It’s no secret that life with children has many demands on your time, energy and mojo. Maintaining your sense of self is as essential to happiness as the love you give and receive all day, every day.
A little self-love goes a long way, so the secret to finding happiness, even when it’s challenging, just might be in these three rules:
1. Do your own thing.
If you have a career you love, you may feel fulfilled in this area, but I think we all have certain things we used to love before we had kids that we’ve now put on the back burner. So start an at-home business, work out, cook elaborate meals, read romance novels—it can be anything—just do something you want to do and that makes you feel like you, not just your kids’ mom.
I have a friend who likes to paint and create art, and she does it even though she’s a busy homeschooling mom. Another friend is an executive at a major company, and she hikes alone or with friends on the weekend. I started an essential oils business while taking care of four kids at home with me 24/7.
These things may take time, but they add to our lives because we have something of our own to work on and feel a sense of purpose, creativity, achievement and connection about, independent of our role as mom.
No matter how many kids we have and what our other responsibilities are, we will always be maxed out. The time to do something other than mother will never just show up—we have to make the time and take the time. It’s so worth it, and it sets a great example for our kids as well.
2. Eat one nice meal per day.
Sit down and eat something that will make you feel awesome. It could be a gluten-free, vegan, super healthy something, or a cheesy delicious something special—but eat it for your nice meal only if it will make you feel good during and after.
Take one meal and be selfish.
You can eat with the kids, but consider whether or not to let the toddler sit on your lap for this one. Or eat it while the kids are watching a show, or while your husband puts them to bed, whatever it takes.
3. Self-care your way.
Bubble baths, massages, and even Netflix and chill are great, but not necessarily for everyone. I’ve always felt resentful about the self-care recommendations that moms often get: “Take time for yourself—go for drinks with the girls,” or, “Just relax and take a nap.”
It’s not that I find the sound of suggestions like these somewhat condescending, but really it’s just that they’re not things I particularly enjoy, and what is the point of self-care if I don’t enjoy it?
It took me quite a few years of being a mom to discover that perfect weekly self-care ritual: sleeping in on Saturday morning, then waking up and eating breakfast with my family, before sending my husband and three bigger kids out to the park for about two hours. While they’re gone, I get to decide what to do for the day that will make me feel best.
Sometimes I clean the house. Sometimes I nurse the baby and read a random magazine I find around the house. Sometimes I put the baby down for a nap and sit in the sun outside and do nothing at all.
I reciprocate by letting my husband take a long nap while I take the kids out on Saturday afternoon, then I take them with me to the farmers market on Sunday morning for a few hours. We both get extra sleep and time alone in the house with no one else around.
These are perfect self-care scenarios for us, but it took a long time to get there. Give it some thought and talk it over with your partner, friends, or family to see how you can work out a plan to give you back the juice you need to make it through the week.