I have learned a lot over the last year, especially about myself. I’ve learned that I have limits and needs, but not the kind you’re thinking. These are needs I have as a woman and a person, not as a worker, a mom, and a wife. I need things just for myself and not for anyone else.
As I became a wife, I lost myself a little in the happiness and business of it. Then later, when I became a mom, I lost even more of myself; in good ways, but also in not good ways. I later returned to the working world and stretched myself even more. Then, a year ago, everything changed in the blink of an eye and we were doing everything from home. I started realizing I missed going to the office and getting away for eight hours a day, even though I missed my family when I was going to work. I missed having an hour every two weeks when I went to the grocery store. I missed getting my hair done and the time spent reading while I waited. I didn’t miss the tasks so much as the time. I really missed having alone time with my thoughts because as we work and school from home, I barely get 10 minutes without someone needing me for something. And noise. I realized I am noise sensitive and I need quiet time to reflect and work things out. If I don’t get enough quiet time, this affects my sleep and my mood. Then of course, there are all the chores that are constantly staring me in the face. When I was going to work, I had the commute which gave me time to talk to a friend, listen to a podcast, or sing at the top of my lungs to my favorite playlist. It took me several months at home to realize I actually missed this time. When I had it, I took it for granted; I even complained and stressed when I got stuck in traffic. I would think, “I could already be getting dinner on the table if it weren’t for this traffic!,” not realizing the privilege of time to myself that traffic was giving me.
So slowly, over the last six months or so, I have been giving myself some of this time back in subtle ways with substantial payoffs.
I like to think of myself as two people, as my hero Jen Hatmaker told me on Instagram. She has “Morning” Jen and “Nighttime” Jen. I was already doing this, but I didn’t have a clever term for it like she does. After reading her post, I started being more deliberate with my self-care (I actually don’t like that term and think it is overdone), but I do now thank myself when I realize that I have literally done this for myself. For example, when I get in bed exhausted after finally getting my daughter to bed, I thank myself that at 8pm when I got my pjs on, I took the time to take the throw pillows off my bed and turn the bed down so I could just crawl in. I thank myself in the morning when I have a fresh piping hot pot of coffee ready and waiting for me because I took the time the night before to brew it. Likewise, even though I am tired after dinner and don’t feel like cleaning the kitchen, I do it so that in the morning I am not washing dishes. The crockpot that I used to let soak overnight is actually much easier to clean the night of…who knew?!
I also discovered I love baths. So, at least once a week after dinner, I leave my family to play or watch TV and I soak in the bath. I light candles, use yummy smelling bath salts, and sometimes drink a glass of red wine while I soak. I read or watch garbage TV on my phone while I soak and sometimes I just enjoy the sounds of the bubbles fizzing and the gentle noises of the water as it laps up on the side of the tub. If it is cold out, I throw my towel and robe in the dryer and ask someone to bring them to me in 20 minutes. HEAVEN. There is something so relaxing about getting out of a hot bath and into a warm towel. I understand why resorts have towel warmers now. It is luxurious, but a dryer does the same thing and I already have one of those!
Taking a long walk with the dog is another way I treat myself. I usually listen to a podcast and I walk for at least an hour. This is probably the most rewarding thing I do for myself. I get a little exercise, get outside, my blood gets pumping, my heartrate gets up, and I have time to think. Time in my own head with no distractions. I think I probably could solve all of my problems just by taking walks. I had to make myself do it some days when it was cold or raining, but by the time I was 15 minutes in and my blood was circulating and my spirits were lifting, I was always so thankful I did it. Some days are so hard, I take two walks. When my college kid is home, my husband and I walk together. This hour allows us to talk and reconnect, which is perfect and so needed. We miss these walks now that she is back at school. We miss her, too.
Some things I do for myself that have helped me get back to me:
- Washing my face every night
- Washing my face and brushing my teeth first thing in the morning
- Making my bed first thing in the morning
- Getting dressed for work, even if it is leggings and sweatshirt, just not pjs
- Tidying the kitchen and living room before bed at night
- Folding and putting laundry away as soon as it is done
- Having a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon
- Waking up early to have time before everyone else gets up
- Turning my bed down late in the evening
- Soaking in the tub once a week
- Setting the coffee pot the night before
- Putting breakfast in the crockpot, so it is ready when we wake up (not every day)
- Starting dinner earlier in the day while I have a break and just pop it in the oven later
- Emptying the dishwasher first thing, so I never have a stack of dishes in the sink
- Taking a lunch break even though I am working from home
- Taking long walks
As you can see, some of these things are so simple, but they make my life easier and help me take care of myself in little ways. All these little things add up to big rewards and I finally feel like myself again.