As a proponent of self-care, I am often asked how to fit it into a busy Mama schedule. Since I have found that many Mamas don’t usually take time for themselves, and are often overwhelmed with their work, the idea of fitting in one more thing seems to be more than they can cope with. My answer is: you have to prioritize it. Again, I am not suggesting running away from your home and children for a weekend, a weekly “Ladies Night Out” or expensive spa appointments. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. But I’m not talking about that kind of self-care. I’m talking about the kind of things that daily bring you joy and refresh your spirit.
For me, it’s the little things that give me the “rest” that I need. It’s the few minutes after the kids eat breakfast when I sit down and enjoy my coffee. It’s the encouraging or informational podcast I listened to while making lunch. It’s the nature walk the kids and I took along the river trail together. It’s the sound of quiet at night when everyone else is asleep and I am reading or writing.
So, I am going to be my practical self and talk about how I fit these things in and how you can orchestrate your day to do the same.
You’ve got to have a plan and an order to your day. I’m not talking about schedules, although as adults, we do need to schedule some things (appointments!). I’m talking about a plan and a routine -in writing. This should be kept simple so it’s not too burdensome and it needs to meet YOUR needs and work for YOUR family. That means what your best friend does may not work for you. If you work outside the home, what the stay at home Mama across the street does will not work for you. If you work from home…your life is complicated, and I am right there with you, lady.
Ordering our days gives us all a feeling of security and expectation because we know what’s coming next, and we can look forward to and be mentally prepared for what’s coming next. You better believe that removes a lot of stress from us and our kids, and that’s good self-care!
Plan your meals, so you aren’t stressing at 4PM every day about what to feed your family. Check out my post on Streamlining Your Meal Planning and Shopping with Themed Meal Nights if you need help in this area. It might give you some inspiration. My kids like knowing what to expect for dinner. And I like not thinking about it too much. That’s a win.
So, lay it all out. Don’t be too ambitious. Run it by your husband. Mine always lets me know when I’m trying to be too ambitious about my day (pretty much always) and he helps keep me balanced and not overextended. And I do the same for him.
Which leads me to my next point…
Earlier this month, I wrote about goals. We have goals for our family and for each child and we consider them when we make our plans for how we spend our time. I’ll talk more about personal goals next week. But my point here is, take your goals into consideration when planning your day. They should be your priority.
For example, one of the goals for our children was to keep them more active this winter. In order to do that with all of them, I needed to come up with something they could all participate in. Our other goal was to get our ten-year-old son out of the house and with other kids (besides his sisters) more. I decided if I created a weekly physical activity event and invite other families, I’d kill two birds with one stone. That is now one of the highlights of our week. It’s helping us meet our goals and we’ve met some wonderful families, to boot.
Once you have your plan set, you need to prepare ahead of time. What does that mean? I hate to sound like a boy scout, but I am one at heart. Preparedness is an important element to having an efficient and low stress week. It means you look at your calendar and do whatever needs to be done to prepare for what is coming up. It means you’ve done your shopping and have the ingredients you need for the meals you plan to prepare this week. It means you’ve defrosted the meat. (Go! Do it, now!) It means you have clothing laid out and diaper bags, purses and backpacks packed for the next day. Late soccer game? Have a slow cooker dinner planned that night.
I’m a night owl, so I do these things the night before. It might work better for you to get up early and do it. It doesn’t matter, as long as you do it. Now, I’m not saying everything always goes smoothly around here and I am always perfectly prepared. Nope. But I try and it’s the goal.
Pair things together. I am stretching it with the P on this one. But the idea is to try your best to do more than one thing at once. This is a good use of time and gives you more time to do other things. It’s simply multitasking and I know you already do this whether you have thought about it or not. Mamas naturally do. How does that look at my house?
- When I’m getting ready in the morning, I am usually listening to a podcast or a youtube video and in between skin care steps, I am wiping down something in the bathroom. (Oh, wait! Sounds like some self-care going on!)
- When I put breakfast in the oven, I go straight into the laundry room and start a load and then to the other bathroom to do a quick wipe down.
- When we drive in the car, the kids and I talk about important things or sing together.
- At night when the kids are asleep, I put my charcoal mask on and watch a movie while folding laundry. (More self-care, here!)
- If the oven is already on for dinner, I throw in a batch of muffins for breakfast the next day, saving time and electricity.
I double or triple up on what I’m doing (or what my machines are doing) so I get more done and have extra time. It’s just more efficient all the way around. Sometimes that time is spent reading to and cuddling my littles. Sometimes it’s spent reading a book alone. Sometimes it’s an hour spent with my teen when the littles are asleep. Sometimes I just need to go to bed early.
Now I’m getting crazy with the P’s. But perhaps the most important thing you can do to free up time to prioritize self-care is to pare down what you are already doing. I should have said this first. Are you doing something with your time that is not serving your family well?
Are you obsessing about having a perfect house and killing yourself trying to achieve it? (Stop with the Pinterest!) It’s okay to let some things go, sometimes. My yard stick is my house should be clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be a home. It’s a reasonable goal when you are trying to prioritize your family.
Have you made too many commitments outside your home? If any of these ring true, it might be time to re-evaluate your goals and how you spend your time.
So plan, prioritize, prepare, pair/double up on chores and pare down your responsibilities or activities outside the home. You can do this thing. It is not selfish to create time to care for your body, mind and spirit. And it does not have to take you away from your family.
A good friend once explained, self-care can be as simple as going to bed early instead of folding that last load of laundry (thanks, Renee).
Self-care can be as simple as sitting with your coffee or tea a little longer than usual.
And like Mandy shared so well in her article about Mother Culture, self-care can include your kids, too.
Share with us the order of your day in the comments.
And be blessed,