Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ourselves.

'We are mothers. We pride ourselves in taking care of our children, and others, and putting ourselves last. We may not do this intentionally, it just happens by our nature and the demanding nature of young children.

I've recently discovered the >>>JOY<<< of taking care of myself! It is magnificent. It is life-changing. I realized I was very selfless by nature and in always caring for others and not myself, I had become slightly unhappy because I was DRAINED. As I have had this God-given change of heart over these last few months, this is one of the major changes I've made, and it's made one of the biggest differences in my overall happiness. I was talking with some friends the other day and someone mentioned the sheer necessity of taking care of ourselves and two different women asked, "how do we do that?!" I was surprised that this idea was new to them but I quickly realized I was in there same place not long ago. I am so elated to be past that place and be where I am today. I always knew I should "take care of myself" but I didn't think it was really possible or have any practical ideas to really do it. I thought I would share a few ideas I've learned on how to be just a little more selfish and take care of OURSELVES! (And don't worry, it's not really being selfish. Doing so makes everyone around us happier, especially our husbands and children!)

1. Politely but firmly excuse yourself of guilt. 

Have you ever gone out for a girls night or dropped your little ones off for a friend to watch them during an appointment? After you dropped them off did you wonder and worry about how they were doing and check up on them and hurry home as quickly as possible? Or did you fully enjoy your time away from them? However small or for whatever reason you are away, make the most of it! There is nothing to feel guilty about when leaving them. You are their MOTHER. You give your all to them day and night. When you get a little break, TAKE IT! Make it just that, a break! Don't fret over your children the whole time or feel like, "oh, I should be there. They probably need me..." Turn your mom-o-meter off and enjoy yourself! Think about yourself, your goals, your dreams, your interests, listen to your favorite songs, etc.

2. "Daddy's in charge."

With me working, we've had the blessing of having Dan get to spend full days taking care of the kids, from morning until night. I'd come home and anxiously ask him how the day was. He would casually reply how they ate great vegetable-filled meals without complaint, went BM with no issues, didn't complain and whine, casually took a nap on the couch, played independently while Dan cleaned the whole house and made homemade bread, and happily went to bed at 6:30. I was bewildered. One time, Dan took the boys to church when I wasn't feeling well and Dan said Jude fell asleep in the car, transferred into the church pew, and slept all the way through Sacrament meeting on the chairs. THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME. I would watch Dan and us and wonder what was different. Why were the kids so much more independent and easy-going when I wasn't around? I realized when I was around I would micromanage not only my kids but Dan and how he took care of them. "They need this! Don't forget to do this..." etc. I would also get on Dan's case about not giving them enough attention and "ignoring them." But if they were more well-behaved when I wasn't around, maybe my constant worrying and doting was just making them more whiney and dependent.

Sometimes, when I would get home from being away, they (mostly Jude) would start whining, crying, and complaining. I would ask Dan if he'd been like this and he said, "no, not at all!" I realized I had a lot to learn from Dan and he needed to take the reigns to teach me a thing or two. When we were all together from then on, I would say "Daddy's in charge!" And anytime the kids would need something (from some food to some discipline) I would gladly tell them that Daddy's in charge and if they needed something to talk to him. I learned a lot from watching his more relaxed approach and it's helped me try to apply those principles in how I care for them.

One time, Jude turned to me and in an extremely whiney, high-pitched, complaining voice he said, "Mommy, but I really want some waaaaatermelon." ALL I said was "Daddy's in charge." He turned to Dan and he said in the most pleasant, appropriate voice, "Daddy, can I please have some watermelon?" To say I was shocked and appalled would be an understatement.

3. Budget time and money for you, mama!

I'm a really frugal person by nature and my natural response to anything that cost any money was always the same, "no thanks." I just didn't spend money on anything "extra." I wouldn't go to play dates at the toddler gym because it cost. We wouldn't go out with friends because of the money. I wouldn't go out on girls nights to save the money. Since my change of heart, I realized it was OKAY to spend some money on MYSELF. Yes, we don't make any money. And yes, we're in debt, but I can't wait until we're financially stable to start LIVING MY LIFE. That is essentially what I was doing. I was missing out on opportunities, experiences, and little drops in my happiness bucket because I didn't want to spend the extra dollars. Well, things have changed. I'm worth it. My kids are worth it. It may only add up to an extra few hundred dollars a year. That is worth me going out to get ice cream with my girlfriends. That is worth me and the kids going on an outing to the museum. That is worth Dan and I paying for a real babysitter and going out to dinner. 

When I was first coming out of my sadness hermitdom, I NEEDED some time to myself. My dear mother knew I was struggling and knew I needed a break so she gifted me for my birthday some money to pay for a babysitter and just go out by myself in the day and recharge. I would also hire a young 12-year-old girl from my church congregation, have her come over after I put the kids to bed, and I would leave her a list of nitty gritty chores to do around the house! How ingenious is that?! My kids were in bed and I would come home to a clean house. And that girl could work! You have to really look around to find the right boy or girl who is willing to work. It felt amazing to go out on a date and then come home to a cleaner house. Win. Win. Win. 

We also do date night swaps with our friends. We will put our kids to bed and have a friend come over and hang out on our couch for two hours while we go out. Then we will return the favor another night! Win. Win. 

Now I'm the one planning dates with Dan and girl's nights out with my girls. It has honestly helped me so much to let go of my extreme need to not spend. I AM WORTH IT. (Say that out loud in a confident, convincing voice!)

One more example. My friend's husband was out of town for a whole month on a medical school rotation. She had been through pretty much everything that month and she decided to take herself out on a date! She went to a steakhouse and enjoyed a nice, quiet meal by herself. She then went to a movie! You go girl!

4. Truly believe the fact that you're worth it and you deserve it.

You are worth it! You are beautiful inside and out. Embrace this fact by taking care of yourself. My grandmother used to say, "you have to fill your own tank before you can fill anyone else's."

5. Realize it's okay to put your needs before your childrens sometimes.

I used to exhaust myself "taking care" of my children all day. I wouldn't even give my mind a break. I was always thinking about what they needed next, what I needed to do for them, etc. By evening I was a dehydrated, dysfunctional sponge. When I realized I deserved more, it changed everything. My friends have running group, walki group, and play group. I didn't go for a YEAR after Abraham was born because he needed his nap, etc. I started to get depressed. I wasn't living my life as whole-heartedly and passionately as I could and I felt like something was missing. I had to "take care of the kids" by staying home to cook, clean,ap and let them nap?! They weren't living either. Now we go running with friends twice a week, walki at the park once a week, and play group once a week. So four mornings every week I am out exercising, enjoying being outside, chatting with my friends, and my children are playing with other kids and we get a break from each other. It's marvelous. I'm not bei selfish by going out running so I can be fit. It's as much for them as it is for me! I am happier and healthier, so I'm a better mother and wife and friend and person! 

6. Take advantage of the small moments. At the park, bring a book.

Like I said, I used to not even give my mind a break from the worry and angst of motherhood. I have let it go. I've let it all go. I've embraced the fact that I can't heal Jude immediately, I can't ensure a lengthy nap for Abraham every day. I can't control that my children will eat a perfectly balanced meal three times a day. I have stopped worrying about things I can't change. And my mind now has so much more time and space to learn more and just be content. I read more now. (Full blog post all about that below) After the kids eat and they are settled, I leisurely lie down on the couch and read a book. If they come up to me needing something, I politely tell them that I am reading right now and I'll talk to them in a minute. I deserve that time. I don't have to wait until they are both in bed to enjoy some time to recharge myself. When I go to the park or story time at the library. I will bring a book or my journal and excuse myself from my duties (safety is always my duty, of course, and I never excuse myself from that!) and enjoy MY time in peace. Even if it's only ten minutes. That's ten minutes. I don't feel the need to catch my child at he bottom of the slide, meet them at the other side of the tunnel, or narrate their play. It's good for them to have a little independence, interact with other children, and feel like I trust them to play on their own. (This obviously varies greatly by the age and circumstances of your children. Mine are just joyfully at the ages where they can play at the park on their own pretty safely.)

If your husband gets home early and can help out the kids to bed, tell him you are going to let him experience the joy of putting the kids to bed on his own and you will be locked in the bedroom. Take advantage of any opportunity you need to nourish yourself! You know when you are stretched too thin and you need to take care of yourself. You deserve it! Make it happen!

7.  Try to maintain a more long-term perspective.

A dear friend of mine, after having two boys very close together, has made "all is well that ends well" her motto. How refreshing! Don't get too caught up in the moment. Remember that they are growing. They won't be babies forever. They won't be toddlers forever. They will grow so fast and before long they won't want to spend every waking hour with you. When they get a little older they play together! Without supervision?! (I hear that will happen eventually.) It's okay if they don't get their vitamins today. It's okay if they look homeless today. It's okay if your house is a wreck. They won't remember what the house looked like or what you made (or didn't make) for dinner. They'll remember how they felt at home. They'll remember how mom made them always feel loved and special.

I love the wise words of Jeffrey R. Holland, "Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You're doing better than you think you are."

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I have reconnected with my love for dancing throughout this journey of finding myself again. It's an outlet for me. I dance as often as possible. The other day while Jude was asleep, I felt like dancing! And recording it. So I did. Now that was a three minutes well-spent and I feel like I rock star when I watch it. I'm sharing this because I feel like it perfectly depicts the new me and how I've just learned to embrace life. No, I didn't get all ready that day and I didn't make a fancy dinner, but I was happy. :)