Somehow having someone else to take care of makes me better at taking care of myself. I am keenly aware of my need to eat, drink water, and rest (haha). I am important around here, as a milk machine at very least. Since I am breastfeeding, if I don't get enough calories or hydrate myself than my baby literally won't have enough to eat. I guess I've been more intentional about mental/emotional/spiritual self care as well. Because my "job" demands my energy twenty four hours a day, I often contemplate what it is that I need to keep my batteries recharged, to keep myself chugging along. Here's what I've learned so far about what keeps me going.
1. Time with other moms. I need to be elbow to elbow with someone who can listen to me share stories and sigh along with me. Someone who can say, "Me too!" Someone who can say, "You're not a terrible, Mom, I've also chopped my kids finger with the nail-clippers or accidentally left a diaper on so long that it got stuck to my baby's skin." I need people that I can ask for advice when I'm stumpted. I need people to say, "I've been there." and "It gets better." I need peers and mentors who will get in the trenches of motherhood along with me.
2. Creative outlets. This one might be Chelsea-specific. I know that the way I am wired means that I am functioning better when I have opportunities to be creative. This means doing small craft projects, taking photos, writing, or redecorating different vignettes in our home.
3. Alone time. I've had to be creative about getting this. I'll do a small trip to the grocery store. I'll take the dog for a walk. One day I went to a coffee shop by myself to pray and journal--it was so good for my soul! This last weekend Philip took the baby upstairs while I did a craft project. Even if it only comes in short bursts, alone time is essential for my well-being.
4. My mom. I'm pretty sure this is on everyone's list? Seriously though, my mom has been great about coming to visit, bringing us food, encouraging me, babysitting.
5. Getting out of the house. Since I'm a stay-at-home-mom sometimes I just need to look at something other than the four walls I spend most of my time inside. We are on a budget so that often looks like going to a coffee shop as a family of three, taking our dog to the dog park, visiting friends, staying with out of town relatives for a weekend, or even just going for a walk.
6. Baby-free girl time. This is a challenge, because most of my friends have wee babes of their own. It can be hard to coordinate our schedules and our husbands' schedules so that we can both find a time to get together sans offspring. This is why I also need single/married-without-children friends. Don't think that just because someone has a baby they don't want to spend time with you. It's actually golden to have a few of these gals in your life as a mom.
7. Keeping the house relatively clean. I have never been a neat freak. Just ask my college roommates (one of them actually made a line on the floor in the middle of our dorm room with duct tape as a joke). However, since I spend so much time in this space, I will start to go crazy if I'm constantly staring at clutter or smelling dirty dishes. Of course this one is a challenge because I can currently chip away at chores while my baby naps or when my husband is home to help out. But since my baby was born I have tried to maintain a less-than-disgusting level of cleanliness.
8. Quality time with my husband. Let me just declare this, "My marriage is more important than my relationship with my son." I know that many people will disagree with me, here. However, my husband came first. He's the one I'm committed to for life. Someday my son will walk down the aisle and give his life to another women (while I weep uncontrollably). He will have his own life and family. While I will never stop loving and caring for him, it's different than the equal lifelong partnership I have with my spouse. We have only gone on one date without our baby so far. That is something I want to do more of as he grows. Even still, we have found ways to sneak in time together. We will go on outings or road trips with the baby that allow us time to talk to each other with him in tow. We have made the most of his asleep time: snuggling, watching movies, baking cookies, playing board games etc. I believe that one of the best gifts we can give my son is parents who intentionally love each other.
9. Brain stimulation. Don't get me wrong, I think my son is a genius, but he just doesn't provide stimulating conversation yet. Usually I am pretending to eat his feet, using his clean diaper as a puppet, blowing on his tummy, and basically making a fool of myself--anything for one of his gummy smiles. We read such classics as Dr. Seuss' ABCs and Blue Hat, Green Hat (Sandra Boynton is my homegirl). So for much of the day my brain could easily be turning to mush. I try to counteract this by reading books, staying caught up on current-events, and writing (hello blog!). I even watched the painful presidential debates mostly so that I would be able to have adult conversation about the election.
10. Jesus. This is the trump card (which in no way refers to said political elections). Sometimes, I have a hard time fitting all of the things I've listed in. Truthfully, I don't have time to do all of them every day. However, I have to get time with Jesus in every day. During Emerson's first nap I spend time praying and reading. Throughout the day I listen to worship music and try to remember to cry out to him. I seriously don't know how anyone can do this mom-thing without the power of the Holy Spirit because there are days when this is the only thing keeping me going.
I am still learning how to take care of myself so that I can take care of my son. I am still learning how to be a healthy person. So far, I know that making the aforementioned things a priority is a good step. What keeps you going? Seasoned moms, how else can I maintain sanity while raising kids?