Self-care for the busy parent
Babipur has so many wonderful toys and clothing and so much more. Having one or two little people to introduce to all these is such a privilege. It is exciting to see their faces when the red elephant tape parcels arrive!
We spend so much time, money and effort (and rightly so) making the lives of our child/children special with natural open-ended play experiences, ethical toys, soft organic clothing to name just a few.
We spend hours researching what can enrich our children’s lives more, joining parenting groups on social media and endlessly scrolling through and taking part in various discussions about our children, giving out and receiving advice.
How much time do we spend on our own physical and mental wellbeing? Do we place much or any importance on this? Have we seen the benefits of being mindful of this? Or experienced the downside of feeling like we just never ever have the time or opportunity?
Naturally we put others ahead of ourselves. We have people depending on us, usually little people but often other family members too. There are only so many hours in the day, we give and give and ‘our time’ can be seen as zoning out in front of various devices in the late or wee hours before we lose consciousness never knowing how long we will actually have to ‘sleep’.
None of this needs to be seen as negative. It is amazing to be a parent. Also it is worth remembering that if we feel the need for a break here and there, or get overwhelmed or frustrated, this does not make us ungrateful or a bad parent.
Sometimes we can feel that self-care requires cost and time and this can be off-putting and daunting.
Some days just the effort involved in running a bath and adding bubbles and calming music feels like far too much effort. Once I was determined to have a relaxing bath, my husband was unwell and in bed, the kids were just asleep or so I hoped. I took two baby monitors into the bathroom, filled a warm bath with bubbles, I think I even lit a couple of candles! I was going for it! Put on some relaxing music, settled down and “Waaa waaaa” over the monitor, my muscles immediately tightened, I hesitated a moment but there it was again “Waaa” so I hoisted myself out, I hadn’t even had time to get wrinkled! Putting on my dressing gown and taking deep breaths I went up the two flights of stairs to my youngest. There he was, completely and utterly fast asleep…..He must have been crying in his sleep, some more deep breaths, I decided to calmly return to the bath. My husband heard me padding (or stomping) past our bedroom and called out “If you’re going downstairs can you get me a drink please?”…More deep breaths…I had taken so many deep breaths I think I was almost hyperventilating at this point, I delivered the drink and finally got back in the bath feeling more stressed than when I started and wondering if this was all worth the effort.
Speaking of breathing and deep breaths, three-dimensional breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is thought to be very beneficial and helps to reduce stress. Rather than shallow chest breaths, the type of breathing that moves the belly and ribs in and out is more beneficial. Please do your own research on this and consult an expert to fully learn about this. I have found this type of breathing to be beneficial in everyday tasks like my story above. Even just driving in the car when the kids are fighting and screaming and I can feel myself getting tighter, more tense and more irritated. In moments like these you haven’t got the time or opportunity to roll out the yoga mat and flick on a YouTube channel. In stressful situations where you need to calm down fast, deep breaths can be something mindful to do in the moment, until you are able to have the time to do something more involved like rolling out the mat or going for a walk or run. For those inclined to pray saying a quick prayer, asking for calm in the middle of sibling fighting screaming matches is worth doing too, this is like a quick meditation in a situation where you can’t devote much time or concentration to it.
I think it is also important to mention that if you are constantly feeling low or struggling please don’t just brush this off as ‘usual busy mum syndrome’. This article has some ideas of looking after yourself and doing things for you but please seek medical advice if you are struggling with basic everyday tasks or are feeling consistently low. If you are feeling like this you are not alone and please do get some help and take life one breath at a time, you will get there.
I asked our lovely Babipur Hangout group for advice that they could offer our readers on tried and tested quick and simple self-care tips that help them physically and mentally. I shall list the ideas and recommendations below. Perhaps it would be a good idea to grab a pen and paper and jot down the ideas that jump out to you as being doable or something you would at least like to try.
A huge thank you to everyone who contributed ideas and for making this article possible. You have given me lots of great ideas to try out myself.
I haven’t edited the comments at all as I love the natural way in which they are written.
Our Babipur Hangout personally tested recommendations;
- Building in tiny “breaks” to do something creative that’s just for me helps my mental health. I keep a little basket of art supplies next to the kettle in the kitchen and I take a minute to paint a background layer or add a quick doodle in my art journal while the kettle boils for my first cup of tea of the day. (I also keep a little produce bag filled with a mix of Grapatpieces in the change bag, and when the children are settled on a park or busy at an activity, I can pull them out to make patterns.)
- I use my daughters homemade lavender scented playdough –it is a great de stressor and smells lovely – very relaxing and therapeutic I also treat myself to a bar of Tony’s every now and again.
- I do a 30 minute Pilates session from YouTube while my daughter naps. I was very active prior to giving birth 9 months ago and am wanting to get back doing something for me. It’s been great for mental and physical health
- Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube; slow breathing if I can’t do a guided meditation has lots of benefits. Watching something on TV was my past go-to but now I find reading fantasy or self-help/health/eco books much more satisfying
- Being outside for a walk/cycling. Being creative in some way. Reading. Bath.
- I run, (away from my family!) ? Seriously though, I try and squeeze in a half hour run at least three times a week. I feel a huge difference when I take that time.
- I also exercise once a week and find it a good reset. I know it’s not very practical, but I also have an amazing husband who I share care with, (very close) to 50/50 with.
- We all do things together. We do things like kids yoga from YouTube, if the kids are having a bath I make time for my own relaxing bath when they go to bed, we do lots of sensory and messy play.
- The biggest thing for me was learning not to judge myself. I’m a much happier person running around and acting like a kid with my kids, I’m happy, my kids are happy and who cares about the grumpy faced wo/men stood staring. Easier said than done, but worth it!
- I go away on my own for my birthday . It’s really nice to find out what I like.
- I started playing netball when my little one was 6 months old, the exercise was helpful , but what really helped was it was ‘my’ time, time with other adults, time out from the pressures of being a new parent and being diagnosed with a long term health condition… also time with my husband or being able to go out with friends. I love being a Mummy, but have personally found it so helpful to be able to do things without her and still have my own identity if that makes sense?!
- I took up beekeeping! Did a night class starting when my LO was about 10 months old, and now I spend about an hour each week checking my hives and talking to my bees. I’m completely alone with the bees (can’t imagine why ?) and it’s lovely.
- I took up crochet – inspired by this group and the sister group crafty bapipurians. I find that I get into a rhythm and I love the fact that I have made something useful /beautiful too. It also keeps me off my phone which I had found I was on far too much.
- A bit random, but I find white noise really relaxing and it really switches my brain off!
- A bath! At the weekend when my other half is at home I make a cup of tea and get in a long hot bath with my book (sometimes a bit of radio 2!). Sometimes I stay there for 30 minutes, other times 2 hours. If I really want a treat I’ll use some lovely products. When I get out I take time to dry my hair with care and attention, moisturise, all the things that you simply can’t do with an audience or a quick 5 minute shower. It’s the only me time I get…. and my absolute top tip about looking after yourself is to not feel guilty about doing things for you!
- I do a yoga class once a week, but also try to find time to read, draw/colour, or crochet a little every day.
- Audiobooks…whenever I can fit in 5 mins or so ??
- Unfollowing most of the social media groups helps! Some, not all, are bear pits of one-up-manship and passive aggressive point scoring. BPHO is one of the good ones obviously!
- I penpal. I started when my daughter (now 3) was a baby. I love taking time out to sit and write. It’s my me time.
- I got a running buggy so I can still get some exercise in.
- Time out with friends! I love going out in an evening, not talking about housework , kids, school stuff, business etc. Just being me for a few hours with a glass (ok bottle) of wine.
- This is something I’ve been struggling with and feel guilty about as it’s yet another thing that I know I need to do but hardly ever get round to it… earlier this year we took on an allotment and I love it, sometimes we all go, the toddler makes it’s more stressful right now as she’s a runner, but most of the time it’s just me, my veg and the earth… and it’s bliss and grounding and quiet!! Tonight I took half an hour just to water the plants and chat about flowers and veg with my mam in the sun and feel better for it…. I also crochet when the toddler naps
- Saturday morning parkrun with cake and coffee after! It’s my me time – exercise and a bit of chatting?
- I have a pamper morning on a Saturday with my toddler. I wash my hair, dry and straighten or curl (I never normally do this unless I’m going out somewhere nice lol) and I do my eyebrows and make myself feel pretty lol! She’s got her pretend makeup and I do her hair too and paint her toenails. When I need some me time, I go to the gym. I’ve only just started going, I thought I could use some me time as my toddler is going through a difficult terrible 2s stage and I could feel myself getting closer to tipping point with her. Mum had her for a weekend so me and daddy could relax without someone screaming in our faces lol. That’s about all the well-being I do for me ?
- I exercise every day, Jillian Michaels DVDs or running. Most of the time whilst also watching my toddler but I’d be lost without it.
- I go to the gym and play netball. Usually when the kids are in bed or early am on a weekend if I’m not working. I need it, it keeps me sane! Plus it’s good for my girls to see their mommy keeping fit and active
- A bath, spending time with my friends, having my parents over (they play with the kids so I can sit in silence ?)wine.
- I do a five k buggy run twice a week, it’s my me time even though I’m not ‘alone’ and also endorphines, fitness, weight loss, time to think, fresh air etc etc.
- I’ve just sat outside with a beer, no phone, listening to the outdoor sounds and throwing a bone for the dog. Getting out to a regular class is impossible or expensive (for babysitters) when one partner works away, so small things have to count to release the pressure. I’m a member of a wonderful singing group who meet at my house on the weeks my husband is away however that has the added stress of having to have the house to a socially acceptable level of clean and tidiness on that day. It’s really tough, especially if you are on your own for some or all of the time. I do enjoy 4.30pm when I can switch the telly on and have an hour to myself cooking dinner.
- Meditation using headspace app. I also love crafting so do that to zone out. I also put on a crafty you tube video when I’m folding washing.
- A chill out bath every night after my son has gone to bed and I work a 3 hours shift, 1 evening a week. That gives me time out the house to do something I love and chat to other people (suppose I’m lucky in that I love my job so much and the family I work with).
- I do home workouts daily via a TV portal. I make sure I do a morning cleanse routine for my skin. Self-care does not have to be big. I’m firmly of the view that small and daily is better than big and not often. Plus it suits me as someone who is not prepared to wall away from children for extended periods
- I love books but more or less stopped reading when daughter was tiny. To make me read, or at least give me the excuse, I started a book group. Can also recommend both crochet and yoga, as others have said above.