I thought I had it pretty down pat. When I lived in a house, anyway. When my life was somewhat more predictable, and certain things happened on certain days. Self care was practically scheduled into my calendar.
I knew I would need it when we left, too. I made the expectation clear from the outset, to myself and to my family.
Then on Day Three, the first of the children got sick. And then the second. And then the third. And then all of a sudden we were almost three weeks into the trip when I practically fell apart.
I missed my morning shower like many people would miss their morning coffee. The bathroom door was broken so even when I did get a two minute shower (instead of a “bucket bath” which tends to happen when free camping), I had it with the door wide open. I missed washing my hair every day, too (even if I know it’s not ideal to wash it every day).
I missed my dancing lessons.
I missed playing netball and socialising with other adult women.
I missed my bagpipe lessons, and making music.
I missed reading in bed in the evenings.
I missed “coffee” dates with my friends (I call them that even if I think coffee tastes like poison).
I missed that 15 minutes of silent bliss after dropping the kids off at school/daycare. And the occasional sneaky breakfast/morning tea I would have at a cafe on the way home.
I missed taking the kids over to visit their grandparents.
I missed hiking (and that was something I thought I could do MORE of when we were travelling!).
I even missed exercise class, even though I used to hate every minute of it (but felt awesome afterwards).
I had brought my bagpipes, my guitar, my hiking gear, some nice body wash, books to read…..and yet, it just wasn’t happening. Self care? What’s that?
My grand intentions were lost in a blur of parenting (sick children = 10x more intense), packing/unpacking, entertaining, organising, travelling, shopping, washing and just….LIFE.
Yes, we did stuff together as a family and that was awesome in its own right.
But I am an introvert. Introverts need time alone to recharge and refill their cup. My cup was well and truly below empty.
The only time I’d had alone was when the husband sent me off to do the grocery shopping (with the best of intentions, bless him). Needless to say, it wasn’t enough.
So, what did I do?
Well first, I cried. Sobbed, actually. I was a giant snotty mess. I was traumatised by the hell that was the first two weeks (and still didn’t know my turn was yet to come) and I wanted to go “home” – but this IS our home.
Then, I sat down and thought about what it was I missed, and how I could incorporate self care into each day.
I was also able to spend a week in Sydney surrounded by amazing, inspiring people who were all there to improve themselves and their lives. That definitely helped.
The biggest hurdle was guilt. Guilt about leaving Luke and the kids to do things on my own. Guilt about “indulging” myself. Feeling like I didn’t deserve to spend time, nor money, on myself. I was worried that Luke would get resentful of me if I wasn’t there 24/7 helping to parent, feed, entertain, clean….I even felt guilty about those things when I was WORKING! It all boiled down to my OWN feelings about being “unworthy” – because I wasn’t working and bringing home a paycheck, because I was “just” a mum??
It’s ridiculous, really. No person should ever feel guilt for meeting their own needs and creating their own happiness. We all know, logically, that to be the best we can be for OTHERS, we must give OURSELVES what we need first. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and all that. It’s not just a saying, it’s TRUE!
And for years, I had done so much of the parenting and household management solo while Luke worked. Now that we are together, and our days are more free and relaxed, why SHOULDN’T I spend time focusing on myself and my own needs? Needs that had been put on the backburner over and over and over again in years passed.
In the past week, I’ve integrated self care into my days and it’s made a HUGE difference.
For me, self care looks like:
~ A shower in the morning: no matter how brief (just need to get my hair wet now, don’t have to wash it every day) and a washdown in the evening (either quick shower or a bucket bath if freecamping). I need to feel clean and fresh in the morning and the evening, which is indulgent but important.
~ Daily exercise: I’m still working on this one, hoping to establish a morning exercise routine that is fun AND exercise (possibly boxing? And if I’m really super keen, perhaps some burpees). But I’ve been taking walks or hikes, and if we need to go somewhere within reasonable walking distance, I’ll walk.
~ Daily music practice: There have been a couple of times I’ve had to go to extremes to make this happen (driving to an empty carpark at night and practicing in the car so as not to disturb anyone), but most days I have. Now I’m back in the routine of regular bagpipe practice, I’m aiming to incorporate some guitar and ukelele too (we are all learning the ukelele together). I even managed to score a lesson with a local bagpipe teacher this week!
~ Dedicated work time: I have hours now during the week that are allocated to working. For me that involves establishing my photography/videography business and working on some behind the scenes still-secret business. I’m also planning on picking up some regular editing and perhaps admin work for other photographers, and some other online work to supplement our cashflow until my own business reaches its targets.
~ Good f
ood: SO SO important, and still a work in progress. But I did some baking this week and that was wonderful. I just love it! Now need to drop out some carbs and add in some more veges and we’ll be pretty well on track. Also taking my supplements each day – such a small thing to do, but it’s crazy how we can get “too busy” for that two minute task.
~ Reading before bed: This one is self explanatory, there’s nothing better than a good book before going to sleep. Definitely better for my soul than wasting time scrolling on Facebook!
~ Journalling: I’m the kind of person who ends up with a “cluttered” mind very easily, if I don’t get it out on paper. I like to be organised and know what’s going on in my life without having to store all the data in my brain constantly! Since the course I did in Sydney, I’ve found journalling has been therapeutic in clearing my mind, and propelling me forwards. The goal is to do it every day, which hasn’t quite happened, but it’s getting there.
There are SO many things we can do to care for ourselves. Things that make us happy. Things that make us BETTER partners and BETTER mothers. It is not “selfish” to do these things. I would in fact argue that it’s necessary, for our own mental (and physical) health, and also as role models to our children.
And I’m not just saying that, I’m living it. Not always perfectly, but with intention and love.
I hope you will too, other mamas out there on the road xx