Let Them See You...
Your children need to see you utilizing self-care.
We've heard it all before, "fill your cup first." But what does that mean when you have no cups left to give? You've metaphorically given all of your "cups" away. And they are very specific cups because every mom knows that there is no wrath greater than the wrath of a toddler who asked for a blue cup but received a green one. And don't forget that it needs to be the blue cup with the special straw filled with "just a little bit of ice, mommy", because God forbid they receive cool water and not ice water. But momma, get yourself a cup. Let it be a special cup that you use only for yourself. I want you to have an actual physical cup that is your momma-only drinking cup (regardless of whether you drink tea, water or coffee), but momma, I also want you to have a spiritual cup that is untouched by anyone except yourself and show it to your family. They need to see you exhibiting self-care for yourself and they need to see it done regularly.
As parents, it is our job to equip our children with navigating the adult world with the tools to process their feelings and emotions in a healthy manner. And along with this, we need to normalize ways to prevent and treat our mental health before we reach burn out. As I am typing this very blog, my self-imposed self-care day is almost at an end. I received some devastating, stressful news early Monday morning and told my husband "You will need to call out from work today. I am not able to function. I will be unavailable today and you will need to be on call until Tuesday afternoon." The next morning, from my bed, I sent him a text message with a link to an Airbnb in our city and said "I will be leaving this afternoon and back tomorrow after 3pm. Can you book this and send me the confirmation link?" There was no asking permission. There was no discussion. This momma needed a break and I was going to take it. Thankfully, my husband knew and understood that this was a mental and emotional emergency for me and went with the flow.
Because we have no family support here and my friends either work full-time or have families of their own, we work together as a team. My husband understands his co-parenting role fully and doesn't look at any task as a mom-only task (with the exception of breastfeeding ;) ) My husband can cook, clean, do laundry, bathe children, put all of the children to bed and any other task that arises. Having a hands-on father in and of itself is an act of self-care for me. Early on, the expectation was set that I needed him to "clock in" as a parent when he got home from work in the afternoon. Because, here's the thing...he may work outside the home, but I work in the home 24/7, 365. There are no lunch breaks, no days off. It is the most rewarding, yet most exhausting job that I have ever had. And I.love.it. I wouldn't trade motherhood for all the riches in the world. HOWEVER, that does not mean that I am anyone's martyr. I will not die on the hill of motherhood stressed out, burned out, worn out and haggard. I will execute this role of motherhood seamlessly, pouring out love, grace and kindness to MYSELF first, then my family next. My family receives the overflow of what is in my heart. If I am filled with love, patience, peace, and kindness then guess what my family will receive? The opposite is also true: if I am empty mentally, emotionally and spiritually, then I am no better than a car that is low on gas. And they will feel and see the effects of that. No one deserves to live with an "empty" individual. Everyone and everything else will receive what is left of me after myself and my family are attended to primarily. I refuse to only show kindness to others and then come home "snappy" and annoyed with my children. They deserve my best, and I deserve even better. Love yourself first, then you can love others well.
I packed an overnight bag, stuffed all of my toiletries in it and headed to brunch with MYSELF, bumped into a former coworker at the table beside me, chatted with her for a while, enjoyed a delicious meal, then headed to Target to pick up hair supplies, food and wine. I was fully expecting to take care of myself for at minimum 24 hours. I metaphorically threw up my white flag and said: "I surrender." I proceeded to fill and refill my wine glass, ate well again that evening, washed my hair and proceeded to Netflix and chill myself into relaxation. I regret nothing.
Upon leaving the house earlier in the day, I hugged my older two and explained that I was "going away to take a break." They understood and asked for hugs. My middle little asked for a fist bump (she's so cute!) See, this is normal for them because every day we have "quiet time". This is time where they can sit quietly in their rooms and play independently (or together as long as they're quiet *insert laughter here*). They see me take a nap when the baby naps during said quiet time. They also see and hear me declare the commencement of my own quiet time when I need a break after my husband gets home from work. By nature, I am an extrovert, but even extroverts need to recharge. I have a limit and this week that limit was reached by outside issues outside of my control.
Maybe it's not in your budget to go to an Airbnb. Perhaps you can go to a library and sit in a quiet corner with your laptop, smartphone or other device and a good book? Maybe you can grab some Starbucks and stroll the aisles of Target unbothered? Whatever fills *your* cup is what you need to make time for. Put it on your calendar, ensure that your spouse sees this calendar and let your children see you following through with it. This teaches them how to handle their own stress and burn out when it comes. And honey, you know it will come. Those tantrums that keep happening, that fussy baby that won't settle...these are all cries for comfort and soothing. Children don't know how to regulate their emotions, so it is our job to teach them how to do that. We teach them by modeling it ourselves. We teach them how to be kind to others by first being kind to ourselves. We teach them to love, by first loving ourselves fully and completely. Let them see you doing this openly and often.