Today’s guest post was written by Kate Love – a Toronto-based life coach, mama of twin girls, and yin yoga devotee. She is also the founder of Sage Coaching, where she enjoys working with women in times of transition or change (with a focus on new mamas) .
Monday, July 24th is International Self-Care Day!
Usually I scoff at these “official” days, but this is one I can get behind. I’m willing to bet the person who came up with the name was most definitely a parent.
Self. Care. Those two words can conjure up a lot of mixed emotions for moms and dads. Defined as “care of self without medical or other professional consultation,” or more colloquially, as “filling your tank” or “recharging your batteries,” self-care can be tricky to get right.
When I was younger (read: pre-kids), this kind of care of self was a lot easier to achieve. If I had a challenging day, I had a number of friends that I could grab drinks with, or I would hit up a yoga class, a boxing class, or both! I read a lot, had baths, walked leisurely through the city, booked adventures on a whim, and explored my own backyard. The world was my self-care oyster.
Enter kids. And suddenly self-care feels like yet another thing to do, another item on a very long, daunting list. Some of us undergo a massive identity shift after becoming a parent, and maybe we aren’t so sure what fills up our tank anymore. We’ve changed, and we don’t really know how to take care of ourselves—even though we know it’s important.
I have created a business to support parents—mostly moms—in the pursuit of self-care. I talk a lot about the possibly overused analogy of putting your own oxygen mask on first. And yet, even though I am passionate about my work, I often struggle with finding ways to support my own self-care. It’s much easier to fall into old patterns, putting other’s needs before my own, and letting good ol’ guilt stop me from investing in my own emotional & spiritual & physical well-being.
Here are a series of 4 questions that have helped me (re)focus on my self-care. Let these be your guide to cultivating your own.
1. What is self care to YOU? Don’t think about it in terms of what it “should be,”but what it actually IS. I suggest spending some time considering what nourishes you. In my case, I realized I’ve grown into more of an introvert (possibly all that time talking to, being touched by and negotiating with little people has played a role in my transformation). So for me, self-care is more about internally charging my batteries by doing small mindfulness practices, reading a book in a park, getting on my bike, or listening to a podcast. For those who are more typically extroverts, batteries can be recharged by connecting and engaging with others, like having a soulful phone call, meeting up with a friend for a walk, going to an interesting event, talk or documentary. Whatever it is, consider beyond the typical self-care practices that we are often “sold.” Manicures, pedicures, massages and shopping excursions aren’t only financially draining, but they are a rare treat rather than a nourishing routine. So start thinking about what you can do without even leaving your home.
2. What obstacles are in your way? The obvious answer for all of us is TIME. We are all time starved, and yearn for more hours in the day. So considering that’s a universal condition of the busy urban parent, what else is getting in our way? If we dig a bit deeper, parents will recognize that they often feel guilty or selfish. It’s easy to slip into the martyrdom and hero complex, but without that break and space to recharge (even if it’s tinged with some guilt in the moment), we lead ourselves down the road of emotional and mental exhaustion. It’s crucial to our overall health to find ways to get creative and overcome both real and perceived barriers to self-care.
3. How can you make it happen? To put it simply, access the resources at your disposal. If you are lucky to have family close by, call on your village to give you some chunks of time for your emotional and spiritual health. If you don’t want to burden your family, friends or neighbours with your childcare needs, you can (as my mom used to say) “throw money at the problem” and hire a babysitter. (I recommend Datenight Babysitting!) Also think about who in your life is an ally or buddy for self-care accountability, and then ask them to check in from time to time to make sure you’re not flaking… on yourself.
4. What will make it stick? Discovering a few new self-care practices (or re-invigorating old ones) is a great start. The key is the word practice. Repeating your care-taking practices (daily, weekly, monthly or whatever is possible) is the way to build an increasingly fulfilling balance to the ups and downs of life. If you are sharing parenting duties, create a schedule or system to ensure everyone is getting the care they need in your home, starting with the caregivers.
Beginning to reflect on your own self-care is the first step on a your journey towards fulfillment. By carving out the necessary time, you are slowly re-investing in yourself, and in turn, in your family too.
If you’re curious about how I practice what I preach, follow my 70 Days of Self-Care Practice, starting on—surprise, surprise!—July 24th. See you there!
This post was brought to you by Datenight Babysitting — Toronto’s leading mobile app connecting parents with experienced, local babysitters — with thousands of dates booked in the GTA.