Category Archives: self care

Living In The Moment

One of the things I love doing on my Facebook page is asking a basic question of the group, one that I know will elicit a lot of responses, and hopefully starting a (often important, and needed) conversation.  Even before I read through all the responses – and please know that I do, very carefully, read through all of the responses – your enthusiasm in joining the conversation tells me two things:  1) That we all want to be heard… that we all have questions, and struggles, and things to share, and that platforms like blogs and Facebook groups still serve a real purpose, and 2) That we’re all in this together.  I think that one of the most helpful things to know (not just with parenting, but with life) is that we are not alone.  That someone, somewhere, is out there who gets it.  Who understands how we feel.  Who knows what it’s like to be facing what we face.  It’s a powerful thing, and one I don’t take for granted.

Most recently, I asked,

What is one thing that you struggle with as a parent? Something that you know you want to do differently (such as less yelling, more patience, etc) but that you are having trouble implementing?

I got an overwhelming response, both in numbers and in sheer honesty and vulnerability.  So thank you.  I very quickly realized that what was meant to be a one-off blog post really needed to become a regular series.  Because I don’t care how good of a mom you are:  We all struggle with something. 

The thing that stood out to me the most in my first read-through of the comments was the one that’s been my own personal struggle since… well, forever:  Being present.  Being in the moment.  It’s something that I’ve thought about, and learned about, and written about, many many times in the 20 years that I’ve been a parent.  Tegan (who’s 9 at the time of this writing, and is teaching me a whole new set of parenting truths after her three brothers) has been instrumental in showing me of the importance of living in the moment.

But still, I have to remind myself.  Still, I have to practice.

And I’m not alone.

Just a few of my fellow like-minded parents:

Stopping, breathing, and taking in the moment.  Appreciating their age, abilities and achievements without being frustrated by lesser things.  ~ Bea L

Really struggling with patience these days.  ~ Jess F

Being more present with my kids and not giving in to frustration. ~ Rebecca P

Slowing down and enjoying the moments. I always seem to be going and trying to clean, get dishes or laundry done and I tend to e short with my kids and not fully engage in play or conversation. ~ Stefanie S

Being impatient and not being able to just be present with them.  Working on it.  Getting better, but it is hard.  ~ Karen E

I have spent the entire last year working on my mental health, and a huge, huge part of that work was learning to live in the moment.  Our brains (or at least my brain) always want to be solving problems, and thinking about the next thing, or the last thing, or the thing that’s coming up next week, or the thing that happened 6 months ago.  When you’re not truly living in the moment, you’re either living in the past, or in the future.  And in the past and in the future, there’s always a problem to solve.  It’s exhausting.

So all the typical “live in the moment” advice – Breathe;  Count to ten.;  Look around and ground yourself by appreciating the sights and sounds and smells;  Don’t sweat the small stuff –  While it’s all well and good, it wasn’t until I learned the problem-solving piece that I felt like I really understood what I needed to do, and what I needed to remember.

In the moment, in this moment, there is no problem to solve.

And it sounds simplistic, and easy to argue:  Of course there are problems.  We don’t have enough money.  The car’s in the shop.  The kids are always fighting.  The 2 year old’s sick.  The 4 year old’s having a tantrum.  I have to make dinner and make lunches for tomorrow and get my son to football and my daughter to karate and there’s the thing at church and it’s all just SO MUCH. 

Yes.  Sure.   I get it.  I get it.

But right now, right now as you read these words, there are no problems to solve.  It’s okay to give yourself (and your brain!  Your poor, overworked brain) a break.  It’s okay to breathe and NOT WORRY about how you handled that last problem, or how you’re going to handle the next one.  It’s okay to truly and deeply and fully live right now, and give yourself permission to rest…. to rest in the moment, to rest in the presence of your child, to rest in the presence of yourself.

Right now, in the moment, there is no problem to solve.

That one piece of truth, heard in the right place and the right time, was probably one of the single best bits of wisdom I’ve ever received… not just for life in general, but for my parenting as well.  And I still have to remind myself – often – but I’m getting better.

Right now, there is no problem to solve.

And my shoulders relax, and I’m able to exhale, and my weary soul feels a welcome sense of relief.  I don’t have to figure it all out right now.  And then, in that moment, I can be the mom I know I can be.  The mom I know I should be.  And when I miss the mark (and I do sometimes miss the mark, because I’m human)? Then I have the next moment.  And then the one after that.

One day, one moment, at a time.

And it sounds kinda hokey, and a little woo-woo (and I hate woo-woo) … but it helps.  So much.

You have permission to rest.

Hug your kid, smell the flowers, jump in the mud puddle.  Right now, there is no problem to solve.


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Filed under mental health, mindful parenting, not sweating the small stuff, parenting, perspective, self care

Relinquishing The Fear of Self Care

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A cake pop I brought home to surprise Tegan. It’s so easy to care for someone else.

Did you ever notice how you have to learn the same damn lessons over and over before they stick?  (Unless that’s just me?)  You know in your heart that something is true, and right, and sensible… but there’s a disconnect somewhere in between your heart and your brain, and you can’t seem to make yourself do or practice or even believe that which you know is true.  Then, when things start to go haywire – and they will go haywire, when you’re ignoring a vital piece of your well-being – you remember.  And you go, “Oh yeah, I learned this once before.  Maybe this time it’ll last.”  But no.  You’re stubborn.  And busy.  And stubborn some more.  And before you know it you’re once again off the rails and the lesson comes screeching back to remind you.

Repeat 12,000 times.  It’s exhausting.

For me, the area in which this most applies, BY FAR, is the idea of self-care.  In fact I get a little cringey at the thought of self-care, particularly the idea of self-love.  It just sounds so touchy feely and woo-woo and kind of makes me think of naked people hugging around some sort of goddess-worshiping sun circle.  (*Disclaimer:  I am not judging.  More power to you if that’s your sort of thing.  It just doesn’t happen to be mine*)  It makes me feel uncomfortable and icky.  Plus, as a mom, there’s the whole issue of balance.  And guilt.  And “Do I really want/deserve/have time for self-care, when I could be doing something for my kids?  Or my house…  Or my husband…”  Really paying attention to self-care, and self-compassion (seriously, I even have trouble using the word, “love” in there) means prioritizing.  It means deliberately choosing to take time away from something or someone else, in order to invest it in yourself.  It’s hard.  And it’s conflicting.

And it is so. freaking. important. 

I hear moms all the time saying that they’d love to take up this hobby, or read this book, or pursue this craft, but that they don’t have time.  That their KIDS are their hobby.  Their kids are their passion.  Their kids are their life.   They don’t have time for anything else.  I know because it’s what I’ve done.  It’s what I do, even when I swear that I’m going to be better about it.

But you know what?  I really am a better person – a healthier person, a stronger person, a more contented person – when I take time for myself.   By extension, I’m a better mother too.  A better wife.  A better friend.  I know this.  I know this.

So why do I keep having to learn the same lesson over and over?

I’ve been depressed lately, and the approaching holidays (and all the trappings they bring) don’t help with that.  Self-care – or any kind of care, if I’m being honest – has once again slid by the wayside.  And I’m beating myself up because the laundry is piled up, the house needs cleaning, there are presents to wrap, there are cookies to make.  So much to do and so little time, and I’m going to add more to my plate by doing something for myself??  I find myself constantly conflicted between giving myself the rest I so desperately need, and tackling the next Very Important Thing on my to-do list.  The dissonance makes me immobilized, and the immobilization makes me sit there, hovering, right in the middle…. not doing anything to take care of myself, and not getting anything productive done either.  I’m stuck.  And guilty.  And burnt out.

And again, I find myself having to confront the icky love stuff.  The thing I can dole out in spades to my children … but not so much to myself.

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I’m working on it.  I have to work on it.  It’s not optional.  I’ve seen firsthand what it does – not just to me, but to everything around me – when I make it an afterthought.  It isn’t pretty; it’s really not.  My mental health suffers.  My physical health suffers.  My relationships suffer.

So I’ll deal with the discomfort of whatever it is that makes me balk so much at the very words, “self-love”.  I’ll face all the yuck of my past that makes me think I’m not worthy.  I’ll work through my issues of perfectionism and guilt and black-and-white thinking that make me think things have to be done to a certain standard or the whole world order will collapse.  I’ll give myself the care that I deserve – and good grief, that I NEED – and not feel guilty about what I have to say no to in order to make it happen.

(Well, maybe just a little guilty.  I’m a messy work in progress.)

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My too-often ignored reminders on my dusty mirror with my unmade bed in the background.

It is now four o’clock in the afternoon.  I’ve been home for about an hour.  There’s unfolded laundry beside me.  There are stains to be scrubbed out of the carpet.   I need to vacuum.  There are emails to answer, and bills to be paid.  I need to make a list of cookie ingredients so I can go to the store.  I still have to plan a menu for Christmas day.  I need to finish shopping for stocking stuffers.  There are packages to go in the mail.  The bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in…. too long.  And have I mentioned the laundry??  Holy hell, the laundry.

But it’s okay.  IT’S OKAY.  It really is.  And I’ll sit.  And I’ll write, and I’ll drink my tea and eat my candy cane, and I’ll breathe, and I’ll know that I’m not doing nothing, but rather doing something… for me.  And once I’ve done something for me, and filled up my own cup (another phrase that gives me the absolute heebie-jeebies but I’m going to use anyway), I’ll know that it’ll be easier to commit myself fully to whatever task I decide to tackle next.  Full attention on me.  Full attention on the next thing.  And so on.  Non-negotiable from here on out.  And I’ll resist and I’ll whine and I’ll grumble… and I’ll lean into it all and trust that eventually I’ll get it.  Eventually it won’t be so hard.

Because I really am worth it.  I really do kick ass.

And sooner or later I want to be able to say the words, “Yes, I DO practice self-love”, and no longer wince when I say it.

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Filed under about me, acceptance, self care