Usually I want it to be a weekend away with my husband or girlfriends - no kids allowed. A beach vacation probably. Where we lay on a massage table, covered in white towels, tropical flowers and those smooth pebbles, the ocean to our right and our faces smashed into those little circle pillows.
I've never actually done this, but it's what I dream about in those moments when at the exact same time, the baby starts crying because her gums hurt (I think), the toddler starts whining (yelling incessantly really) while throwing toys at the wall, and the smell of two poopy diapers fill the air. It's like they talked and said, "Let's go from zero to sixty at 6:23 p.m., right when mom's about to burn dinner, so we'll really stress her out."
It's in that moment when all I can think about is the beach.
I was about to write a second post on self-care (Here's the first one.) and moms' all-or-nothing mentality of wanting regular, long breaks away from our children, of how we can find self-care in the small things too, and of finding the line between healthy self-care and our own selfish expectations.
But then I read this post and figured I should forget about it because she wrote it much more eloquently than I ever could. (I posted it on Facebook, but if you haven't yet, read it.)
Figuring out what actually filled me up was the hardest part of self-care. For a while there I think I thought it was watching reruns of Million Dollar Decorators on Bravo, eating enormous amounts of Fritos, checking Instagram, and napping, lots of napping. Oh, and dreaming about beach vacations of course.
While I do believe sometimes the most spiritual, life-giving thing to do is take a nap, in this instance, I don't think that's what it was for me.
What goes in, must come out.
And I was sure feeling like garbage.
It was then that I realized I needed to start doing the hard thing each day. Wake up early before the kids, start with my quiet time (even though, at that time, it was the absolute LAST thing I wanted to do), drink my coffee hot all the way to the bottom. Pick up the house before, or at least right at the beginning of nap time, so I can go into the afternoon with a clean slate. After cleaning and taking care of any other pressing matters, work on a DIY project, or spend time writing here again. And at night, among other things, end the day screen-free, reading quality literature, even if it's just five pages.
Why is it that we mothers are always looking for the self-care quick-fix, the band-aid to just get us through nap time? When what we really need is self-care to get us through the witching hour, the middle of the night wakings, the entire day, the entire week - our entire lives of raising littles.
And we're smart enough to know Bravo TV ain't gonna do that.
Reality is, in this season of life, special vacations and long weekends away - or even kid-free coffee dates with friend - are not very practical. We may get them every once in a while (And I still am a huge advocate for them!), but we can't store up all our self-care for five days once a year, that honestly, may or my not happen depending on our children's needs. We have to find rest in the small things of the every day, taking the time that is available, even if we do have to carve it out by waking earlier, paying for the sitter or saying 'yes' to an offer to help. And we also have to recognize there are seasons for a healthy amount of self-care and there are seasons for very, very little self-care. The opportunity for self-care is an ebb and flow, no rules, no expectations, and we absolutely have no right to it. It may be necessary, but it is still a privilege.
Self-care or the ever popular, "me-time" sounds so wonderful to a mother's ears, doesn't it? But most of us are quite terrible at actually doing it correctly. It's nice in theory, but when the rubber meets the road in how it should actually play out, most of us like to take the easy way and pop on the TV, or surf the web - which usually isn't self-care at all.
But what if we took the hard road, found what really fills us up and then actually did it? Would there be fewer negative conversations from burned out mothers? Less complaining on the internet? Less mommy war battles?
I can't say with all certainty, but I would hope so. So let's table the TV zone out and the mindless internet searching and commit to true self-care, even in the small things. It is the hard thing to do, but isn't that pretty much all of motherhood? We do the hard things so we can reap the benefits later? And maybe, just maybe, we'll have that chance to smash our face into a circle massage pillow too.
Like this post? I share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!