Motherhood isn’t just a tough job. It’s a 24/7 never-ending one whether you work outside the home or in it. One of the biggest things no one ever tells pregnant women is that while babies and toddlers may have relatively simple needs, they will need mama all the time. Nap time is seldom break time because the idea of sleeping when the baby sleeps ignores the reality of not only chores that kind of have to get done if anyone wants to eat or wear clothes, but also older siblings. Pets. Work. You kids’ schoolwork. And so on and so forth forever. And guess what? It doesn’t actually get any easier as kids get older. It just gets more complicated.
That’s why when I read diabetes-inducing articles about how us moms are all supposed to be practicing self care, I have to laugh. Let me just set me alarm for 4:30 a.m. to get my meditation fix! And why haven’t I thought about spending more time practicing the piano? Oh right, I have children. So let’s get real with some self care tips for moms that actually reflect what life is like once you have kids.
Pop your kids in front of a movie. I know, we’re all supposed to fear the one-eyed babysitter. But one movie isn’t going to turn them into screen zombies! In the time it takes them to go from opener to credits you can read a few chapters of a book, take an uninterrupted shower, call one of your mom friends to chat, eat an uninterrupted meal, run on the treadmill, or just hide in the john with some dark chocolate and a stack of magazines. If all of that sounds like too much work – you’re exhausted, I get it – another option is to just shut yourself up in your bedroom with to enjoy 90 blissful minutes of silence (or something close to it).
Say no and let wine take care of the guilt. Your tired, so why exactly do you feel the need to jump on every volunteering opportunity at your kids’ school? Give some of the other moms a chance to participate, why don’t you? I know this will be hard for Type A, high achieving mamas like us, hence the alcohol. One glass of wine should give you the strength to shoot off an email declaring you’re not interested in being den mother this year. The second will help you relax into your newly acquired freedom. With that in mind, don’t you dare go and fill those now empty hours with projects unless they are projects for you.
Hand the baby to dad. Now this is a hard one because if baby is used to being strapped to mom 24/7 then baby may cry! But watching dad deal with the crying won’t be nearly as hard as the second part of this self care tip, which is leave. Go in another room. Better yet, get in your car and go somewhere else. Starbucks. The yoga studio. Target. Or the parking lot behind the Target where the long haul truckers sometimes grab a nap. Put a little distance between you and your bundle(s) of joy so you can reconnect with the ME inside all that MOM. Dad will survive.
Kick the kids out. Having a home with a fenced-in back yard is brilliant because it means you can play 1950s mom and say “Don’t knock on this door unless you’re bleeding or it’s time for lunch.” But if your only outdoor real estate is a fire escape, sign your kids up for a class. By which I mean a drop off class that leaves you with a few hours free. There’s a reason the old imagery of parents celebrating after waving their kids off to camp is still around in popular culture. Sometimes parenting is easier when there’s a few yards or even miles between you. Better yet, send your kids to camp. Sleep-away camp!
Buy that lotion you like. Or the toothpaste or shampoo or sugar scrub or whatever. Then put it up high where grubbing little fingers can’t get to it and pour it out like it’s Mister Bubble. Give yourself a little present that’s not everyday store-brand junk. Why should kids get all the little treats? Hide cookies in your closet. Watch shitty reality TV and drink the top shelf cider after bedtime. Eat the last piece of birthday cake – if someone calls you out on it, you can always say you found a spot of mold and the whole thing had to go in the trash. Isn’t that a shame?
Let your frustrations out. I’m sorry, but when did we as a culture decide that moms need to be preternaturally patient with their kids at all times? Children can act like terrible little monsters from time to time and isn’t it more useful to show them that you can’t treat other people like dirt and expect them not to lose their cool? Now last I heard we’re not even supposed to raise our voices any more, so if you’re into extra gentle parenting then just tell your little monsters that they’re acting like jerks. Using appropriate language, of course. There’s nothing wrong with the old standard: “I will always love you, but I sure as heck don’t LIKE you right now.” Bottling things up? Now that is unhealthy, or so I’ve heard!
Self care for moms… it’s all about securing your own oxygen mask first Even if that means you’re securing your mask while hiding in the guest bathroom and tiny fingers are wiggling at you from under the door.