I am a stay at home mom with a six year old in grade R (kindergarten), three and a half year old twins, who are home with me, and a new baby due some time in the next month or so. Balancing their needs (also the needs of my wonderful husband, who is usually more helpful than needy) with my needs is a daily effort. Finding ways to take care of myself, while having three little people who are very good at making their wants and wishes known, is not usually easy.
In some ways taking care of myself is very easy for me. There are a lot of activities I like that are self focused. It could be easy to spend lots of time focused on things that I find rejuvenating and re-centering, but I don’t actually prioritize it that much, partly just from lack of clarity around how much to put these things at the top of my to-do list.
Being 35 weeks pregnant, my care of my body and diet clearly has a direct impact on another person, which makes at least certain parts of self-care easier to prioritize. Baby can’t grow if I don’t feed myself, sleep lots, and rest more than normal. These things are more easily done without feeling guilty when there are such clear repercussions.
But other things are really hard for me to balance. Exercise is hard because what I would like to do most requires travel and then I feel guilty using resources just because I like looking at the ocean instead of houses. But then I exercise less because I like it less. So is it better?
I care a lot about how I look and feel in my clothes. This one is hard for me because I’ve learned that I really need to have clothes that are comfortable for me. Something that doesn’t sit right or has itchy stitching – these things quickly overload me on a sensory level and detracts from my ability to focus on a conversation or interaction. So I end up spending money on more expensive clothes and then find I can’t actually wear them. However, it’s too late to return the clothes, so end up giving them away thereby wasting more resources. But if I don’t, then I am absolutely negatively impacted by forcing myself to wear them and then being overwhelmed before I even leave the house. So where is that balance? How much time do I spend away from my kids trying and re-trying clothes to be sure they’re perfect so I don’t keep buying the wrong clothes?
TV is another one that I wonder about. Every evening after putting the kids to bed, all I can think about is how much I want to watch TV. I limit the amount of time my kids spend watching TV. And I limit my own also but not as carefully as my kids’. But I could go to bed even earlier or get more things done if I didn’t watch TV. But I like it. As a creative medium, I enjoy TV and find it actually refreshing and relaxing. But how much is too much – when does it cross from an exercise in relaxation to an addictive behavior that is stopping me from being productive or engaging with people?
I think that the things I have had to figure out about these things, each time I’ve been pregnant, have helped me find ways to focus on the right things. Instead of obsessing about being thin, I can focus on being healthy. I can remember that I have a healthy body that can take a lot of work and strain, but also has limits. I have a husband who maintains that he is attracted to me even when I don’t feel like I’m the most fit, the best dressed, or most put together looking. Even if I sometimes waste resources (buying clothes and then give them away) someone still benefits, and by accepting it and dealing with it without stressing, but rather finding a way to re-balance, it’s usually ok.
I guess this is just going to be a daily balancing act for me, as with most people probably. But I sort of wish I had more guidelines for myself to make the decisions clearer and simpler. What have you figured out about the line between being selfish and caring for yourself appropriately? What do you find makes the biggest difference to you in caring for yourself?