When I had my first baby, I was so focused on the pregnancy and preparing myself for a natural birth that I didn’t do a lot of mental preparation for motherhood. And I soon discovered that motherhood is hard. For me, one of the most difficult transitions was getting used to the idea that I was not in control – particularly regarding my time. Suddenly, there’s a tiny, adorable human tyrant deciding when you can and can’t sleep and whether you’ll actually get that shower you’ve desperately needed for the past 72 hours. I think this shift is particularly hard for moms of newborns, especially if the newborn is high needs and needs to be close at all times in order to be content (ahem, my firstborn).
Now with a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and a baby on the way, even a trip to the bathroom by myself feels super luxurious. And truthfully, not having a minute alone can make you feel a little nutty (even for an extrovert like me). But I’ve learned to incorporate some calming daily rituals into my life and make the time I need for renewal a priority so that I can be the kind of mom I strive to be. Here’s what I’ve discovered:
Figure out what refreshes you.
I’ve realized that I occasionally need a change of scene (going out for a cup of coffee with a novel to read by myself) as well as time with other grownups, be it a date night with my husband or a girls night with my friends. When I’m able to be by myself and/or enjoying the company of other grownups on a regular basis, I feel energized to be really present and engaged when I’m with my kids. But you other mamas might be refreshed by working out, or using your artistic creativity (of which I have none) or whatever feeds your soul.
Use a different part of your brain.
Now, you won’t ever catch me saying that caring for little ones is mindless work. Keeping my family well, nourished, and happy is valuable and beautiful work that uses every ounce of my intellectual creativity and mental energy. However, let’s not pretend that washing cloth diapers and entertaining toddlers is the same sort of work as writing a dissertation. It’s refreshing to stimulate a different part of your brain. I like to do this by reading a classic, enjoying an interesting conversation with other grownups, or writing and blogging. What refreshes your mind?
For moms of little ones, the days can be…well...loud. By the time the kids are in bed, I really need some quiet time. I love being connected via my blog and social media, but sometimes I really need to unplug. It relaxes and refreshes me to take a hot bath after the kids go to sleep and quietly think about my day. Spending time in prayer with the computer and cell phone turned off also nourishes my soul, so I try to sneak in at least one decade of the Rosary before the kids get up or during naptime if I can.
Make a plan.
Figure out how to get the time you need to stay sane. For instance, Saturday mornings are my “me” time. My husband watches the kids while I go grab a cup of coffee and catch up on blogging for an hour or two. It’s so much easier to enjoy the week when I know I’m going to get a little break to be all by myself. We also try to go on a weekly date night. Having those two weekly “breaks” blocked out keeps me refreshed.
But let’s be honest: there’s times in life when it feels nearly impossible to get that sanity-saving time for yourself. Because we practice ecological breastfeeding, I’m not separated from my baby for his/her first few months in the world. So, when we have a newborn…alone time? What’s that?! And if no family lives nearby and getting a babysitter isn’t in the budget the idea of a regular date night is laughable. That’s when you have to get creative. Take a bath when the baby’s napping. Read a few pages of a novel while you nurse or feed your baby. Have a date night in instead of a date night out (cook together after the kids are in bed, open a bottle of wine, and set aside the evening to enjoy each other’s company even if you can’t go to your favorite restaurant).
Try to creatively sneak in those moments that nourish you. And when those times are few and far between, remember that your little one(s) won’t be little forever and live in the moment (even if it’s a moment of chaos)!
What refreshing moments each week do you need in order to stay sane as a mama?