Taking Care of Ourselves

November 10th, 2010 by Dionna | 12 Comments
Posted in Gentle/Positive Discipline, Healthy Living, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance

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Many parents (myself included) are under the impression that the moment we are born into the world of parenting, our own needs and desires become secondary. That is true to an extent: parents do not make up the bulk of the nightlife scene, we often have to yield the bathroom to littler bodies, and we have less time to leisurely read the newspaper or go backpacking when children are around.

But sharing our time and space with children does not mean that we have been forced into a life of martyrdom. We have our own needs, and we need to take care of ourselves in order to parent effectively. Last month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting topic was all about finding balance, and part of balance is taking care of our own needs.

Mothers who are stretched too thin – who run from work to their kids’ activities, who volunteer and organize, who cook and clean – without also doing something to make themselves happy, are apt to burn out. There are several reasons this is not ideal, not the least of which is that a burnt out mama is not functioning at her best.

Nor is a completely selfless mother the best role model. She is passively teaching her children that her needs are not important. Consequently, her children will not consider her thoughts and feelings. She is also influencing her children’s future relationships. Her child may learn to always bow to the will of others, or he may never stop to think about the feelings and needs of his friends and family. Neither is a desirable outcome.

Take Care of Number One

Here are a few things I have tried to do lately to take care of myself:

  • Leaving the house for an hour or two: This gives Tom and Kieran the chance to play uninterrupted. I can run an errand or surf the Internet alone, and Kieran learns that papa takes care of him just as well as mama does.
  • Stashing a special treat away: Not only does sneaking a treat give me a little chocolate “ahhhh” moment, but it has the added benefit of detracting from any potential mama guilt for letting Kieran eat too much sugar.
  • Indulging my vanity: I used to care what I looked like when I left the house; not so much anymore. I’m lucky if my clothes match, and I rarely do anything beyond washing my hair. But once or twice a year I have someone cut my hair. And once in awhile I color my hair from a box (I used to pay someone to do that, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary at this point in my life). And I insist on my favorite shampoo (one big reason I’ve been hesitant to go no ‘poo).
  • Seeking Peace: As suggested to me by a few wise mamas who commented on my carnival post last month, I’ve been working with Kieran on having a daily “quiet time,” and I’m taking a few minutes to just be. Lately, that’s been brewing some tea and listening to an audio book.

What do you do to take care of yourself, and how often do you consciously do so?

What effects can you feel if you neglect your own needs?

Photo credit: costi


This post is edited from a previous version published at API Speaks.

12 Responses to:
"Taking Care of Ourselves"

  1. Wonderfully put, Dionna. I appreciate that you pointed out that ignoring our own needs teaches our children just the same.

    I’m still working on setting up my *routine* me times since the baby and the move, but I am sure to take moments to myself EVERY DAY. I make sure that I get to make my tea or coffee every morning and sit down for a good breakfast. We don’t accomplish much in the mornings, and I often make lunch or snacks the night before so that I can take it easy in the mornings and gaurantee myself that sit down time.

    I also squeeze in some time for yoga, running or connection with a friend throughout the week. Maybe not all three, but at least one of those.

  2. giggly   giggly_kerri

    I take time most nights to read a little before bed. I also joined my church’s prayer shawl ministry and go knitting 2x a month. I used to wait until after putting Connor to bed, but now I get there when it starts and let Sean put Connor to bed. And just this past weekend I went away to my sister’s wedding shower. It was the 1st time I’ve left Connor (3) and he missed me, but it was important to me that I be there.

  3. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I hired a nanny recently. She comes 2 mornings a week so that I can get some work done. I head to a cafe, she plays with the kids, and everyone wins. It allows me to be more present with my kids when we’re together, and it gives me the time and space to be by myself and do what I need to do without kids hanging off of me.

    I feel sort of sheepish about my nanny, but I also ADORE her.

  4. Kristin

    I try to make it to the gym a couple times a week. My daughter really doesn’t like being left in the child care room, so I struggle with guilt over that. But the fact is, I’m a much better mama when I take time to tend to my basic needs, and getting to spend some time on the treadmill a couple times a week is part of that.

  5. I am reasonably good at making sure I take time for myself. I had even figured out that I need more right before my period, and adjusted for that, and suddenly for the first time in my life, my cycle is irregular and I keep getting caught off guard. I think making sure my husband and I both have time to do our own thing will be a constant learning process.

  6. Deanna T.   mapleleafmommy

    You make some excellent points, but the one that really hit home with me is…
    I have never thought about what I’m modeling to my two daughters by suppressing my own wants and needs. This bears some consideration.

  7. Olivia   OliviaStreaterL

    Hmmmm, struggling with this one… I have a cup of coffee in the morning, read (with a torch in bed!) as I am putting the kids to bed, surf websites like this (also consider this me-time but try to limit it), have the odd bath and always try and put make-up on in the morning.

    With 2 v small ones that I am still tandem feeding (ok, well quite small, 6 months and 2). EVERY NIGHT I say, I am going to be awake this evening after putting the kids to bed, EVERY NIGHT I fall asleep, sometimes without even doing the dishes (on own a lot as husband travelling). ARghhhhh! Our bedtime routine involves lying down with my eldest after BF-ing one (or sometimes both) to sleep and reading stories; every night I seem to just give in to the tiredness. I reallyreallyreally meant to get to yoga this week but there were 2 voices in my head “go you’ll regret it” and “sleeeeeeeeep”!
    Plus obviously doing yoga as means to beat self up (another thing on to-do list) not ideal… Eventually I want to start dancing again though.

    I have a part-time nanny who is going in a month, arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. She has been INDISPENSABLE to having time to myself and the thought of her going is awful! She also is kind of mothering to me somehow and I find it sometimes having another adult around. My children love her too. So the thought of looking for someone else is not appealing; she is literally the ONLY person I feel comfortable leaving my eldest to go to sleep with (more even than Papi at the moment as he travels so much). Dreading the process actually but debating whether or not I should as she has also kept me sane.

    Also I recently went on a work-related conference and set up a working group of lawyers to work on the issue afterwards as I was all fired up about it. But actually, realistically, the only time to do this seems to be 2 or 3 am and that does not really work what with tiredness. I also consider writing “me-time” but just do not have the time at the mo. Dionne – how do you manage to make time to write?

    Hmmmm this all sounds a bit negative I know! Like I say, I am struggling at the mo!

    • Olivia   OliviaStreaterL

      That should read “whether or not I should get another nanny” and “I find it sometimes reassuring”. Did I mention I was tired?!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Olivia – first, I’m not working a full time job ;) Not even a regular part time one – my hours are few and sporadic. Second, I *haven’t* been writing since we launched NPN. Honestly, that site has been an incredible time suck, and I haven’t been able to do anything for my own. :( The post for the carnival was the only thing I’ve really written in weeks. Pitiful!!

  8. Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes   sheryljesin

    This is great! As moms we so often put our needs last and this can take a toll after a while. I find that I have to carve out some time for myself for my own sanity, because if I don’t do it, no one else will! Lately this has involved finding time to go for walks outside alone, going to a yoga class on the wknd and even giving myself permission to lie in bed with a good book once my son is asleep and letting the laundry wait another day. I know that my “me time” is limited right now as I am expecting baby #2 in December so I’m really trying to get it in while I can.

  9. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

    I totally agree – I think time to pursue your own interests and just be alone is so important to moms who are otherwise “on duty” 24/7. I think it’s also important that your kids know that you’re taking time for yourself otherwise they’ll never know it’s important to you!

    I go out to an exercise class once a week, and insist on having Saturday mornings to myself for writing (or knitting, or lying in bed, whatever I need that week.) Bea talks about how I go out to my “mama dance class” and on Saturday mornings will come upstairs to say goodbye and says things like, “I hope you get lots of articles written this morning, mama!” It’s important to me that she knows I do work, even though I stay at home with her.

  10. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    I’m so glad that you’ve found a few ways to take care of yourself — and they’re so simple! Treats! Tea!

    As for me, I’ve been working on indulging my vanity, sort of. Not really indulging too much, just really figuring out the least of what I need to feel good about my looks: a decent haircut, lip balm, that sort of thing. I’m also putting together a minimalist WAHM wardrobe. I certainly don’t want to LOOK like I don’t care about myself — what message would that send to the Critter?

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