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Scrambling for Self-Care

Frustrated.  Momming is hard.  Today, I broke down during breakfast time and I can’t remember what it was that husband said to piss me off and send me into this rabbit hole.  Bummer.  I guess… perhaps it’s better that I can’t remember what the specific comment was – I would be hanging onto whatever he said instead of moving through my emotions.  Here’s the thought that keeps rushing through my head:  “If I’m going to be doing all this domestic housewife bullshit stuff, I should at least be able to keep my eyebrows waxed and purchase a bra that fits… maybe even visit Target occasionally and not feel bad about not packing my lunch or getting a coffee made for me or buying a new top that makes me feel good.”  This is the type of shit that develops in my mind as I watch the husband wash his plate after breakfast.  Sounds great, right?  Oh… at least he does the dishes!  Yeah – he washes off his plate and scrubs his fork real good – over a completely FULL sink of dishes from the night before!!

One of the fun (but completely serious) slogans that runs around my family is “I love a man with dishpan hands”.  My dad is an awesome dishwasher (not that we didn’t learn to do our share) and when Nate first came to my parent’s house he learned real quickly that while I won’t ever shy away from the dishes, I really appreciate it when he jumps on that sink and whips them out.  He enjoys it too, and we both love a clean kitchen.  Sure, I could have done the dishes last night while he was off playing soccer, but somehow spending all day with a toddler, making a dish for a potluck, enjoying the potluck with new friends then doing bath and bedtime alone just didn’t leave a whole lot of energy for cleaning the kitchen (at 10pm).  But I digress… the dishes are still piled high up there in the kitchen.  They’ve multiplied because I’ve since made breakfast and lunch for the babe.  I got her to school, then back home to make my own bite to eat and a cup of coffee.  These words were yearning to get out of me so I made a b-line to the office and am allowing this time to express.  The pressure of all of these thoughts and ideas is pretty much as intense as the pressure that builds when you need to breastfeed.  It can be painful.  But then difficult if you wait too long and your boobs are hard.  I have enough of these words floating around in my head to write a few times a day, I’d imagine.  So why don’t I do it?  Well… I feel it goes back to that whole domestic housewife bullshit…

Before I go too deep here, let me be very clear about how grateful I am for my family and my life right now.  This is not a platform to bitch and moan about how terrible it is to have an awesome toddler, a loving husband, and a great house and to live in on an island.  We have grandparents close who LOVE to help watch the babe.  They live just down the road and have a pool and boats in the water.  They have a beautiful kitchen and enjoy letting us use it to cook delicious family meals.  They take us out to dinner occasionally and get a kick out of making sure the babe is fashionably dressed for all occasions.   They have given us the opportunity to start and grow a business instead of working for someone else, which is a true testament to their faith in our ideas, abilities and how much they enjoy having us here close to them.  I don’t “have it hard” by any means.  We buy organic food; we have all the kitchen appliances we could ever need; we drink filtered water and craft beer; we just leased a brand new car and otherwise use an open-air electric buggy for island travel.  We have all the things you need for boat/beach/island life.  I am grateful every single day for where we are and what is provided for us.  We work hard and we very much appreciate the life we are allowed to lead.

So why is it so damn hard to be good to myself?  Why do I feel so taxed?  If everyone is healthy, happy and appreciative of our life, why do I spend a morning crying over dishes?  (To be fair, it really isn’t the dishes that I’m crying over – it’s just too good of a metaphor to not use).

It’s because momming is hard.  These domestic duties are the most underappreciated, yet super critical parts of raising a family – whether there are kids involved or not.  The laundry, cleaning, shuttling, shopping, cooking, and yup – dishes, MUST get done.  I believe full-heartedly that women are amazingly capable of handling all of these things, even while trying to work on the side.  Some friends of mine are total super-hero status and doing #allthethings with full time jobs and large commutes.  (Or… at least I know they’re doing the job and the commute part – #allthethings might be different for them).  I also know some women who have absolutely zero help in the household – either they’re single parents or that’s just the deal they’ve got with their spouse.  To these women, I bow my head… you are doing such an amazing job just keeping your head above water and I commend you.  I wish that I could help you, and perhaps sharing my journey in all its “glory” in some way will.  (Or perhaps you’re just happy as can be in your situation.  I certainly don’t want to be the one to bring attention to that which doesn’t already bother you!).  But here’s the thing: the struggle is real.  I know I’m not alone in these feelings.  And a lot of it is self-perpetuated by the stories in our head.  The story that sounds a lot like the one I was telling myself this morning – about how I can’t seem to wax my eyebrows or find a bra that fits because I’m doing too much momming.  Hmmmm…. Is that the case?  Or am I not prioritizing my well-being out of fear that the family will fall apart without me?  Woah.  Please hang on a sec while I call to make an appointment for my eyebrows…

And just like that I’ll have these puppies taken care of at noon.

So, as I said before, women are designed to be able to take care of #allthethings and have a life at the same time.  At least, this is what most of my elective input (blogs, books and articles I find time to read) is telling me these days, and it makes good sense to me.  We are excellent multi-taskers.  We are nurturing by instinct.  We are clever and typically patient.  We have unwavering love.  We are giving.  We are creative.  We are seductive.  We are strong.  We are smart.

On the other hand, we can feel alone.  We can beat ourselves up for all that we don’t get done.  We can be mean – to ourselves and others.  We prioritize everyone else before ourselves.  We’ve been led to believe that our bodies are not perfect just the way they are.  We tell ourselves we have to work harder.  We’re trying so hard to keep up in a masculine-driven world.  We think of our cycle as a nuisance and do everything we can to alter it and control it.  We’ve let the doctors, government and media muffle our intuition.  We’ve given our power away in ways we can hardly see anymore – all in the name of “feminism” and “progress”.  Yikes.

So, what to do?

How does it feel to hear me say all of this?  Are you a mother who is struggling?  Are you a partner who is watching the women in your life struggle?  Can you remember your mother’s own struggle?  Or perhaps she was strong, brave and set a good example for you by taking time to herself.  Perhaps she kept her struggle to herself and you never saw it.  I know my mother would never actually admit that any of this was hard for her… but how is that possible?  Nothing about three kids, a career in nursing and a husband who travels for work sounds easy.  Life is full of challenges.  There are ups and downs and surprises that surround every single experience.  We actually have very little control over #allthethings even though we spend so much energy on them.  The only things we do have control over are our own reaction to the moment and the way we chose to take action going forward.

So here’s what I plan to do: I am giving myself permission to put my own needs at the top of my “to-do’s”.  For the last few years I’ve been telling myself “You can’t pour from an empty vessel,” but I haven’t done shit about it.  I know it to be true – especially on days like today when I find myself feeling broken and upset over bushy eyebrows and dirty dishes – but it’s hard to make the changes that are needed to make a difference.  Every night I journal and ask myself the same questions about my day.  I ask what I worked on, what went well, what didn’t.  I make notes about my sleep, energy, phase of my cycle and the moon.  I list things I’m grateful for.  Then I think about the next day.  The current habit is to just list the things that need to be done (I use a cyclical format, thanks to the insight of Kate Northrup’s Origin planner) and I don’t look at it again until the following night.  From now on, I’m going to add to my questions and to my daily planning at least ONE thing I am going to do for myself – Every. Single. Day.  Something that isn’t a “need”, but more of a “want”.  For a long time, I have been looking back on my day and turning something that wasn’t productive I enjoyed/seemed relaxing into “self-care”.  So, things like showering, taking a walk, waxing my eyebrows, finding clothes that fit, eating lunch outside or having dessert, turned into check-marks on the self-care-do list.  It’s OK that these things qualify as self-care, but it’s important to have intention around them.  It’s hard to count as self-care when you’re only labeling it that after the fact.  The whole idea is to indulge in something that truly helps you restore yourself, which means that you need to be aware of that feeling.  It needs to have intention in order to work.

That’s my plan – to create awareness around the little things I do, daily, that bring me joy.  I’m going to spotlight them and prioritize getting them done.  My hope is that they become second nature and no longer special, but normal for my schedule so I can begin to see other ways to do even more for myself.  I also plan to stop excusing myself for prioritizing these things as if they don’t matter.  They matter.  I don’t need to apologize to anyone for taking care of myself.  To use the vessel analogy: if each of these little things, like showering and waxing my eyebrows are adding to my vessel, they’re doing so in tablespoon increments.  What can I do for myself that fills my vessel by the cup?  Or even by the gallon??  I don’t know the answer to that yet, but as I appreciate the small stuff, it will surely improve and I will be more open to the new opportunities that will eventually show up.

What’s your plan?  Where do you fall on the self-care spectrum?  Are you a beginner, like me, and need to find the small things that make you feel better?  Or are you an expert and have no problem carving out the time you need to rejuvenate on a regular basis?  I’m really interested in how this looks for other people out there – parenting or not – so please let me know in the comments.

When we open up this conversation it will help shine a light on this issue that so many people bury deep down.  Burying things like this deep down is an excellent way to invite dis-ease and pain into your life.  No thank you.  Having courage and confidence to speak up for what we need and want it life is a key factor to living that life we’d Rather Be Living.

Thanks for doing your part!

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  • Reply
    April 11, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Such a great post about what women go through trying to care for themselves and their families. It is so hard. I don’t think anyone has this figured out and even if we do figure it out for a while unless we practice every day it falls to the bottom of the list. I know I have gone through phases in my life for sure. I think if you start with the small stuff it expands. I recently converted our dining room into my writing and art studio. It has made a HUGE difference claiming my space in the house, and everyone knows this is mom’s space. It seems small, but for my outlook on my care it has made a big difference. Peta Sklarz

    • Reply
      April 11, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you for your insight, Peta. I’ve been following you on Instagram and have noticed much more art and very frequent writing on your blog. I’m so glad you’ve claimed your space!! I’m reminded every single day how ever-changing this whole momming thing really is… Staying fluid and open can sometimes be so hard. I hope we’re both helping other women claim their identity beyond “mom” with our individual growth and practice!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2018 at 4:43 pm


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