Mama, you can. Just maybe not right now, and that’s OK because you’ve given everything to your family. Have you given anything to yourself?
It’s too easy to say you don’t have time for you. The toddler needs his special lunch with bananas and peanut butter sandwiches cut into the cute bear shape he loves. The teenager who doesn’t yet drive needs a ride to rehearsal. The baby needs to nurse all the freaking time. The husband needs his lunch made and a kiss goodbye before work. The entire family expects dinners to be made. But, you know . . . someone has to actually plan those dinners. Then someone must shop for them because the pantry is not a magical food provider. And don’t forget you have to wash Sally’s uniform before the game on Saturday!
I fully understand the chaos that reigns over your blessed life. I do. But here’s the thing—you only have so many reserves before they are all used up. Have you noticed your patience thinning? Or maybe your anger comes quick and hot. Your family’s emotional and mental health has a direct connection to your own mental and emotional health. It’s science! With that in mind, I beg you. Put your own oxygen mask on first. Fill your reservoir of care so full that you can easily dispense it out to your family during the dry seasons when time must all be devoted to them and there is none left over for you.
Go to the gym. Maybe you’re like me, and fitness isn’t something you’ll sacrifice family time for. That’s OK. But find the time. Carve it out. Maybe just a walk in the park or an hour after dinner has been cleaned up and the kids are in bed and the husband wants time to himself anyway. Take care of you. When your body is happy, your mind is happy.
Read a book. This is my favorite. I do run a book review blog, after all. But I make sure to equally divide the housework that needs to be done with my treasured reading time during nap. This is the perfect quiet moment. Maybe for you it is after everyone has gone to bed. But search for the quiet—in it you will find peace.
Get more sleep. Talk to your spouse about this one. Maybe he just needs a little suggestion that you’re exhausted and need the extra hour or two on Saturday morning. Maybe you should just nap while the baby naps. Seriously. The dust and dishes can always be done later, and if a surprise visitor comes over and comments, remember you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Make the quiet early morning hours yours. No really, if you find yourself needing you time, and you don’t just want the sleep instead, spend the quiet predawn hour to yourself with coffee or tea, and reflection or prayer. Bask in the quiet calm before the inevitable daily storm.
Do anything you love. Remember that old hobby you enjoyed? Way back before marriage and kids and life took over? Carve out time for that. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day.
In the end, guiltless self-care is just setting aside a small amount time to nurture your own body and mind. Even if it is just an hour in an entire week, replenish your soul so you can continue to give it all back to your family. They will thank you for it, I promise. And maybe (when you’re old and gray and find yourself pining for the days of endless laundry, piles of dishes, and loud little feet in the home) you’ll look back on the days in the trenches with joy and fondness instead of exhaustion and frustration.