Self-Care Tips from a Millennial Mama
Self-Care. This phrase is literally everywhere. It has every right to be, don't get me wrong. We can all benefit from taking a hypothetical chill pill and spending a little time focusing on the things that matter to us...just us. Yes mamas, we deserve to put ourselves first.
We've all experienced that sense of guilt for just wanting to take a few minutes to do something alone--going to the bathroom without tiny hands peeking under the door and a full-blown tantrum on the other side, tossing back a couple of dark chocolate covered almonds in your secret corner of the kitchen...you know, the things we do everyday just to try to keep our sanity.
Maybe it's something ingrained in our DNA as moms. The minute you have a baby, you somehow feel like this tiny being is now the ONLY thing you can focus on. We may lose parts of our identity. For example, I used to be a working woman in the city, schmoozing, and enjoying a couple glasses of wine per week with friends, to loosely put it. Today, I'm a mom who runs a small business, works part time, cooks amazing meals, and maybe enjoys a couple of glasses per month. In the blink of an eye, my identity shifted. When my son was born, I felt like I was chosen to be a mom and held on to this sacred role with all my might.
I started a blog, put my career on hold, and put everything I have into being what I envision as a great mom. It was and still is a very special time and journey for me. But it's no self-care. Let's be honest, motherhood is work and not for the faint of heart. #momlife
I found that I was ignoring the time I should be spending focusing on my self, the things that made me happy, and the things that simply need to be done, independent of my child's needs and wants. Though I'd love to say the new year brought about this revolutionary thinking, it's not completely true. I often use January 1 as a starting point for goals, but what really signaled my need for change this year is the fact that my 2-year old is now showing more signs of autonomy and independence. This was a call to rediscover my own autonomy and independence -- from him. Even typing that sends a little pang of guilt through my bones.
I'm not talking things like going for a hair or nail appointment or a fancy massage or taking off for the week to backpack through Europe and blowing the diaper money. God, no! Some of us just don't have time for those things, and maybe not even the budget (and quite possibly, a maniacal toddler who refuses to wean).
And that's alright, too! Self-care is not about the money you spend doing it, it's not about how many new products you add into your beauty routine, and its most definitely not about just how relaxed you can be before snapping back to the reality that is motherhood and finding your child playing and covered in coconut oil or peanut butter.
This isn't a new year, new me type of deal either. You can still be the same you, but with a shift in attitude, we can stop taking our little moments for granted and really use them as this valuable self-care everyone is flinging around.
A friend of mine, Molly Beane who is a beauty entrepreneur recently shared a screenshot of her "Revolutionary Self-Care" to-do list, and what stood out to me were the notes she had to do things like "Schedule grooming for her dogs" and "breast self-exam". She recognizes that the simple everyday things that need to be done and focused on that are actually quite important, too for an overall sense of well-being.
We are constantly being sold products and services that can make life happen faster, more convenient, and give you time to do MORE. But what if self-care could be looked at as just slowing down and embracing the little things -- the little moments to self that bring us happiness, health, or a little bit of peace and comfort. There have been many posts written on the subject if you care to peruse further -- here, here, and here.
When we change our attitude towards what self-care can be, I think we open ourselves up to enjoying more of this "treat yo self" attitude without a hefty price tag or unrealistic expectations that we must have hours upon hours to accomplish it.
Here are a few thoughtful tips and little things from a busy millennial mama to help you achieve your self-care goals this year without any guilt.
HEALTHY MEALS - In most cases, you're cooking anyway. I am. And with that above mentioned shift into my motherhood role, my son's health and eating habits have become far more important than my own. So instead of feeding him completely different "toddler-friendly" meals, I cook with his growing needs in mind, while making dishes the whole family can enjoy. In the end, we're all eating healthier since I'm making nourishing and thoughtful meals for our son. On this same note, drink more water. If you are water adverse, change it. Your cells thrive when hydrated.
**Don't change your diet with the sole hope of losing weight or fitting into some lifestyle your friends keep badgering you about. Adjust it so that you are getting abundant nutrients from a variety of sources. If you cut meat this year, be sure to replace what your body might've gotten more of from meat: iron, protein, b12. A healthy diet doesn't have to be predicated on titles, rules, or anyone's opinions. Eat what makes you feel good and gives you lasting energy to do more of the next thing--
MORE SEX - Now that baby is a bit older, sleeping through the night is becoming more of a reality, which means more time for "activities" (err, sex). I'm no scientist, but I recently explained to "The Man" that I needed to have an orgasm everyday to feel my best. While he may just believe I'm having a positive reaction to the results of his heavy lifting in the gym (and I am), it's also scientifically proven that great sex has many health and wellness benefits. Don't believe me, just watch...thanks WebMD
1. Sex helps keep your immune system on point by increasing certain antibodies in your body.
2. Sex totally counts as exercise! Doing the do burns 5 calories per minute, but eff the calories-- you're isolating muscle groups which is great for toning up, and increasing your heart rate for healthier blood flow to your entire body.
3. Sex improves sleep and eases stress. By releasing prolactin, your post-sex bod is relaxed, sleepy, and on a cloud nine high. And good sleep is the key to many a health and wellness regime. Everything has its place.
**And if your partner isn't in the mood, don't be afraid to take the reigns and explore yourself**
YOU TIME (in unexpected places) - We've established that none of us are taking the week off for some solo R&R, so instead we have to make those moments we do get to ourselves count. The bathroom seems to be a place of respite in my house. I'm sure all of you have caught your husbands slipping away to check fantasy football and do #2. Must be nice. The bathroom can also be your girl cave. Taking a shower, putting on your makeup, brushing your teeth, or using the toilet, all these little practices can give way to further possibilities for self-care.
Talking into the mirror may not seem like much, but it's worth getting over that awkward bump of talking to yourself.
My dad instilled this in us growing up. He said it helped to build charisma. Back then, I didn't believe him, but as an adult, it's a tried and true method of self reflection (no pun intended) I use this time to do what my friend Cordelia, The Stress Less Mom, calls, sweet talking to myself. Acknowledge what you love about your body, practice a speech or interview questions, or perfect that winged eyeliner look you've been trying to copy for months while giving yourself a pat on the back. Obviously, not all at the same time. When your SO comes home, plot an escape to the bathroom to refresh and unwind --no fancy masks or scrubs required. Just let your mind go and don't forget to love on you.
TREAT YO SELF (on a budget) - Keep a treat or snack that you absolutely love on hand. It doesn't have to be healthy, you're not binging. Just something to perk your day up a bit. My go-to: chocolate covered almonds, or ice cream. Whether you need a pick me up midday, or a treat to look forward to after your kid(s) are off to bed, having something that makes you feel all fuzzy inside is a magical secret weapon. I can't tell you how many rough days I've had where I can't wait for the chance to sink into the couch or bed, watch Netflix, and eat a bowl of ice cream. It doesn't happen as frequently as old me would like, but I cherish it because it's something I loved doing back in college, living in my first apartment, chilling with hubby before we were parents. The familiarity gives me a good feeling, plus I really enjoy great TV.
DISCONNECT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA - Seriously! But don't make a post to announce your departure. Simply just let it go for however long YOU feel is right for YOU. It could be 1 day, or it could be several weeks. When I take these breaks, I still check my email, and I still get my news and personal interest stories from online outlets, but sometimes one just needs to hop off of Instagram and not feel pressured to post every. single. day. Or making themselves feel some kind of way because so and so has a new this or did this last weekend. I'm currently on an Instagram hiatus, and I just feel like it frees up a little more time for me in the day. I'm not aimlessly scrolling and i'm not stressed to take a cute picture of my kid or whatever activity we didn't make it out of the house on time to do. And if you don't want to disconnect completely, don't! Some platforms may allow you to keep in touch with family or stay abreast of local events. But if something pops across your timeline that makes you feel 50 shades of grey ☹️, block them, or scroll past and keep it pushing to another day.
Alright mamas, cheers to a happy and healthy 2018! One that holds no pressure to be a "new" you and one that is not forcing you to shell out hundreds of bucks on a temporary fix. Do a little, do a lot, just take care of you the best you can!
Tai Hanson is a 20-something mama, now living in Texas. She writes, runs a small business, and juggles a toddler and 3 dogs. Her blog, The Black Mama, is an outlet for stories about her weird quirks and parenting experiences and a place to celebrate what it means to be a black mama forging her own way.
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