planning; self-care is no exception. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s amazing how when I have time each week to look forward to, it helps me cope with the demands of caring for my children.
6. Put self-care first. Cleaning can wait, organizing can wait, eventually it will all get done. By placing self-care as a priority each day, even for a short amount of time, you may find you have more energy to complete other tasks you have to do. I’m not suggesting you stop taking care of your home or your children, but rather finding a balance of caring for yourself and the responsibilities and commitments of your life. If you commit to fifteen minutes of self-care a day, in a week, the time will add up to almost two hours. If you can give yourself thirty minutes a day, in a week, the time will be three and half hours of self-care. Small changes can add up to make big differences.
7. Keep a Mindful Perspective. Before we know it, summer will be over, and we will be back for another academic year. Try to keep perspective, that summer days can seem long, but often the summer goes by fast.
Take the time to focus on gratitude and to be in the moment with your children. Reduce multitasking and savor the moments of laughter, enjoyment and fun with your family.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2015