As I pulled in the driveway after my 40 minute rush-hour commute home from work, I could feel the weight of exhaustion descending upon me like a dense fog. I’d been up since 5am when I nursed my baby, drove my toddler to daycare, and pumped twice before 8am- when my “real job” started.
I saw patients all day in my busy Ear, Nose, and Throat practice and then, once the work day was done, returned home to start the dreaded evening shuffle.
You know the one- when you walk in the door and have exactly one hour to make dinner, convince your toddler to eat said dinner, and complete the nighttime routine down to the rounds of repeat tuck-ins and sips of water. (Insert nursing an infant at multiple points along the way here if you have one!)
But at least after that was over, I got to breathe a sigh of relief, settle in with a glass of wine, and take a nice hot bubble bath.
Hah! Don’t worry, I’m completely kidding. Instead, I turned my attention to the baby who had been impatiently waiting while I tended to his sister’s night time needs. He missed the warm comforts of momma while I was gone all day too and decided the only way to make up for it was to cluster nurse and cuddle for the rest of the night. Sigh.
Parenting Is Hard!
Parenting is no joke and is downright exhausting. Solo parenting can be even more exhausting (is that possible?!), and not to mention isolating. (My husband is in the military and stationed across the country from myself and our two children right now so it’s all me, baby!)
So as I sat down to write a post on self-care, I had to pause for a moment and reflect. “Am I really qualified to give advice on this subject to other people?”
Obviously, my nightly routine leaves much to be desired. I literally do not have time to go to the bathroom by myself, let alone take “me time.” And to be honest, when I hear the phrase “self-care” right now, my first instinct is a hard eye roll.
While I absolutely love the delicious (and nearly constant) baby snuggles, it has been extremely difficult to get anything done. Now I’m not talking about vacuuming the house, dusting the abandoned corners, and baking yummy treats for the week.
No, I am talking about getting the absolute bare minimum essentials done for the next day: washing all of the pump and bottle parts, scraping together something to bring for lunch the next day if I didn’t have enough leftovers, washing or stuffing the cloth diapers, and finding clothes for everyone to wear for the next day.
But Here’s The Problem
I’m not sure about you, but I don’t see much free time in there for self-care in the “traditional” sense of taking relaxing or restorative time for myself to recharge my batteries. Heck, I hardly even have time to do the things NOT considered to be luxuries like shower or brush my teeth.
And while the details of my situation may be somewhat unique, my struggles certainly are not. Toddlers are toddlers, babies are babies, and their needs (and meltdowns) are pretty much universal. People solo parent for a wide variety of reasons. Parents work outside the home or inside the home and both can be extremely difficult and demanding on our time.
The Bottom Line
What I’ve realized through this reflection is that self-care looks different in different seasons of life. And there are some seasons where it just isn’t going to happen.
If that’s where you’re at right now, for whatever reason, I see you. I hear you. And you are not alone.
The important thing is that you realize that this time is just a season in your life. It won’t last forever. But it is the reality of the here and now.
Our kids will grow up, our jobs may change, and some day we will inevitably look back at this time in our lives and think “wow, that really was hard!”
So What Can You Do?
Now I’m not saying that you should just power through and never stop and expect to figure everything out without ever getting burnt out. That’s just not practical. But what I am saying is to give yourself grace.
Do what you can now and try not to sweat the small stuff. (As a fellow type A personality, I know this is easier said than done!).
If a pile of laundry needs to stay unfolded so you can take a power nap between nursing sessions, so be it. Give yourself permission to regroup when you need to and stop feeling guilty if you spend the rare moments where everyone is asleep watching TV or doing some other “unproductive” thing. Find what helps you to feel recharged, even just a little bit, and do that.
How To Put This Into Practice
- Let It Go. But seriously, Elsa. Don’t be a slave to the to do list. When things don’t get done, so be it. You don’t owe yourself (or anyone else) an explanation or an excuse. It didn’t happen tonight, end of story.
- Use some small pockets of time for YOU. Baby sleeping and toddler playing happily alone? Perfect. Use this time to do something YOU want to do. No, I’m not talking about washing the dishes. I’m talking about reading a chapter of the latest book you’ve been wanting to read, picking up your knitting needles, or scrolling funny cat videos on your phone. Sometimes you just have to torch the to do list and focus on some self-care. (Need more ideas? Check out this post for 7 quick and easy self-care life hacks!)
- Chat with Momma Mary. Even though her son was Jesus, our Blessed Mother Mary still had the ordinary struggles of motherhood in her daily life. I’m sure she felt overwhelmed at times too (raising the Son of God …. no pressure, right?!). I find that chatting with her throughout my day in little moments of prayer is really helpful. Sometimes I throw up a Hail Mary and other times I just talk to her about how overwhelmed I feel.
Afterall, Mary is our spiritual mother and wants to be here for us and to help us through the tough times and rejoice with us during the good times.
“Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace”Lumen gentium, 61
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As I learned during my Marian Consecration, she is uniquely able to make our crosses sweeter and help us to be able to bear them. I really have found this to be true because even just writing out our crazy chaotic situation reminds me of how overwhelming it is. Yet I am still getting through it with some grace.
Don’t Forget These Two Important Things
- There is no one “right way” to “do” self-care. What you find to be restorative may be the complete opposite to someone else. The main thing is that if the opportunity presents itself for you to do something for yourself, take it and don’t feel guilty. (I know, I know, mom guilt… it never goes away! But just try to shush it at least for a few minutes.)
- And when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed with no relief in sight, remember: this is just a season. It will eventually pass. And you will get through it!
So hang in there momma! Busy seasons are super hard but they are just that- seasons. You’ve got this! #momlife
P.S. How have you given yourself grace this week? I’d love to hear about it- comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!