12 Dec It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like….
Christmas?!?! In two weeks? It’s hard to believe considering it’s been nearly 80 degrees this week but our official snowman day counter says 14 on it as my girls play outside in their shorts. I have been enjoying holiday parties and reconnecting with friends who I don’t get to see as often as I would like due to our schedules. Most of my friends, like me, have small children and work in some capacity. The conversations when we get together always return to the same subject which is the insanity of trying to balance having small children and still feeling like we are some shred of the same person we were before we had kids.
This is no small task. At least not for me. I have to make a conscious effort on a weekly basis to make sure I take time for the things that bring me joy, make me feel alive and fill up my emotional tank. There is always something threatening this effort. Sick children, traveling husband, school vacation, social commitments. It’s easy to let it slide except for the fact of how I feel when I don’t do it.
I read an article when my girls were one and three years old that said when you have small children you need to practice “Extreme Self-Care.” I remember how it hit me light a bolt of lightening because at the time I was totally exhausted, overwhelmed and practicing no self-care. I cut the words out and taped them to my bathroom mirror. Every day when I brushed my teeth I would read “Practice Extreme Self-Care” and it would remind me that I needed to take some time for myself.
The reason I bring this up is because when I am talking to other mothers and fathers of young children I find myself saying this over and over to them. You have to take time for yourself. You have to get a babysitter and be alone with your husband/wife for a couple of hours to finish a sentence and remember how much you still like each other. You have to have something outside of your spouse and family that is just yours be it gardening, music, fantasy football – that thing that you love doing so much that you lose track of time. All of these habits may sound like a luxury but they are a necessity just like eating and sleeping.
I talk about this subject every chance I get and I do it on purpose. I make a point to be that person to say, “Hey, it’s really stressful having babies. You are doing great. Yes there is more joy and more love than you could ever imagine but it is so hard! Get a sitter. Go be alone. There is nothing wrong with your relationship it’s just the stress getting to both of you. Every couple of months it will get a little easier. It’s normal to feel this way.”
When I felt like I was drowning after my second child was born there was nobody there to say to me it’s not just you. It’s normal to be stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s normal to question if you are ever going to feel and look like your old self again. It is normal to feel alone sometimes even when you are married because you both cope withe the stress in different ways. I felt like I must be doing it wrong because everyone else looked so happy.
Once I got the extreme self-care piece it all fell in to place. I guess I needed that reassurance that this experience is hard for everyone. The article confirmed that and gave me permission to put myself first. Once I made that shift everything changed for me. I am a happy and fulfilled person which makes me a much better wife, mother and friend. This concept is just as vital even if you do not have children but say care for an elderly parent. We are responsible for filling up our own tanks. Nobody can do it for us. So today take a moment for yourself. Do something you enjoy that makes you feel great. Don’t think of it as selfish because it is the opposite. When we feel happy and fulfilled it makes life better for everyone around us. It is a gift to the world.
So go do it! You have my permission.