My sister is a very over-worked school teacher! The other day she was lamenting how hard it was to find time to relax and rest. She is at school from 7:30 until four thirty and sometimes later. Then there are papers to grade and she still has a family to feed and a home to run. A few weeks ago she asked me how I find time for R&R. I may not be an overworked school teacher but I have a job, I write, run an online business, do personal mentoring, manage a household and live with grandchildren. I understand and live the difficulty she was asking me to address.
So I gave her my short R&R list: I take a shower every evening just before I go to bed and put lotion on my feet. I told you the list was short.
I began this little ritual when I was sixteen years old. I worked at my dad’s drive-in restaurant after school and on Saturdays, went to public school every weekday, had loads of homework, and was very busy in my church. Oh yes, did I mention I was the oldest of nine children at the time and trust me that comes with a large share of work and responsibility. Some days it was almost impossible to find time to rest and relax…if you could even find a private or quiet space in our home to rest and relax in.
So I began taking a bath and putting lotion on my feet each evening after the littler kids were in bed. It was wonderful and my parents, sensing my need, didn’t give me grief about water (a precious commodity in an 11 person household) or for tying up the bathroom.
Once I began I never stopped. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, how much is still left to do or how late it is. I always give myself this one thing even if I can’t give myself anything else.
I’m sharing this because my sister was surprised that I put taking a shower on my R&R list. I mean it’s a very plain, everyday, ordinary thing that most people do. Right? Here is the difference. I do it for the express purpose of caring for myself and so it doesn’t feel ordinary or everyday to me. It feels loving.
And therein lies part of the problem when we work to carve out some rest, relaxation or alone time for ourselves in a family. Many people look for something out of the ordinary – going to a movie, a few days away, a date, etc. They look for something that gets them away from home and responsibility, kids and noise.
But as I have said before, if we think of taking care of ourselves as being child-free, away from home, in quiet, then most of us are going to get precious little of it.
How can we care for ourselves right where we are, in the thick of parenting? We need to get creative and we need to manage our story about what is required to care for self.
One of my good friends had a unique solution. She had a treat box, up high, which no one knew about. When she needed a break or the feeling of being cared for she would go to her room, take down the box and have a handful of licorice bits, one of her favorite treats. It took only a few moments. She smiled when she told me about it. It gave her real pleasure to have this little secret, this small piece of R&R.
Here are a few other things that I do to care for myself:
1. I read in the bathroom. I don’t know about you but I know I am going to be in that room at least three times a day. And right next to the toilet is a large basket of books and magazines. I may only get to read one or two paragraphs before someone knocks on the door but I love those few moments of reading. It feels restful, rejuvenating and makes me smile.
2. I sit down and shell peanuts. It gives me a reason to stop what I am doing and sit for a few moments as well as have a treat. Most of the time, I have grandkids shelling right along with me. You might think that that would negate the feeling of self-care but it doesn’t because I know I am deliberately allowing myself to sit and rest and have a treat. It feels like self-care because I have decided it is – kids or no kids.
3. I also crochet. It’s calming to me. I can do it without thinking. Noisy kids and chaos don’t matter. It’s relaxing in the midst of family. When I engage in this activity, I know I am caring for myself because I am sitting down and doing something that I enjoy. I don’t usually get more than 10-15 minutes but it’s enough. Quiet and aloneness aren’t required.
Here is what I hope you are beginning to understand:
- Being alone and in quiet are not always required to feel that you are caring for yourself
- Self-care can be ordinary, nothing special
- Self-care doesn’t have to cost anything and can happen right where you are, in the midst of family
- The story we tell ourselves goes a long way to making an activity feel like self-care
I hope you get away now and then. But even more, I hope you will begin practicing self-care right where you are. Write down your own short list. Then be consistent in doing the few things you have written down. It doesn’t have to be every day, like a shower/ bath but they all need to be things that you can do at the drop of a hat, even with your family all around you.
As you practice you will find it easier to be patient, you will feel less resentment and you will have happier days.
Here’s to more joy,
??? What do you do when you want to care for yourself and you have huge responsibilities, loads of work or very little time? What do you do when you want to care for yourself and you have a house full of children? I would love to know and so would my readers. We could all use suggestions. Please leave a comment and share what has worked for you.
P.S. You can learn more about seven ways to get better self-care in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!
I recently realized that when I am stressed and feel tight and angry, or even on the verge of anger, going outside makes it melt away. It doesn’t really matter what I do outside, just that I’m there. In the past few weeks I’ve done yard work, tried to train my dog, budgeted outside, and read outside, and they’ve all worked to destress me. I think it’s a combination of the air and removing myself from the stressful environment (plus I LOVE being outside). I’ve made a goal to go outside and read for about 5 minutes whenever I need a break.
I agree, Rachel, there is something rejuvenating about being outside. You have some great outside ideas and what I love about it is that you can move from the stress to your activity without having to give it much thought. : )
This is fantastic! I will also admit to the occasional treat stash! I like to cook so I benefit from making a great meal and enjoying every bite. And if I’m just cooking for myself, it’s usually eggs scrambled with lots of veggies and sour dough toast. I also get a lot of enjoyment from diffusing essential oils.
Great thoughts, Pam. Right where you are is the key. : )
My kids are raised but there’s still days that are so busy that I just want some of my own time. I go in my room and shut the door so I won’t hear the TV and then I practice my banjo or study YouTube videos to teach myself some new tunes. Other times I shut the door and just listen to some of the pros playing on YouTube. It’s fun for me.
Raynae, I know how much you love music and playing. I can see this would be perfect for you. I have another friend who will sit down and play the piano and another that sings. Music is soothing. It is so important to have at least one thing that we can do at the drop of a hat that feels like self-care. Thanks for your comment old friend. : )
I really appreciated that you focused on what we can do at home without getting away. I do crave quiet and alone time. I have both children and grandchildren in my home everyday. I like to watch a BBC mystery program (Father Brown) while I fold laundry in my bedroom. No one bothers me when I’ve folding laundry. Somehow my children loathe folding laundry, when it is one of my favorite activities. I also get up an hour before my family so I have some study time to myself. It helps me feel “ready” for them when the day gets going. My favorite, though, is quiet time. After lunch everyone has quiet time in their room. This is my time to read, or do other activities that give me a sense of accomplishment- like getting my laundry folded! Making a short list has been a good tool for my children. A few years ago we all made a personal list of things we could do for self care. I learned a few amazing things about myself and my family members as we did this. I saw that one child had only things on her list that required a parent or friend. This gave me the opportunity to give some attention to teaching her some emotional independence skills. I also saw other patterns, such as listing things that could create dependency or that were unhealthy. I had to change my list to focus on things that would build me, not diminish me. Thank you for this wonderful reminder to utilize this tool. This would be a good time to refresh my list!
Janet this was wonderful to read! I loved the idea of having everyone make a list. Seeing patterns is a great way to be able to meet the needs of not only others but ourselves. I also loved your short list. I appreciate the idea of quiet time after lunch. I have known a few others who have tried this idea with great success. I have used it on and off myself while raising my family. It is a good tool. By the way, I really like Father Brown. One of my favorites. : )
I have learned to take 10-20 minute naps. It does not really matter if I fall asleep or not. I can feel rested by closing my eyes and lying down. I believe it also rests my mind and helps me solve problems. Sometimes that quiet is even enough to receive inspiration, though that is not required.
I love this. I have always refused to take naps. : ) However, I can see the value in stopping and lying down to rest and think. I am going to consider this. : ) There is great value in being still so that we can hear and sense new ideas, thoughts, etc. Very nice!
My self care is numerous. However, it is alot of everyday little things like my morning mug of hot Molasses drink as I prop myself in bed to read a few passages. I love my egg on toast every morning. I take my daily vitamin/supplements. I generally listen to music playing softly as I tend to my chores, business at my desk or caring for my grandchildren. After dinner I go to a private gym M-W-F and on T-Th-S I take a hot bath while I briskly work my connective tissue while watching a movie in the tub. Oh, I may have lost you on that one…lol. It is a routine I am religious to because I am making sure my body is fit and pain free. My evening treat is Vanilla Greek Yogurt, Feta cheese, Flaxseed meal, Nesquik Chocolate Syrup and a handful of Sliced Almonds. You may have guessed by now, I am a fitness and health coach, but I am not a hard body or a health food nut. I simply created a lifestyle that works for me, using all day everyday self care. Sundays are my day to just chill after Church or Work.
This is great Rozanne. One thing you said that I think is important is that you are consistent in your efforts to care for yourself. Consistency is key. Another important thing that comes out of your comment is that many of your self-care items wouldn’t be considered as R&R by most people – a bit like my taking a shower. However, the story we tell ourselves about what we are doing is huge. You have a good story going. : )
I love to color!! I have a few adult coloring books I love, my own set of crayons/markers/colored pencils. The kids know this is my “chill” time. Sometimes they do it with me…or go somewhere and do their own thing. It’s funny how they know that means I need some time and hey have respected it…really without me asking them.
I’ve stared to mediate using an app on my phone, it can range from 5-20 minute guided meditation options. If I’m able to do it alone, great…sometimes I have not been able to be alone and can sense I need it so the kids do it with me or go outside.
I love the idea of R and R with and around our lives. (I haven’t always felt this way 🙂 I get to model for my kids taking care of yourself vs going and going and burning oneself out.
Love your Sunday emails Maryann!! 💜
Jessica, what great ideas! I also have some special coloring books and pens. : ) I have been using this particular R&R tool since middle school. I think it is wonderful that your kids will sometimes meditate with you. I have an app on my phone called Insight and I meditate too. But my husband and grandkids don’t join me. : ) I will have to encourage them more. I think that the feeling you have of modeling self-care is wonderful because it allows you to really use your R&R list and feel good about it. Thank you for sharing this wonderful list.