The other day I was chatting with my beloved cousin over the phone. She juggles, along with her dedicated husband, 4 kids ( 3 of them under 7) while both working full time jobs. This along with the facts that there were 3 deaths in their close circle in the past year and they were blessed with the addition of their 4th child in that time as well. They’re lives are busy to say the least and the undercurrent of undigested grief from the losses had added an immense stress for them to process. Diapers still need to be changed and bills still need to be paid regardless of the storms being navigated in their hearts. In their world there is no space to take a breather and let it all settle in.
The Invisible Standard
My cousin was sharing with me her struggle to fit in time for herself through exercise and her idea of how any time spent exercising didn't really count unless it was a full out sweaty 45-plus minute session. This resulted in her not exercising at all unless that window happened to show up (of course hardly ever).
The "Ideal" of Self Care Defeating It's Purpose
This idea of her self care having to look a certain way for her to even give it a chance was holding her back from using the pockets of time she already had, now. It brought me sadness to see someone so dear to me, unknowingly prolonging their exhaustion and unnecessary inner chaos by abiding by this idea. She’s not alone though, many parents feel this way, I know I did.
Before having a child I did have those big chunks of time to myself and expected that within a few months of surviving the initial sleepless haze of caring for an infant, I’d “jump back on track” and dive into "me time" for an hour at a stretch once again, talk about setting myself up for major disappointment!
This Way or No Way
Another idea that can set parents back in their self care is that of it needing to take place away from home for it to count, such as through an exercise session at a gym, social time at a restaurant/bar, treatments at a spa or being up to our eyebrows with fun and relaxation when away at a thoroughly planned and much anticipated vacation. Both approaches lean towards a perfectionist view and result in parents not even bothering with treating themselves unless it fits those standards. These beliefs further deprive parents of seeing the abundance that can be done with the pockets of time being offered in their lives right now.
A Gentler Way
A gentler, more forgiving way that is actually more…caring…to the self and works, is that of looking at self care as a lifestyle and moment to moment practice that isn’t bound to a certain amount of time or place. This way is more about using the resources you have to give yourself the most richly pleasurable experience possible with the time you have.
Did the kids happen to go to bed 10 mins earlier from a long day of summer fun and you happen to not be utterly exhausted? Why not dim the lights, put on some music, light a candle and write a gratitude list to close your day with?
Pleasure is our birthright and something only we can define for ourselves.
Last week I posted an idea I created that makes it easier to make full use of those pockets of time through what I named the Self Care Jar and today I’ll be talking about the idea of a self care basket to go along with it for added efficiency and delight.
Before I dive into that though, let me give those of you stopping by for the first time a recap on my Summer Self Care for Parents series, this post is the 6th in the series.
In thefirst post I shared 5 tips that have helped me create a summer that is not only fun for our family but also kind to me in terms of my needs for refueling and time to myself. In my second post I shared why being bored for kids is good, builds self care skills for later in life and how it can be the fertile ground for creating things. In my third post l expanded more on this point of creating things with 20 reasons why it’s among the most restorative forms of self care. I also gave 5 art prompts to get you started on your own creative adventure. In the fourth post I shared more on the research behind the restoring benefits to mind and body when working with your hands and gave 22 ideas for creating easy, beautiful and useful things with your hands. The fifth post introduced the self care jar and today is the 6th where I will share the self care basket, without further ado, let's get back to the post!
Self Care Designated Supplies
The self care basket is referenced by the ideas from the self care jar. Just to rewind a little and give a come context behind this jar, I modeled this jar after the kids “Bored Jar” that has been all the craze on Pinterest this summer. In the same way that the Bored Jar makes it easy and fun for kids to access ideas on how to spend their time when their bored by having ideas written on popsicle sticks and placed in a regular jar labeled "The Bored Jar”, the Self Care Jar has it’s ideas also written on flat wooden popsicle sticks, only that the ideas are self care ideas. The added utility in this is that the color coded sticks make it easy to find what activities you could do according to the time you have available spanning in increments of 1-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20 and 20+ minutes.
Small Self Kindnesses Not On Our Radar
When we are in the thick of our daily lives, doing what we usually do, opportunities to treat ourselves can remain oblivious when we've never created habits around those kind of actions. Having a designated place for self-care supplies to prompt us in that direction helps us make the most of what we have when a window of time arrives.
Concentrated Minutes of Self Soothing
So if I need to put the brakes on some worry-based train of thought that has my mind reeling at 100 miles per hour and I just have 5 minutes, I can pull a red colored stick from the jar and if it says for example “Color” I can quickly grab my colored pencils and adult coloring book from my basket and get to it without a hitch.
Self Care Designated Stash
Of course it doesn't have to be a basket. I know for me, if my son finds my supply of modeling clay and colored pencils, he may very well decide to use them which is fine, but that's when the probability is high for them to get lost around the house because he will get distracted and forget to put them back. Your self care basket can be a self care cabinet in your home, or an ottoman cube in your living room that discretely stores your goodies. The idea is that all you need to take a quick self care break is always easily accessible to you, when you need it.
Below are pictures of my self care items beginning with my self care jar and slightly over stuffed self care basket 🙂
These items bring me concentrated delight and pleasure even if indulging in them for minutes at a time. Having the basket and jar in my home has acted as a visual reminder throughout the day of how there's always an abundance of options available, at any given moment to be kind to myself, it's just for me to take the initiative.
Momentum of Goodness
The beautiful thing is that once we begin giving ourselves what we need to feel good, even if in tiny increments, an inner spaciousness begins to take root and from there more ideas come to us of the wiggle room already present in our lives for more pleasurable experiences. It's really not about having the time, but more about how much richness you can concentrate in any given moment
Creating A Deeper Well of Reserves
As a parent there is definitely effort and planning involved when attempting to carve out time for ourselves, yet it doesn't have to be a herculean life change. We can start very small and work our way up. Setting boundaries can perhaps make others uncomfortable yet will be completely, utterly and UN-regrettably worth it for us and those that depend on us. In taking those tiny steps, we begin to make progress towards a life that is kinder to ourselves and this creates a deeper reserve from which to give to our loved ones.
If your postponing your self care and holding your breath till you get to that week long vacation months from now or till the stars line up just right and that hour long window presents itself to hit the gym, I encourage you to pause and see how your life is presenting opportunities for you to feel calmer, more at ease and relieved right now.
Hopefully the idea of housing all you need to grab at a moments notice and do something richly pleasurable for yourself is helpful. What small acts are concentrated with feel good effects for you?
If you found this post helpful take a sec to like, share or comment below. As always thank you for making me a part of your day!