I by no means have all the answers in my 19 months of motherhood. But what I do have is my experience of 19 months of motherhood. I’m not here to compare, raise up or put down any type of mama–let’s be honest–we are ALL rockstars doin’ our thang. But what I know is being a mama who works outside the home 40 hours a week with a commute. And a partner who works outside the home. Stepping back into reality after my Family Leave experience was shell shocking. 6 weeks of NICU life. 2 weeks of going back to work and trotting to the NICU three times a day to see June, pump, change diapers and then back to answer emails and hopefully I remembered how to do my job. 6 weeks being home with June. Then back to work full time!
I’m not here to discuss the difference in leave policies or benefits, although that’s a subject I’m quite passionate about. What I want to share is what I did to take care of myself. And still do to take care of myself as a working mama.
- Figure out what my options were. When I realized that I was only going to have 6 weeks with June once she came home rather than the 12 I had expected, my brain and fingers got to working. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the option for Reduced Seasonal Hours in the summers. That meant I went back to work 4 days a week for the first three months. That was a huge blessing with all the doctor’s appts and follow-ups JP had. We could easily schedule everything for Mondays and I could adjust to being back to work with a three day weekend every week. If you’re in a rough season–see what options you have! Maybe it’s not going back after a baby but just going through a different season of parenting. Or mental health.
- Take care of my body. Yes, I had follow ups with my OB, but I also followed up with my primary care doc who was amazing. We shed tears together, she’s given hugs on almost every visit and helped remind me that I have to take care of me physically to be the best mama, wife, employee, friend and human.
- Not feel guilty taking care of my body. That meant more than the doctor’s office. It meant continuing my regular chiropractic care and implementing monthly massages. Does it take us looking intentionally at our budget and prioritizing certain things? Absolutely! But I also know that I’m helping out my massage therapist friend by giving her some extra income.
- Taking medication. Not for everyone, but I have increased anxiety since our car accident and am on a low-dose anxiety medication. I wanted to think that I could be okay without meds. Eat well. Take vitamins. Get sunshine. Use essential oils. And while all those things help immensely, so does my medication.
- Is there anything that could be outsourced? Lawncare. Done. Check. Honestly, this was more in the beau’s wheelhouse, but once he started working nights we had to figure something out and it’s been a lifesaver and helping someone else in their business. Win-win. I’m trying to figure out if there are other things that might be outsourced that could help us and help my anxiety.
- Seeing a therapist. Another huge benefit through my employer is work-life counseling sessions. Each employee is given 5 per calendar year and I use mine up! I’m grateful to have a third party to share my journey with, to share perspective and share tissues.
- Schedule regular family days, date nights and girls nights. Now when I say “regular” I just mean, be intentional, not necessarily every week or two weeks. Surprise, surprise coming from me, right? I just make a list of the people I want to see/invest in, things we want to do each month as a family and any fun event that we want to do as a couple. Having some things and people’s names written down helps me not go three months without seeing folks. Sometimes it’s a phone call to a mentor out of state, or a google hangout with a long-time friend or coffee or a target run with a soul friend. Regardless, it’s time that fills my heart and up.
- Spend time outdoors and disconnected. There’s something magical about the fresh air, smell of the leaves, grass and water. We’ve been so fortunate to go to Couples Camp last spring and this fall to get away from the noise of life, leaving our cell phones, watches and all reality in our cars, hiking in and building our marriages and our relationship with God. The reminder that Nothing Worth Doing is Easy is a constant and great for us to prioritize our marriage but also incredible just to be disconnected and have some space in my head.
- Water my own grass. Remember this is a season where I’m going to be home more and that’s where I’m meant to be.
- Give myself grace. Again, and again, and again. Dishes will pile up. The house will be a mess. Hosting friends for dinner will mean picking something up and putting it on fancy plates. It’s okay. You’ve kept yourself and another human alive. Kudos.
I’ve heard three different sources and podcasts this week alone discuss self-care. Many of them mentioned some of what I experienced. Others mentioned yoga, baths and reading. It’s a buzz word these days. For me, self-care is actually soul care. I love Emily P. Freeman’s tag line –“creating space for your soul to breathe.” That’s what I crave these days. And I hope by taking care of my own soul and it’s ability to take some deep breaths, I’m creating space for others to do the same.