What does self-care look like for you?
By Emma Thomas – Full-time mum to a one-year-old, part-time blogger and writer, with a background as a Kindy Teacher/Director
A cup of tea, a book, a bath, a candle.
A little bit of time for your self.
Self-care sounds wonderful!
But is it happening in your life? And is it working for you?
Self-care is always an important topic for parents and is even more crucial in the current situation. We are being asked to give out emotionally to our families without the usual breaks. If our emotional cups are empty we won’t be able to pour into others!
With Mother’s Day approaching, I have been thinking about self-care for mums. Often in our busy lives as mothers, we put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. This works for a while and we get along fine. But over time our lack of commitment to our own wellbeing will cause problems, both small and large.
As a mum here are a few of my thoughts on self-care.
There are two types of self-care, and both are important.
There is the happy, pretty, fun type of ‘self-care’. The sitting with a cup of tea and a book, taking a long bath, calling a friend type of self-care. This is the one you can take a photo of and post to social media with the caption of ‘me time’ and your friends will applaud you. This is the type of self-care that is promoted in the media and is often something you can purchase! Buy a spa day, buy a book, buy a chocolate and some cake! This type of self-care is usually pretty easy to do and feels great in the moment.
But what about the other type of self-care? The getting up before the kids to go for a walk, going to bed instead of watching another episode on Netflix, choosing an apple instead of a biscuit type of self-care. That type of self-care doesn’t seem quite as appealing but is equalling important! I think of this type of self-care as self-discipline or ‘parenting’ myself. We help our kids to look after themselves, we also need to help ourselves!
The best way to incorporate the self-discipline type of self-care into your life is to make it part of your routine. At the moment this is harder than ever as our routines have been disrupted but as we are settling into our ‘new normal’ we are establishing new routines and rhythms.
Self-care looks different for everyone
Your self-care will look different depending on your stage of life, needs and interests. You don’t need to be doing the same thing as those around you. It’s great to see what others are doing and get new ideas but remember that only you know what you need.
Your self-care might look like washing the dishes straight after dinner so you can relax with a clean kitchen; someone else’s self-care might look like leaving the dishes so they can take time to go for a walk. You are the expert on you but you are still learning.
I remember a time when my daughter was only a few weeks old and I was standing on a chair, cleaning the fan in her room at 9pm while my husband rocked her. Cleaning the fan doesn’t seem like a high priority or ‘self-care’ but it was important to me. I was spending a LOT of time sitting in her room feeding and looking at the dirty fan was really bothering me! (Top tip for anyone expecting a baby, practice sitting where you will feed, rock and hold your baby. You might end up spending a lot of time there and you want to have a nice view!).
Figuring out ways self-care works
Sometimes it’s hard to know what sort of self-care is most important for you. When I was a new mum I learnt to ask myself “What can I do now that will help me later?”. Sometimes that meant having a nap when my daughter was sleeping, but sometimes that meant cleaning the kitchen or making a meal. I still find this a really helpful technique to help me figure out what I actually need.
For me, self-care looks like
- Going to a pilates class (if I don’t have the commitment of going to a class I won’t do it)
- Meeting up regularly with friends
- Going to bed with a clean kitchen, lounge and dining room, with all of the toys put away!
It doesn’t look like
- Putting the washing away (that doesn’t bother me!)
- Making the bed
- Getting up early to go for a walk
Like all areas of life, it is easy to be judgy about self-care. We judge others for what they do and we judge ourselves for what we don’t do. Self-care is important and a priority but we need to be careful that is doesn’t become another thing we are ‘failing’ at. Especially in this time of uncertainty, be gentle with yourself. Start small and you will notice improvements.