The last two nights my daughter and I have settled down before bed with a cup of ginger tea, some light snacks and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls. We’ve been watching GG for a while now (we’re on season 5) and she loves it (I watched it when it originally ran and loved it then too). It’s become our quiet girl time at the end of hectic toddler-centric chaotic days. Being in our new home, with it’s new set up, is giving us permission to start new routines and rituals; new ways of caring for ourselves and each other; new ways of being together.
As we settle more into our new home, we are settling back into some of our old routines and rituals, too. This weekend the office got more unpacked and out came the magazines and scissors and glue sticks and pushpins, along with the bulletin boards and blank journals. My girl and I each started new intuitive collage boards and she has been filling up her new “inspiration journal” with magazine cuttings and her own sketches.
I have been trying, and floundering a bit, to find my own ritual again with writing. Writing is my main form of self-care. Getting my thoughts out on the screen or page is so fulfilling for me and grounds me in a way that nothing else can. It allows me to empty my head so I can be more present and in my body. Stream of conscious writing allows me the space for insights and understanding, of myself, my children, and others. I have tried many times, even before the move, to write at the end of the day, to empty my head so I can settle into sleep. And the truth is I am so depleted by the time I can get a few moments of quiet to gather my thoughts, that what I really need to simply zone out a bit: watch some TV, read a book, catch up on some blogs, text with friends. Each of those is also a form of self-care and each one helps to center and ground me in its own way, helping me to replenish and relax. They are my real end-of-day grounding, giving me that small break between the chaos of the day that has been and the chaos of bedtime that is to come. It gives me that needed time to replenish so that bedtime doesn’t end in meltdowns (mine) or screaming (mine) or tears (mine). (It doesn’t guarantee they won’t meltdown or scream or cry, but it gives me the reserves to manage their emotions calmly and lovingly).
This morning the stars aligned and I am up before the toddler and sitting at the laptop and writing. As I was making my coffee my daughter awoke, came downstairs and got her own breakfast. We said our good-mornings and I came up to the office and started to write and then a few moments later she came in and grabbed her inspiration journal to draw in while she watches a YouTube video (or five). I am feeling this new ritual, of up before my toddler, being born and am thinking it may be time to start going to bed earlier so I can have these quiet mornings I so desperately need to start my days.
I am not a morning person, or really a night person either. I have always needed to come into the world slowly as I wake. At various points in my life I have been able to honor this, and at other times not so much. The last few days have been filled with intensity and meltdowns (mine and theirs) and exhaustion (mine and theirs) as we figure out how to function without naps during the day (over-tired toddler, over-wrought mama, over-stimulated almost-preteen). Yesterday, as I took little breaks to breathe, and then once my husband was home, a slightly longer break to replenish, I remembered again my desperate need to start the mornings on my terms, and not theirs.
I don’t have much control in the chaos of toddler and preteen life. The oddest things (to me) set either of them off into tears and frustration. I, of course, do my best to create an interesting life for the two of them, always playing with the ebb and flow of activity and downtime to meet their ever-changing needs. I can find myself so focused on creating a good life for them that I forget to create the pockets I need for my own well-being. As mamas this happens often, we get so hyper focused on creating the “perfect” (ha!) life for our children that we deplete ourselves and find ourselves unsatisfied and frustrated. This is what it is to be a parent in this modern age.
Yet, we need to remember to care for ourselves. The ebb and flow of focus on them and then on us is healthy and natural. Our children need to see us caring for ourselves so they can learn to do the same. They need to see us pursuing our passions so they will have the courage to do the same. They need to watch us set boundaries and give space for us to replenish ourselves, so as they grow older they know it is okay for them to do the same.
This is how we model self-care: not by taking care of them every moment of the day, but by slowing down and sometimes even stopping and taking care of ourselves, and allowing them to witness this ritual. It is in modeling for them this natural ebb and flow (sometimes I am focused on you and sometimes I need to be focused on me) that they learn it for themselves.
How do you take little breaks in your day to replenish and nourish yourself? How do you model self-care and self-love for your children? How do you create a fulfilling life for yourself?
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