Things haven’t been ok lately, but this morning, I got up and sorted the dishes out while I waited for the jug to boil to make my morning coffee.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it means that the little things are starting to feel like little things again. It means I can manage my days in more than minute by minute chunks. It means things are getting better.
They are, because I’ve been taking better care of myself.
I am excellent at ‘one day self-care’.
Eat some veges, get outside for a bit, have a little cry then pep talk myself into check, a bath and an early bedtime – I wake up feeling like a new me.
More recently though, one day hasn’t been quite enough to get things back on track.
IT TURNS OUT THAT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD TO YOURSELF FOR WEEKS BEFORE YOU START FEELING BETTER.
Who knew. 💁
The thing about ‘self care’ is that we somehow feel like doing something just for ourselves is too indulgent, too much of an inconvenience or just not enough of a priority to fit in.
It’s one of those grown up mentalities that comes out of nowhere and settles in without us even realising. (Which is crazy because the older we get, the more we seem to expect from our minds and bodies, and the less we seem to think we need to prioritise nurturing them. Makes complete sense…..)
I catch myself asking for permission or justifying myself for the smallest things – “B, would you mind if I had a bath tonight?”
“B, is it alright if I hide away in this laptop and write for a bit after the boys go to bed?”
“I got myself a little treat while I did the groceries today – it’s ok, it was on sale so I only paid $6 for it!”
It’s not that Brent ever minds, or has a single controlling bone in his body. It’s not that the things I want are expensive or extra indulgent or require too much advanced planning. It’s just that I have such a hard time prioritising me.
I have been a mum since I was 22. Even though I should at least feel like a seasoned pro by now, I think I’m still figuring out what that means – more so in the recent years with the addition of two more part time, and a brand new little mini.
There is always a list a mile long of the things that need doing, the things that need buying, the things that need organising (the washing that needs avoiding).
The guilt game gets strong when you put yourself somewhere a little closer to the top of that list than the bottom BUT, the to do lists get a little easier, the getting out to do chores a little less stressful, the organising flows a little more freely when you’re working on a full tank.
When Cooper was brand new, I was managing to stay on top of everything pretty well, all things considered.
School holidays for the others hit and I left the chores and the to do lists and I spent the first day outside with the boys and the puppies. We played and we laughed and we splashed around in the freezing cold sea.
We were happy, we had made sand castles and ran from pretend Spiderman villains. We were salty, sandy, smiley messes.
It had been a good day.
We got home and I panicked. Brent was due home and nothing was done. The house was still a mess, the washing hadn’t been done, and dinner was going to be late.
I had put what I needed that day first. A break from my house. My chores list. My washing piles. A break from ‘serious Mum’. I was so worried Brent would be unhappy at the state of the house as a result.
He walked in, and he wasn’t. In fact, the complete opposite after he heard about our day.
That night, no one complained about the mess, no one was worried about dinner being late, in fact, we made it together. No one died when they missed their bath time that night because I was too sleepy.
Now, no one remembers the untidy state of the house, or the lack of a well prepped meal. They remember the adventure we had outside. They remember us all being happy. Us all being together.
Having a happy Mum was more important than having a perfectly organised house.
It always has been, I just forgot that.
When I need some time out, none of the mini’s remember me being gone for an hour or two. They remember Mum coming home smiley, relaxed and recharged.
B doesn’t remember that I abandoned him with all the kids, he remembers getting the chance to bond with the kids, to take them on the adventures he misses out on during the week while he’s at work.
When I get so caught up in the stress and daily details, I forget.
I forget about happiness and my gratitude for this chaotic life we lead. I forget how much I once longed for all of this, and how quickly it all passes by.
I get swept up, and I stop nurturing myself. Which means there is less to draw from when it comes to nurturing the rest of us.
I disappear and in my place is a shouty, wound up mess version that makes me cringe.
The less care I give myself, the less present (and pleasant) I become.
I am a better mum when I have taken the time to have a coffee in the morning before the madness starts.
I am a better partner when I have taken some out that’s just for me – no matter how small.
I’m a better friend when I’ve gone to bed early and had enough sleep instead of trying to fit as much grown up television and talk time as I can into the few hours we have after the boys have gone to bed.
I’m a happier me when I take the time to find my glunky but perfect shade of pink 10 year old nail polish and slick a couple of layers on – it reminds me that somewhere under all these piles of washing and endless dishes and school permission slips, pre-mum Dee still exists, and still gets excited about pretty nails.
I think self care is most important for mums (and dads), not just because we spend so much of our days giving so much of ourselves to little mini humans, but because those little mini humans watch everything we do.
Taking care of you teaches them the importance of taking care of them – of building a healthy relationship with themselves. Because kids don’t learn from what we tell them. They learn from what we show them. In the little moments, the ones that seem insignificant when we look at the bigger picture. Those are the moments they learn the most from us.
Don’t let that make all the rest of you grown ups think that your excuses are good enough though!
Self care doesn’t need to mean spending money, or finding hours that don’t exist in the day – start by being kinder to the reflection in the mirror, by taking the time to look around at all of your achievements and patting yourself on the back for them every now and then.
Start by making healthier choices when you’re eating (but not feeling guilty when you treat yourself to that one slice of cake….. Or two. It’s about balance).
Start by remembering that you’re as much a priority as anyone else in the world and it’s about time you started treating yourself as such.
If you feel like you need permission to put yourself at the top of your ‘to take care of list’, let this be the longest permission slip there ever was.
Put yourself on that list.
On the front page, not the back.
Treat yo’ self.