A Low Bar For Self Care

My morning routines may not seem like much, especially considering most mornings my sink is more full than empty, my daughter is no doubt walking around the house with one slipper on, no pants, her hair still slightly messy from her sleep. Toys make up most of the space on the floor and at any given time my TV is playing Super Simple Learning Songs around the clock. From the outside looking it, I am sure there are handfuls of people that will wonder what in the hell I am doing with all my time.

For most stay-at-home parents, this is the norm and they are used to constantly drowning they don’t really expect a lifeline. They’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I never get to drink my coffee hot, I’ve stepped on more half-eaten ArrowRoot cookies than I can count, there are a lot of days when I don’t brush my teeth or my hair until late in the evening, track pants and old tees are my new fashion trend and all of my showers are taken with a small human at my feet, occasionally looking up at me from that very observant spot between my legs.

This is parenting.

I’m so used to it at this point, I don’t even know how I would function if things changed.

Today, while scrolling through Instagram, I saw something that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. It was a post by @scarymommy that had me pausing and rethinking the way I did everything.

To sum up, it pretty much said there has never been an instance where taking a shower, washing your face, or brushing your teeth has been considered self-care for dads, so why is it that when a mom gets to spend an hour by herself doing errands, taking a shower or doing anything any normal person gets to do as a daily part of their routine, the world stop and screams “Self-care!”?

Life for moms is rough. Someone who I love who tells it as it is; Chrissy Teigen will be the first one to clap back at anyone who questions her parenting, but having those questions and comments thrown out at her in the first place is not only eye-opening but completely normal in this day and age.

We live in a time where taking a moment to breathe sans kids is considered negligent. Where sitting at the park and pulling out your phone to message people about your day as your kids play ten feet away is enough to call the authorities about in the eyes of All-Knowing Amys and Judgmental Judys.

When did moms become these less-than-human things who had to live for their kids every moment of every day? Who isn’t allowed to admit they need time to themselves without being made out to seem like complete monsters.

Even I am guilty of calling things that should be my basic human rights self-care, when in reality, if I kept the bar where it had been before having my daughter, I haven’t received a single moment of self-care since becoming pregnant.

Society is failing moms, and for every troll on the internet that has the audacity to call a mom who dares go out for a drink with their girlfriends a bad mom, we fall lower and lower.

Sure, this isn’t the life of every stay-at-home parent. Some parents who stay home get up with an alarm clock every day, take a solo shower, put on their faces and get dressed without a child ever even popping up. But more often than not, that isn’t the case. It may be a few days, or even weeks before you see a make-up brush. Dry-Shampoo may know you better than your shower does, and although that is okay, don’t settle for the little things and tell yourself it’s big.

As parents, especially as mothers, we’ve earned the right the have guilt-free time to ourselves. We’ve earned time to work on our mental health and emotional wellbeing without someone saying that doing so makes us bad mothers. We deserve a lot more than we’re given and shouldn’t be shamed for saying so.

Basic care is not the self-care we desperately need and pretending it is maybe more damaging than helpful.

Look, I am just as guilty as every other parent out there. I’ve hidden out of view behind the couch eating a snack I didn’t want to share and raised a ”Self-Care” flag in triumph. I’ve gotten ready; makeup, hair, clothes, without being interrupted and dubbed that alone time as self-care. As ridiculous as it may seem, those stolen moments without a child attached to me are blissful.

But I deserve more, parents deserve more.

Mothers deserve more.

Let’s stop pretending basic care is enough.

Day 3: New Me

Last entry, I talked about the toxic lifestyle of pushing things off until tomorrow. This is something I have been extremely guilty of lately. After months and months of living like this, Sunday was the day I looked at myself and said; “No more!”

After a bit of research, it seems like it takes 66 days for something to become a habit. That means I will need to overcome my recently weak willpower for 66 consecutive days if I am hoping to make this new lifestyle I have in mind a reality.

I am going to be honest with you, this seems like a really tall order. With a fussy baby in tow, sometimes it seems like I will not get the 30 minutes I will need a day to do my stretches and my small workout. Especially lately, when co-sleeping with my 5-month-old is threatening to be the death of me. I wake up with less energy than I had going to bed and the idea of dedicating 30, undisturbed minutes of my day to working out instead of logging off and just vegging, seems like a major task.

I am stronger than my procrastination… at least that is what I am telling myself.

A lot of women, especially after becoming a mother, forget about their strength. They fall into survival mode, forgetting to take a moment to think “Holy crap! I made an entire human being in a mere 9 months. When all of that was done with, I summoned the strength needed to push that baby out. Exhausted, worn, and feeling a little bit like I have been in a car accident. I had a meagre 24 hours to heal with help before being handed this tiny amazing thing I had just created, and being sent home to weather the rest of the storm of parenting on my own. Nervous, and still healing myself, I am suddenly in charge of this little being. I have to be their everything, 24 hours a day. That is amazing. I am amazing.’

Really, to all the parent out there, I am there with you. I appreciate your sacrifice, I see your worth, your beauty, your strength. It really is amazing.

We are amazing.

Pregnancy is hard. Childbirth is hard. Parenting is hard.

Admitting that to other people seems to be one of the most difficult things any of us have to do. Something so many of us refuses to do.

Why?

Nothing worthwhile comes easy. It only makes sense that one of the most important things you will ever do be a struggle. Boy, is it a struggle. Some days I feel like I don’t have the strength in me to roll out of bed. Exhausted and worn, emotionally broken, I find a way. For my daughter.

So, this is day 3 of 66.

I cheated a little bit yesterday and only did stretches because I wasn’t prepared for how sore my body would be after just a small workout. Sure, it has been months, but I was feeling like I had been caught in a wave, unable to get out of it and back to the surface. My body was aching, I was so weak, it was definitely not something I thought would be as difficult as it was. Yet, I would still count it as a win because before Sunday I would have used my soreness and fatigue as an excuse to do nothing that day.

66 days.

I can do this!

Don’t Sink Into the Quicksand of ‘Tomorrow’.

I can tell you the moment it all began. It was the 17th of August, my last official day of working before the year I would have off for maternity leave. I told myself I was going to stay active. Working as I did as a nanny to twin toddlers, meant that I was always on the go, even when I didn’t want to be.

It was great, being on the move so much as my beautiful daughter was growing in my belly. It meant that I was healthy, I was fit, I was the best possible vessel to carry the budding baby girl in my belly. As tired as my job made me most days, I was happy that this was the job I had, this was the active lifestyle that made most of the weight targeted to just my belly, that kept me bending down to tie my shoes (most days), that just made me feel a little more ready than I would have sitting at a desk all day.

The first official day I had off, I slept in obnoxiously late. I ate more than I should have and if I am being completely honest, I am not sure I even moved from the couch that day. I had unknowingly planted the seed of laziness in myself.

My goal was to have at least one long walk a day. I would get Toblerone all ready, put on a little backpack with water for him and myself in there and I would go for a long walk, that would last at least an hour a day so that I could stay in the best shape I could until my baby arrived.

Well, summer was not kind.

Here in Toronto, there was heatwave after heatwave. I would get ready in the morning to walk my dog, and once I stepped into that wall of heat, my mind would change completely.

Screw that. Was usually my thought as I hobbled back inside, shed every piece of clothing I could without being completely naked and resumed my post on the couch. I binge-watched more Netflix than I care to admit, snacked constantly and kept telling myself ‘I will do it tomorrow.’

The problem with that mentality is it is quicksand. Every day, the reminder that something could always be accomplished tomorrow prevented me from accomplishing anything today. If I could go back to August, I would push myself and prevent that seed from ever being planted.

Why? Well, because back then when I was still plump with child, all I had was time. I had time to go for long walks, I had time to enjoy the sunshine, I had time to get things done. I could have written more, I could have read more, I could have edited a lot of my written work that is now sitting around in hardcopy collecting dust. I could have reminded myself that, although there is a lot I can accomplish tomorrow, there is more still I can accomplish today.

Start something today, and finish it tomorrow, only if you run out of time.

Now, time is something I just don’t have.

Sleepless nights drag into sluggish days. A baby takes up a lot more time than you would have thought and those hours you thought you would have when your baby is rested, aren’t long enough if you even get them.

It’s hard on you mentally, especially as a mother. You forget that outside of a mother, you are also a person. You put off self-care. You put off showers, and hair cuts, and brushing your teeth, you put off workouts, and lunches, and socializing. Everything gets put off as you are sinking in the quicksand of ‘Well, maybe tomorrow.’

Time changes when you are a parent, your mind becomes mush, and if you are a mother, your body is this new thing you aren’t used to anymore. I was this thin little person before. After giving birth, I lost the bulk of my weight. I really shouldn’t complain, I know there are those who are having a lot more trouble than I am losing weight or feeling like themselves again, but each of our journeys is our own, and we are allowed to feel sad, to feel helpless. We are allowed to experience whatever we do because our struggles are not comparable, and the sooner we realize that the sooner we can be happy with ourselves and with our fellow mommies and daddies.

The biggest thing I am having trouble coping with is the fact that suddenly, after 28 years, I can feel my stomach moving when I walk. It’s such a small thing, but it’s something I am so aware of. It’s new and a little unnerving.

So one of my biggest goals since becoming a mommy was to get more into fitness. To workout and stretch and feel good. This has been the biggest thing I have been putting off for tomorrow. I have been putting it off for tomorrow for 5 months now.

It’s hard. I co-sleep, so most mornings I wake up more tired than I was when I went to bed. My husband works most days and usually, he works until late. Which means the plan to get to the gym as often as I wanted is another thing I have been putting off. Mostly because when he is off, that is time I would rather spend together as a family than at the gym. Most days I feel like I am sleepwalking through the day, more exhausted than alert, a plaything for my daughter, until he gets home. He spends a mere hour with her before her bedtime and then the cycle continues.

Did I mention being a parent is hard?

This morning I woke up completely worn. I zombie-walked out to the living room, put my daughter in her jumper while I went back down the hall to brush my teeth. There was nothing I wanted more than some decaf and to just sit by myself for thirty or so minutes until she became bored and it was time to kick my day into gear.

Brushing my teeth, I looked at myself. My hair hasn’t been washed, my skin is oily, and I look like this blurred vision of who I was before. I decided right then than there that tomorrow wouldn’t be the day. Today would.

Today would be the day where I stopped sinking in that quicksand and started living a little bit more for myself.

Today.

Teeth brushed, face washed, I opened my workout app on my iPad and pushed everything out of the way. I put on The Greatest Showman (yes, she is still obsessed with this movie) knowing it would give me the 30 minutes I needed to get started.

Today.

I completed my workout, downed two large glasses of water and then sat down to write this blog. Writing has always been my passion, and it is something I have almost given up on lately. There isn’t enough time in the day, or so that was what I was telling myself. I thought I would never get the consistent time I needed to write something worth reading. I would never get to re-read the novel I am editing and hoping to have published sooner rather than later.

If you want something badly enough, there is enough time. You just have to use those little moments whenever you get them. Sure, it’s not the way you thought you could do it, but you can push through and accomplish those goals so long as you claw your way out of the quicksand of ‘tomorrow’ because once you start to sink, it can be so hard to find your way back.

This is just day one for me. I still have sand all over me and can still feel that seed of laziness fighting to bloom inside me.

I just hope that I can keep this up until it becomes a routine, and then until it becomes a lifestyle.

Here’s to that hope.

Taking Time For Yourself

After hitting about my fifth month, the routine I seem to follow when I am off is sleeping in as long as I can, eating as much as I can, and living on my couch. I work long hours, the hours I work are physical and require a lot of walking and being out in the heat and sun, so by the end of the week, exhaustion is just a word that doesn’t even begin to describe how I am feeling come Saturday morning… okay, okay afternoon.

Falling into this kind of routine may lead you to believe you are giving yourself the rest you need, and physically, maybe you are. But I have started to see a change in my mood lately. There has been a slow decline and now I am at the point where I literally don’t know what to do with myself.

My husband was the one who looked over at me one day and said; “You should do something for yourself. Go to a spa, get your feet done.” At the time, I was in the middle of my lazy routine. My feet were up, my socks and shorts were on the floor and I was watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine in my underwear. I let out a groan to let him know that I had heard him, but just continued on with my day.

Lately though the thought has been banging around in my head. As my stomach grows and less and less of my clothes fit (I still haven’t taken the jump into maternity clothes yet, and at this point of my pregnancy I don’t think I will) I have been taking less effort with my overall appearance. Now, a week or so of this isn’t much of a big deal, but months of this has me feeling rather “Blah”.

My sister is the kind of person whose appearance is always exactly what she wants it to be. She has this confidence that I wouldn’t even know what to do with. Whatever she wants to wear, she wears, whatever she wants to do, she does. It’s admirable. Her hair is always dyed some unique colour, she is amazing at make-up, so she always looks like she is ready to go out somewhere or have her picture taken.

She tends to get things like her nails done regularly. I am more of a low maintenance person in regards to my appearance, but have recently decided that it was worth trying just to see how routine beauty maintenance could make you feel in the long run.

Personally, I don’t think it’s for me. I think I am more the kind of person that would enjoy having a few hours to read a book, or do some writing. I would like an hour to just go kayaking or SUP boarding. I would love to spend the day in the lake with my dog, letting him swim around with no schedule.

Whatever makes you happy, I think it’s super important to start a routine of it during your pregnancy. After the baby comes, you may not get that time to yourself. If possible after pregnancy, it would be good to at least get a weekly thing scheduled on your calendar where you and the baby, and if possible, your partner could go out, get out of the house and do something together.

Through my whole pregnancy I have been telling myself I am going to do a prenatal yoga class. I have found a place that seems great because it has classes for when you are pregnancy, it has classes for after you deliver where you can bring you baby with you and they teach you baby massages and stretches and stuff like that. I think it would be a good thing to get you out of the house for an hour or so, give you a chance to socialize in a time where you may feel a little isolated.

I am going to toy with a few ideas today, and hopefully I will have an update for you guys in a few days.

Until next time…