Your journal prompts this week:
When someone tells me to rest and do some self-care, what do I think this typically entails?
When it is a difficult or challenging time for me, how do I feel about stopping for rest or self-care? How often do I actually do it?
What would make me more likely to engage in rest and self-care?
What would it look like for me to focus on nourishing and nurturing myself instead?
As a new mom, I receive the message often that I need to make sure I get my rest. I need to make time for "self-care."
I almost always kind of laugh at this statement or get a touch defensive. I feel like most general advice that people give to someone who is in a more challenging period of their life needs to come with an asterisk or fine print: not applicable for parents of babies or very young children, especially those who breastfeed and who do not have childcare. This is just going to be hard for a few years and no one can save you, so toughen up, buttercup! Just be grateful for your sweet baby and forget about your own pains and needs! Plus, it's really not so bad, and you'll miss these days soon!
(Okay, so that was a long asterisk, but you get the point.)
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the host was talking about being sick and focusing on rest all week, and how she was forcing herself to slow down and do nothing. I immediately got nostalgic for the days when getting sick was an excuse to slow down, and when I actually had the luxury of "doing nothing." But there's kind of no such thing as "doing nothing" when you have a baby, sick or not.
And I'm willing to bet new parents aren't the only ones who experience this frustration. I'm sure it rises up in many of us when we're in a particularly challenging time—or when the world itself is in a challenging time. There's so much out there right now that is so overwhelming and painful to consume, and the traditional definition of self-care that is pedaled to us on Instagram probably feels like it just isn't gonna cut it.
At multiple points in this first year postpartum, I've asked myself what could rest and self-care actually look like for me now? What would make sense? If all this advice out there, even the advice from other moms like me, isn't resonating, what would?
I've iterated on this a long time, and in fact, I've wanted to write about this for awhile now but haven't been able to find the answers or the words. I'm still not sure whether I have them, but I do want to share my thoughts, in case they are helpful for anyone else going through a more challenging period of their life.
For the most part, I've focused on adjusting my expectations. I've become realistic about what I can and cannot do. I try to focus on making the most of the little time I do get for self-care. Some nights I am just so grateful for the feeling of hot water on my skin when I take a shower. That's something I barely noticed before, but now feels like such a luxury. I celebrate the nights when I get a chunk of consecutive sleep of three hours or more.
And when I think of rest, now I add in what rest would look like with my baby girl present. A lot of times this means just being fully present with her and in the moment, not trying to multitask. Sometimes it is napping with her, if I can, even if just for a few minutes. And sometimes it is holding her while she naps.
But the biggest shift in thinking happened when I was pulling an Oracle card for someone, and it was from the Work Your Light Oracle by Rebecca Campbell. The card was "Deep Replenishment: Retreat. Rest. Be held."
When I looked at the card description, I thought it would be the typical message around self-care and getting sleep. But it wasn't. Instead, it brought out alternative words that resonated with me much more: nourishment and nurturing. The card asks, "What nourishes you?" and says, "What nourishes you is your medicine."
And the examples of nourishment that Rebecca offers go beyond just the usual "get some more sleep" or "pamper yourself." One example was as simple as sipping your favorite cup of coffee at a favorite cafe.
So lately I've started to think more about nourishing myself in whatever little ways I can, and that includes having some pumpkin spice flavored creamer in my morning coffee. And as I write this, I am enjoying that coffee while my baby girl sleeps in quite late in the other room, after she woke up at 3:30 AM this morning wide awake, ready to play, which she did until about 5 AM.
This morning, I could choose to be frustrated about how messed up her sleep schedule is and I could worry about how late I'm letting her sleep, or I could enjoy this moment writing and having my pumpkin spice flavored coffee, and trust that the rest will figure itself out.
This is how I will nurture myself. I will cut myself a break and make my own version of self-care.
Explore your relationship to rest and self-care with the journal prompts above.
As always, share your insights with me in the comments below, or just let me know how you are doing. While journaling is a solo practice, I want this to be a place for love and support. How are you taking care of yourself during these times?
With much love and gratitude,