“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” – Jill Bolte Taylor
As a homeschooling mom that does not work out of the home, I spend a lot of time with my kids. Most days I am giving my kids all of my time and energy. Countless times a day I will put their needs before my own. On one hand, this is an example of just how much they mean to me, yet it is not always a healthy and sustainable way of living. You know that speech that’s given whenever you fly on an airplane that in case of an emergency you must to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others? Well the same concept of self care should be applied to parenting. Five years into this motherhood gig and I’m still struggling with achieving that. I go through waves of balancing my own self care with theirs, but too often I will get lazy and just slip into the servant role. I say lazy because the truth is, for me it takes a lot of discipline to think of myself first. Their needs are often so forcefully demanded that I can’t see straight enough to recognize my own. I’ve found that in order to fit in time for myself I have to be so calculated that I actually schedule it on the calendar. Picking out a week ahead a yoga class I’d like to go to or scheduling a lunch date for some friend time. I made an effort in encouraging self care this fall by hiring a babysitter for a few hours during the week, but I’m finding myself using this time to run errands or even clean the house, which is easier to do sans kids, but not necessarily soul nourishing ways to spend my time.
When Big Brother was fourteen months old, I took what felt like at the time a bold move to plan my first weekend away from my baby and signed up for a yoga retreat that my dear friend was leading in the beautiful mountains of Vermont. I was a frazzled mess leaving him after spending every waking (and sleeping) minute with him for fourteen straight months. It felt like someone was cutting my arm off as I drove away. It took nearly half the retreat to relax and actually enjoy what it was I had set out to do. Somehow, between the constant phone calls to check in with my boys back home and numerous pumping sessions in my room (as I was still a nursing mama), I finally found a way to exhale and focus on just me. It was exhilarating and refreshing to remember myself and how good it felt to do things just for me. I left that weekend promising to myself that I would carry all that soul-filling goodness with me. And it lasted for a little while and then eventually faded into the background. This has been the roller coaster of self care for me ever since. I reach a peak in which I see clearly the ways I could attempt to take care of my needs and their needs on a daily basis and find a way to sustain it for a short time and then before I know it, I’m drowning in a sea of kid demands again. Since that yoga retreat though, I have managed to get myself back to that magical space about once a year. This past weekend was one of those escapes.
It was a gorgeous autumnal drive through the mountains heading up to the retreat center. I was excited to have the long road trip ahead of me with complete control over the stereo. Simple pleasures. Rather than compromising on Bruce Springsteen or Sesame Street songs (as requested by the men in my life) I commanded every playlist and podcast. I caught up on This American Life and sang at the top of my lungs to tunes that make me feel 22 again. The agenda at this retreat is crafted to perfection: grounding and energizing yoga, mouth-watering food, free time, repeat. The retreat center sits on 100+ acres of spectacular land. A working homestead with organic gardens, multiple ponds, a meditation gazebo, a dance pavilion with a fire pit, and trails that wander through forests, fields and even up to a hilltop that provides a breathtaking, expansive view of mountains for as far as the eye can see. So when we are not enjoying yoga or food, there is plenty of outdoor space to explore. Inside there are cozy nooks and comfy spots by the fireplace to sip a bottomless cup of tea while connecting with fellow yogis, or read a book, or as I did, crochet a hat (one of my favorite cold weather past times).
As I have the past four times I have visited this haven, I left feeling well rested, cared for, and rejuvenated. As I write this post, I am one day post retreat and happy that I have at least carried this peace with me for almost a whole day! The challenge comes with how to continue this path of peaceful, nourished mama. Ideally I find a way to connect and care for myself daily. Thankfully, I have an extremely supportive husband who is always willing to help me find the time for self care. It is up to me to schedule and take the time.
On my drive home, the weather was struggling to pick a personality. As I drove away it was a grey, drizzly sky but driving up and down the hilly roads brought waves of rain, then a burst of sun followed by a vibrant rainbow for a few moments then back to rain. This rainbow appeared three times during the course of my drive! Each time it made me gasp. All I could think of is how this flip-flop weather mimicked my dedication to self care. I am sometimes drenched in the downpour of my children’s needs then as the clouds dissipate and the sun peeks out, I find myself again and feel this bright shining rainbow in my heart as I dedicate time to my needs along side of theirs, only to be inevitably followed by yet another storm. And I don’t mean to imply that caring for my children is misery. Of course it’s far from that! But constant caring for my children without taking the time to care for myself is when the heartache sets in.
Maybe that’s just the ebb and flow of life? I know that if the day feels hard and my stress levels feel too heavy, if I stop and think about the last time I did something to replenish myself, the answer is almost always “a long time ago.” Does anyone find perfect balance? Fellow mamas how do you do it? How do you find a balance to self care and care for your kids?