Tips for mothers to be able to focus on themselves and re-energize even when life is incredibly busy and crazy. Moms can get some self-care in each day without sacrificing their families with some simple steps.
by Carrie Wiley
Have you ever seen an airplane re-fuel mid-air? Yeah, me neither unless you count that one episode of the West Wing or seen the Focus on the Family movie where they try to refuel the Space Shuttle in the middle of outer space. But we’ve heard it happens, right?
In motherhood, we often don’t have the luxury of landing first, or stopping, to refuel. We eat lunch standing up, we shower when we sacrifice sleep for it, and I KNOW I am not the only one who often goes to the restroom with a “helper”.
Taking care of ourselves comes at the sacrifice of something or someone else. Or, at least it feels that way. But while we are talking about airplanes, let me remind you about the oxygen mask theory: you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself.
So, we don’t have the luxury of stopping or landing, but we still need to re-fuel, re-energize and take care of ourselves. Here are some tips to re-fuel mid-air:
1. Ask for help
You knew I was going to say that right? Listen, I know as women that we want to have it all together. I know it goes deeper than just wanting to look that way, we really really WANT to have it all together. But the actual reality is that no one, NO ONE, has it ALL together. NO ONE. It actually does take a village and it is not possible to do alone, at least not anywhere close to done well.
There is no shame in asking for help. The best way to do that is to identify a small area that would have a big impact that you could ask someone to help with.
*Maybe you just need to ask your husband to help with the kids baths tonight so you can make a Sonic or Starbucks run.
*Is there a friend you can offer to date night swap with (they keep your kids one night and you keep theirs another night)?
*Is there someone you could share carpool with so you could squeeze an afternoon nap in or get some work done?
This can be difficult for me to do, especially when I’m exhausted. So sometimes I need to ask people who love me and are close to me to help me identify it with me. Those conversations might look like this… “I know I’m exhausted and I need some help, but I’m having trouble thinking through what to ask for help with. Can you help me?” See what I did there? I asked for help asking for help. You can do that too.
2. Utilize Your Schedule For Your Advantage
One of my favorite things about keeping my kids on a good routine and schedule is building in elements that help me refuel throughout the day. Here are a few of them:
My oldest child is 10 currently, and I have incorporated independent playtime with her since she could first sit up as an infant. When she started school we still would utilize it on the weekends. It is my favorite thing. In the Summertime, my older kids will have it in the afternoons when littles nap and rest. When my kids are in independent playtime, I use that time to get work done, take a nap, read, work on a Bible Study, do housework, prep dinner, etc…
If you have never incorporated this into your schedule, it is not to late and I highly recommend it. You can read about how we do it in our family here.
We hold on to nap time for a LONG time in our home. And once they CANNOT sleep during naptime, we transition to rest time. My three school age kids have had a combo of napping and resting up until the week they started Kindergarten. The Summers are always interesting with a combination of my older kids and younger kids. This Summer, I have had my older kids in SSR (below) and Independent Playtime while my three year old still naps every day. This is another chunk of time that I have every afternoon to get things done or rest and refuel myself.
You can read a little bit about transitioning from naptime to rest time here.
Sustained Silent Reading. The basic idea is that everyone sits in the same room and reads their own reading material silently. Even Mom gets to do this! This is something brand new to me that I wish I had discovered years ago. I discovered it, right here on Val’s blog and it has bought me another re-fueling element in my day. We love to read in our house and the great part of this idea is that I get time to read as well.
You can read a little bit about how to cultivate a book-loving home here.
Monitored Screen Time:
Listen Mamas, screen time is not the devil. It can be an awesome tool and resource and you can use it to your advantage without guilt. We use it in our home as a reward and as something fun for our kids to do. We monitor the what and the how much and we just don’t stress about it too much. If it is a stressor in your house, change it or toss it out, but if you just need someone to give you permission, here you go. Go forth and use the screens to your advantage in healthy and good ways.
You can read the latest AAP guidelines on screen time and how we implement them in our home here.
3. Simplify Your Dinner Menu (For a Season)
This is something that a fellow Mama in the trenches shared with me when I was in the throws of newborn life with my third baby. She told me that she radically simplified her dinner menu for a season of a few months. Here is what it looked like:
Sunday – Cereal and Yogurt
Monday – Tacos
Tuesday – Hot Dogs
Wednesday – Soup
Thursday – Slow Cooker Meal
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Sandwiches
You can make your own version of that and do you know how much brain space that frees up? The same menu, the same grocery list for as long as you decide. It won’t be forever, but even for a few weeks that will add some energy and relief and allow you to catch your breath.
4. Take 15 Minutes A Day
Somewhere along the way, I discovered that taking just 15 minutes for myself can radically change my outlook on my day. Here are a few things I can accomplish in 15 minutes that will turn your day around:
– washing your hair
– shaving your legs
– brushing your hair
– changing into fresh clothes
– 10 minute shower + 5 minutes for make-up
– making your bed
– putting on lotion
On the surface, these things may seem petty or insignificant, but I find I am a better mom when I feel better about myself. And when I really stopped to think about it, it doesn’t take that long to do just a few thing to feel human again and ready to face my day with my little people.
5. Don’t Neglect Time In God’s Word
This is probably the most important one. There is absolutely a significant difference in the days where I make time to read God’s word and the days I do not. It’s worth it to wake up a few minutes early. It’s worth it to stay up a few minutes later. It’s worth it to skip the nap. It’s worth it to put off the TV show and the vegging. There is nothing that can re-fuel you like God’s word, nothing.
** A special note to the lonely Mamas: For those of you reading this who literally have no one. The single mamas. The Mamas whose husbands put in the very long hours to provide for your family. The mamas who are in a season where they actually can’t think of a single friend. To the Mama who just moved to a new place and doesn’t have a church or a school or a job or anything even close to a community and cries every time she reads the word village right now. I just want to remind you in this tender place, that you are in a season, and tonight, why don’t you put your babies to bed 15 minutes early. Even if they cry or complain. Take that extra long bubble bath. Take a deep breath. Open God’s word for a few minutes. Close your eyes just a minute. Why don’t you feed your kids hot dogs for dinner because its cheap and easy and order takeout after they are in bed? Something really delicious. You can do this. The season will end one day.
For all of us, one day, the plane will land. One day, we will walk down lonely hallways. We will nap whenever we want. We will sit down to eat every single meal. We *might* even miss the little fingers under the bathroom door when we are just trying to get a moment of peace. (Don’t worry, this isn’t where I’m going to guilt trip you into a carpe diem situation…. hang with me…) In the meantime, take the moments when you find them. Make the moments happen when you can’t fine them. Ask for help when you can make them happen. Ask for help when you can’t ask for help. Solidarity Mamas! That’s my plane flying next to yours!
Carrie is married to Kyle and has four kids: Laura Kate (10), Shepherd (7), Fischer (6), and Archer (3). She loves a good routine, love to travel and plan fun trips for people, and a nice long bubble bath. You can find her at www.wileyadventures.com.