Peaceful parenting is not a bag of tricks. It’s more of a commitment to love your children unconditionally, to teach them through connection and influence rather than control, and to be someone you want them to imitate. It requires you to do your best day in and day out. So part of being an excellent parent is learning to thrive yourself.
Self-care gets talked about a lot in mama circles so I think there’s a recognition that it should be happening. But I also think it’s important to have your own definition of what that means to you. It’s pretty easy to look at self-care as a big to-do list. And unmanageable to-do lists have a way of turning into to-feel-guilty-about lists even if we think we want to be doing what’s on the list.
Here’s why self-care really does matter:
1. You deserve to be thriving because this is it lady - this is your life!
2. Your children are learning how to treat themselves and how to be healthy grownups by watching you.
3. You are a limited resource, the well can definitely run dry, and burn-out is not pretty.
4. You set the tone - happy mama, happy family.
How to create your own definition of self-care:
1. Reflect on what really matters to you and what helps you to be your best, most healthy self. Create a vision of what it looks like for you to be a thriving mama.
2. Adapt your expectations to the parenting season that you’re in but don’t give up on any area of your health.
3. Keep your dreams for yourself alive by putting a spark of them into every day or week.
4. Cultivate gratitude for this piece of the vision that you are putting into your life right now.
If your vision for yourself is to be a runner but you have a newborn, you might have to adjust your expectations for the first few months. Maybe to keep your vision alive you need to get a short run in 3 days a week so you find a way for someone to watch the baby while you do that. Later when baby is old enough to go in the jogging stroller, you can move a bit closer to your vision by taking a short run every day.
If you thrive as a writer, maybe you find lots of time to write while your baby naps regularly, but when she turns into a very busy older toddler with unpredictable naps and you have a new baby too, that daily writing time becomes impossible. So perhaps your partner starts taking over the bedtime routine so every night at seven you get an hour to write. Some nights it doesn’t go so well, so you don’t always get that time, but you keep the spark alive by holding the space for it as much as you can.
Motherhood is not always a hindrance to self-care, not by any means! There are many ways that I meet my own needs in the context of being a mother. I’m motivated to prepare healthy meals and I’m home to cook them, I’ve met most of my closest friends as a mother and I often get to spend a whole morning chatting with them while our children play, my kids get me outside walking and moving every day, they are often my inspiration to craft and make art, and I find a lot of creative fulfillment in planning our homeschool lessons.
Other things, like keeping up with my pre-children daily yoga practice and finding time to read, are a struggle. But this is my life, right here, right now. So I don’t put off what matters to me most - I find a way to keep a spark of it alive in the context of my current life season.
What is your vision for yourself?
How can you best move towards that vision (in little or big ways) in your current life season? How can you show your children what it means to be a healthy and thriving adult?
Nourishment: How do you want your family to eat? What kind of family meals do you share, what do you all snack on, how does it feel to prepare your family meals and how do they taste? What steps can you take towards this vision today?
Community: In an ideal world, what are the connections that you share with people outside your immediate family? What do your friendships look like, your family relationships, your community? How do you meet your need for conversation with other adults? What step can you take right now towards meeting this vision?
Solitude: How much peace and quiet do you need to thrive? What would you do if you had time alone? If there were no constraints, how much time would you like to have in solitude to read, write, craft, paint, journal, walk, listen to music, take a bath, exercise, meditate, etc.? Now adjust this to your current life season - what’s an essential piece of solitude that you can make space for in your life right now?
Sleep: How much sleep do you need to be at your best? Do you function best as a night owl or an early riser? If you aren’t getting the sleep that you need, what’s standing in the way of it and which factors are under your control? How can you get your best sleep in this current parenting season?
Movement: What’s the ideal amount of movement and exercise for your body? In what ways do you see yourself having an active lifestyle and how do you picture your family being active together? What kinds of movement help you feel energized, what helps you relax, and what helps you feel healthy and strong? How can you take steps toward your ideal level of fitness and movement in this current life season?
Spirit: How would you like to connect with spirit or serve a purpose bigger than yourself? How does your spirituality or religious life fit into your day to day family life? What are ways you can connect, worship, or serve during this life season?
Soul: What do you do that truly feeds your mind and your soul? What connects you with passion, purpose, and fulfillment? What do you enjoy learning, doing, and creating? How would you like to express your creativity in the world? Now what little piece of these things can you make happen in your current situation?