As if self care wasn’t hard enough before, the pandemic has made it nearly impossible. Flight attendants advise parents to put on their own “oxygen mask” first, otherwise they may be unable to help children or dependents. I believe this to be true, but when you are working, parenting, and homeschooling…there are just not enough hours in the day. Self care becomes sleeping, eating, and showering, if you’re lucky!
Another truth I have heard about self care is that it doesn’t have to take a long time. It can be 5 minutes, 5 hours, or anything in between. This should make it easier for busy parents, but is it feasible to benefit from anything that only takes 5 minutes? I’ve tested this out more than a few times since the pandemic began, not intentionally but out of necessity. I have, on more than one occasion, locked my bedroom door and laid down on my bed, not to sleep but just to close my eyes and have some peace. While 5 minutes doesn’t do much for me, I found that 15 or 20 was useful. It gives me a much-needed “time out” but also allows my twin girls enough time to sort things out on their own. This way, when I emerge from my time out, everyone has moved on from whatever drama drove me to retreat in the first place. And trust me, the percentage of meltdowns by everyone in our house has gone up during COVID-19 isolation.
Maybe you can count this as self care, and maybe not, but it was effective in the moment and there are many things you can do in 15 minutes. At this stage in life, I also feel that I’ve lost track of my own interests to a certain degree. I’ve been focused on kids for the last 6 years, what do I even like to do anymore? Reading is a given, I’ve always loved reading. Some of my other interests have changed though.
Here are some ideas:
- a hot bubble bath (preferably in a deep claw foot tub);
- a cup of tea, coffee, or a cocktail and a book/magazine;
- a short walk, run, or even sitting outside enjoying some sunshine and scenery;
- going for a drive by yourself and listening to music;
- engaging in some intimacy with your spouse/partner or by yourself;
- watching an episode of a grown-up show;
- or a phone/video call with a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but all of these are things that make me feel better!
Since the end of March, I have boycotted “homeschooling”. My girls are 6 and keeping them focused on anything is a challenge. Instead, I have been taking opportunities for learning as they come. I have taught them how to count money, bake cookies, play “go fish”, sew, and a number of other things. A question or a problem arises and we do it together. What I realize now looking back is that this is a concerted effort on my part to incorporate learning. It may not be a 3-hour block, structured on certain subjects, using the online resources that the teachers have provided. But I am taking the time away from work and “normal” parenting to focus on these things. And it’s been challenging but fun. Don’t short-change your efforts during this unusual time–the weight we are all carrying and the accompanying stress needs to be balanced by some much needed self care.
Why don’t we make time for ourselves? Unfortunately, as parents, we often put our kids’ needs above our own and since the younger ages need us frequently, the “to-do” list is never complete. We think that we will get to ourselves once everything else is done, but who are we kidding? If having kids has taught me anything, it’s the that the list keeps growing and you simply have to prioritize the items. So, self care should really be scheduled and prioritized. I still struggle with this…I tend to do it only when my girls are with a family member or when I’m about to lose my *&%$#@!
But what if we taught our kids to engage in self care as well? What if we asked them what activities make them feel calm and happy? What if we schedule time for the whole family to engage in self care, individually if that’s what’s needed? Would everyone will learn to respect each other’s needs and boundaries? It might not be easy at first, but it might also be worth a try…