After the last year of lockdown, I find myself reflecting on how I was able to not just survive but have thrived (sometimes anyway;) This year has left me stretched thinner than I thought possible, it was definitely harder than nursing a colicky baby every hour for 6 months, that at least had an expiration date or so the pediatrician kept promising. I discovered strength I didn’t think that I had, I learned that I am not in fact as patient as I once thought, and I uncovered an unknown need for those playground chats with my fellow moms…I am choosing to find what makes me joyful and grasp it and experience it without guilt. I am a better mom, a better woman, a better friend, when I happily take the time to not just care for myself (showering regularly isn’t a luxury) but to give myself the pleasures I had forgotten that I needed.
As a single widowed mom of two incredibly energetic and social children, time is not on my side, there seems to be so little of it available that I sometimes wonder how it could possibly be dark outside when I finally sit down to relax for the evening. I lose whole days to meeting others needs, just to discover once everyone is tucked into bed for the night, that I have not eaten since breakfast or did I? Who knows? Fortunately these days are fewer than they have been in the past because I am working daily, scheduling the time, prioritizing myself for the greater good of my family. No one likes an angry mommy, especially when she’s the only human you get physical contact with!
I encourage you to do the same, prioritize your happiness and joy the way you would for your children. Some days it is possible to have it all, the kids are playing well without arguing, no one boycotted dinner, you hear laughter billowing through your home, it’s a miracle! Whatever you do, DO NOT use this time for anyone but yourself! Here are five things I am working on saying ‘YES” to without guilt to make everyone a little happier, but really this is for me.
1. MORE TIME SPENT PLAYING WITH MY KIDS!
I know it sounds counter productive but…after spending so much time caring for my children and being their everything, I find that I’ve forgotten to just have FUN! I forget the absolute unbounding joy of jumping on the trampoline, playing tag, having a dance party in the kitchen or just cackling together over a game of UNO. Laughing really is the absolute best medicine and in my opinion acting like a kid again is one of the best parts of being a parent.
Of course, everyone’s mood will improve when they enjoy time together. One of my favorite things to do with the children is express their creativity and my own. We do not always allow ourselves as adults to be silly, to act goofy, and to laugh uncontrollably at the smallest things. The pure joy and innocence of my children’s laughter is what life as a parent is all about. I ask you to put down the schedule, set the emails for work on hold for a moment, and seize these moments of rarity to share laughter and fun with your kids.
If for some odd reason UNO is not a part of your family game night, here is an Amazon link where you can purchase your very own card deck: here. Also, the kids and I recently did a Pinterest DIY make your own Tie-Dye…here is a link to that blog for additional fun ideas with the kids.
2. ALLOWING FOR AN UNPRODUCTIVE DAY OR TWO OR THREE!
This one is particularly difficult for me. I was raised in a don’t leave what you can do today until tomorrow household, which generally means my beds are all made, the laundry is folded and put away and the kitchen is always clean before I go to bed, not to mention whatever else happens to be on my plate that day. When I was a working mom this meant waking up early, going to bed late and scheduling loads of laundry for specific days just so I wouldn’t fall behind. As a stay at home mom, I mistakenly thought I would have more time available for these tasks, well I was really really wrong, add in lockdown and being newly solo parent…well let’s just say I owe myself some forgiveness for those expectations I placed upon myself.
This level of perfection comes at a cost which is generally is my time, sometimes my sanity. There are nights that turn into mornings before I can finally throw myself into bed. Allowing myself to accept imperfection and leave what isn’t essential to the next day without guilt is one of the greatest gifts I have given myself during the pandemic, and this habit is here to stay! Yes! It is absolutely okay to enjoy life rather than just get through it and to my surprise the world did not come to an end when my kitchen didn’t get cleaned before bed.
3. SPENDING TIME OUTSIDE QUIETLY.
Just that simple, in the sunlight, in the moonlight, sitting, walking any of it is all good. I get so wrapped up in cooking, homework, housework, electronics, tik-tok, netflix binge, my newest ebook that I forget to reconnect with the world around me. Sitting on my porch allows me to hear the birds, breath in the fresh air and re-center myself with the world around me. Sometimes I sit for less than five minutes because life happens, but some magical days I can spend a few hours going for a walk focusing on nothing but my own breathing.
To me, this is my form of peaceful meditation when I am not afforded the proper time and place to do traditional mindfulness work. Be present in the moment with nature and engage your senses in a mindfulness exercise. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? Accept the beauty that is around you no matter the weather or setting. If you look closely and engage your senses, you can find beauty in the simplest of things.
Every time I allow myself this time away I come back to my little world with the reminder of just how small a part of it I am, how trivial my problems are in the great scheme of the world and how not alone I am. Someone else has done these things before me, will do them after me and these things don’t define me or my life. This concept was hard for me to accept at first, but now liberating to live in the moment, even if it’s only for a moment each day.
4. ASKING FOR HELP!!!!
Scream it from the rooftops…I need HELP! Ask your kids for help, yes I am well aware that their help isn’t always helpful, but they have to learn to be a contributing part of the family at some point…today is that day! I frequently get offers of help from neighbors, friends, other moms but I am very hesitant to accept. It seems easier to just do it myself rather than explain what needs to be done, and I feel guilty for accepting what I cannot give back right now, time. Know that people genuinely want to help or they wouldn’t offer, I certainly don’t offer help that I am not happy to provide, when I do it’s out of kindness and understanding. Remember we’re not the first ones to have walked this path.
I live in an area with a large number of retired people, who have raised their kids (aka done the things I am now doing) and now have time to enjoy, so I probably get more offers of help than most people. The offers are always what they can spare. One recently was to take my dog on a run, my dog is a large breed and needs an outlet for her energy. I spend a large chunk of time daily running her around the yard and taking her for quick walks around the neighborhood and going with her for the many potty breaks a day. In the scheme of things a run isn’t going to change my whole world but it does gift me a little bit of time and every little bit helps.
5. SCHEDULING THAT MUCH NEEDED APPOINTMENT!
It can be the gynecologist appointment you just can’t make time for, the dermatologist to get your yearly skin cancer screening, heck even the visit to the hygienist for a teeth cleaning. Since you really should hire a babysitter for this, as small human’s literally peering into your vagina isn’t something I would suggest as a fun activity, go ahead and schedule the extra stuff while you’re at it. I enjoy my trips to my gynecologist because it’s also the day I make an appointment for my hair and a mani/pedi.
Schedule whatever it is that you have allowed to be put aside because of the something that took priority over your needs. As mom’s we are always putting our kids needs medical or otherwise over our own, this is the day or days, if needed to make yourself the top priority, your health and your mental health are vital!
If you can hire a babysitter and do these things regularly GREAT! I could at one point in my life as well, do it without guilt! If you can only get a sitter occasionally then use every second to your advantage! Maybe even except the help that you would have previously declined…however you manage to get the time you need…