Raise your hand if you can relate:
Life lessons always seem to be learned the “hard way.” You’re so busy juggling life and hurdling obstacles that more often than not it takes a near crisis for those long-awaited and much coveted “a-ha moments” to filter through the chaos and find their way to you.
Sound familiar or am I the only one who’s ever been on the verge of overwhelm thanks to a sink full of dishes; paper piles on the counter; bills needing paid; a husband needing attention; laundry needing washed, dried and folded; a job sucking valuable hours out of the day; playing with, feeding, bathing and dressing the kids – and all that before 9:00am?
And you can forget about getting a quality night’s sleep for yourself. The kids, yes. But there’s just way too much to be done and not enough energy or time to check all the items off the list to be as selfish as to actually sleep! I mean, God blessed us with coffee for a reason, right?!
And if all the physical demands of daily life aren’t enough to keep you on the brink, you’re also having to battle the mental and emotional monsters as well. You know the ones. They’re they ones that keep you deserted on Comparison Island with no mode of escape from the Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat “realities” of every other mom living perfect Pinterest lives with their perfect Twitter children while you’re out there drowning in the Sea of Never Good Enough.
Okay, you can put your hands down now. I know for sure I’m not the only one out here who’s been exhausted from all the juggling, hurdling and demon-slaying, and that’s the main reason I got into coaching: so I could spare you time and hardship by sharing my experiences and lessons learned.
And one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned is the practice of self-care.
When my first son was born, the only things I had to go on were other people’s experiences and “expertise.” That was like an explosive science experiment waiting to happen! When you take too many ingredients (external influences and comparisons) and pour them all together into a glass beaker (your reality), you’re bound to get the bubbles, the foam and the boom. And my boom was amplified by the effects of post-partum depression that was hardly ever discussed in my circle.
However, by the time my second son was born and I’d had plenty of opportunities to go through many seasons of life, change and growth, I realized “the hard way” it was not only okay but necessary to focus on taking care of me first so I could better take care of everyone and everything around me.
I made the choice to take walks with other moms; vent to other grown-ups at times our kids could be playing together; pamper myself with in-home mani/pedis every week; anything that helped fill my “joy tank” so I’d have something to give rather than siphoning from an empty reserve. I was putting on my “oxygen mask” first, so to speak. (If you’ve never flown on an airplane, the flight attendants always make it abundantly clear that in case of an emergency, adults are to put on their oxygen masks first so they’ll be certain to remain functioning and coherent enough to take care of their children.)
Once I started consistently making these small yet positive changes, I noticed I began having more “good” days than I did “bad days.” I laughed a little more than I had in a while, and things didn’t overwhelm me as much. My children began to sleep better.
I began to sleep better. With more restful sleep I was able to shift my mindset and better communicate the hows and the whys of they way our days would operate.
The boys learned their nap and bedtime routines, and while there were times they still cried or whined about that process and many others things (and so did I to be honest), I was better equipped to support them as opposed to retort them…all because I was finally taking care of me.
I would love to say there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to taking care of yourself, but the truth is it’s a do-what-works-best-for-you self-care program. The key, however, is to make the choice, stay consistent and honor where you are emotionally, spiritually and physically each day individually.
Some days I’d start with a short quiet time before the day began, while other times I would take 10 -20 minutes to just mediate, pray, or listen to a few songs that refreshed me. I would get ready before I got the kids up so I could enjoy a cup of coffee alone, or maybe I’d choose to dance with the kids taking sips in between songs. I think I even started carving out a little craft time for myself once in awhile.
As I look back now, I realize my life still had the same obstacles in it, but it was my perspective that shifted once my self-care habits changed. I even began to notice I wasn’t comparing myself to the perfect Pinterest parents any more, and that in and of itself was a HUGE win for my whole family.
I have to say I never thought I’d be at a point in my life where I’d be coaching people from personal experience on the benefits – specifically where sleep is concerned – of putting on my oxygen mask first, but here I am.
I’m living proof it’s necessary and it works, and it’s my pleasure to have tread the waters for you in order to share the healing, the peace and the joys of self-care. It’s also my pleasure to support you in your journey, so connect with me at www.loving-lessons.com if you have any questions or comments you’d like to share.
Until next time…
Irene Gouge is wife and mom of two in Holly Springs, North Carolina. She supports tired parents with gentle sleep and parent solutions focused on love and respect. As a trained and certified Gentle Sleep Coach she helps families get back those sleep- filled nights to have healthy children, happy parents, and harmonious homes.
She’s the creator of Loving Lessons, GetSleep.TV, Parent CIRCLE Network, and The Pediatric Health and Wellness Community, and Board Member for Postpartum Education and Support. Find more sleep and parent tips on Facebook or Twitter.