When the baby is screaming, and the toddler has knocked over the dog’s water for upteenth time today, and it’s 5:30 and dinner isn’t made, and you haven’t showered, and your husband walks through the door, all you want to do is toss the baby (ever so gently but urgently) in his arms and run. Run away. Run upstairs to take a hot shower with the radio turned all the way up. Run and hide under the covers and sleep from 6pm until forever, long enough that the bags under your eyes deflate and the headache that has pounded from behind your eyes for weeks finally ebbs into a dull roar. Run to the store so you can buy the mascara that you won’t remember to put on and the bobby pins that have seemed to disappear in every crevice of the couch except when you need one. Run to the salon because you need a haircut that looks good when it’s not been styled (or, let’s face it, washed). Run to pick up pizza because the last thing you want to do is stand in front of the stove and figure out what “sounds good” when all you can smell is spit up and dried cheerios. And even though that’s all you’ve felt like you’ve been doing all day (run, run, run…) that’s all you want to do for just a little bit of peace and quiet. That ten minute drive in the car with no one pawing at your shirt or crying at your feet or making your blood pressure rise into a drumbeat in your ears might be the only thing that saves you that day.
We’ve all been there. Heck, I’m there multiple times a week, and I only have one kid in the house and one bun in the oven.
On those days, I reflect back to life before kids and think my brain might explode at the fact that before now I thought staying at home would be less stressful than that full time job I used to have or the multiple part time jobs I had before that. I used to pray for the day I’d get to stop working and stay at home, where I thought I would get SO much done every day, where I thought chores would be completed happily and with gratitude by a well-rested me that had her life together, where I thought my to-do list would be short and easy to accomplish in one afternoon of blissful nap-time silence. Oh, how wrong I was.
And I know what people will say to this: “You think YOU are stressed? What about ME? I work AND have kids to take care of!” or “I am a single parent!” or “My SO is in the military and not home for months or years at a time!” or “I don’t have kids but my job is WAY more stressful than yours!”
And I want to point out that this isn’t a competition for who’s life is harder or more stressful; I’m simply sharing that in my experience, I didn’t know just how close to the breaking point I could get until I stayed home. That’s my reality. That’s my truth.
And what I’ve found, is that no matter what your situation is, we ALL could use these 5 things to bring us back from the edge and to a better place. We all need these five things to achieve true self-care when things get to be too much, when we just. can’t. even.
Whether it’s letting me sleep in on a Saturday while he takes Lucas out of the house to do something fun or taking over the bedtime routine so that I can go to bed early when I’m fried, those few extra blissful hours make a huge difference in my sanity and my productivity when I’m awake. Sometimes we have to make it extremely clear to our significant others that we need their help in order to take care of ourselves; remember, they’re not mind readers, and they don’t always notice when we’re reaching 0% battery life. So, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask him/her to give you a few hours sans kids to rest.
Sometimes, you really do just need to get the hell out of Dodge. Distance provides perspective, whether it’s from the Target ten minutes away or getting rejuvenated on a weekend trip to Chicago with a friend, sometimes you just. need. out. You need some space to reset your crazy button and not feel needed by anyone but you. For me, I don’t even care if the errand is to pick something up for the family or to stare aimlessly at things I won’t or can’t buy; please, just tell me, “I’ve got this. I love you. Go have some time to yourself!” Even if you don’t leave your zip code, do something that is just for you: take a bath with salts and candles, hide on the porch swing and read a book, go for a run or walk around the block, attend a lecture or a concert or a Pilates class, gab with a friend on the phone for half an hour while you sit outside of a coffee shop and enjoy some fresh air; just go and do and be.
If you don’t need a nap or to get away, I can assure you that you almost always need some help. More importantly? You need some help without asking for it. Because I know that for me, if I have to ask for it, then I feel like I’m nagging. If I feel like I’m nagging, then I feel guilty and worried that my husband is mad at me for asking more of him when I know how much he already does (even though 9/10 he’s never mad and is actually grateful that I gave him a clue as to why I’m so flustered and irritated and sighing passive aggressively like it’s going out of style). If your partner doesn’t have a clue without you giving one, then ask or make a list or have a conversation. Partners: if you want to be really helpful, look at what doesn’t get done most often even though it needs to be done. That thing is most likely the thing that you can do to help the most. Dishes? Cleaning the shower? Helping with laundry? Heck, maybe it’s just cleaning out the fridge. Honestly, we don’t care what it is- any extra help with chores or responsibilities that usually fall in our realm is always appreciated and makes a difference. Mowing the lawn doesn’t count. Sorry.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached 2pm and thought, “Did I eat today?” Although that has quickly stopped since getting pregnant (homie don’t play that anymore) it used to be the norm for me. Feed yourself something other than toddler leftovers and do so often. A fed you is a happier you. Snacks are key. Healthy food is key. Eating regular meals is key. (There are lots of keys.) Better yet, ask your significant other to take over preparing a meal if that responsibility is usually yours. Partners: asking if we’d like if you made dinner doesn’t count- just do it. We will be grateful. Even if all you make is hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, the fact that I didn’t have to do it is worth it’s weight in cheesy pasta gold.
When I was a teacher, this was huge for me. I busted my butt every day for those kids, and do you know how often I got recognized for that hard work? Not nearly enough. Now, I’m home, and sometimes it feels like déjà vu. Now, I’m not saying we all need a pat on the head every day (if you value the use of your hands, you better not ever pat me on the head…) but every once in a while, it’s nice to hear, “Thank you for taking care of those appointments today,” or “I really appreciate all that you do for us,” or “I love how happy our kid is because of the time you spend with him,” etc. (You don’t have to be Shakespeare, significant others, just voice what you’re happy about or what you’re glad you didn’t have to take care of.) Sometimes, we don’t even need gratitude so much as empathy and recognition that today totally sucked and a reminder that tomorrow will be better, or (better yet) propose a solution for how you will help us to make sure that tomorrow is better, like, “I’m sorry he didn’t nap today. I know how much that stresses you out and that it takes time away from you getting to do what you need or want to do during that quiet time. I’ll take over bedtime tonight so that you can get that thing done and have a little time to yourself.” Just let me know I’m not crazy and that you’re here to help.
And here’s the thing, y’all: this list applies to everyone– to both sexes, to all genders, to all races,to parents and singletons, to young and old, and everyone in between. This may be a list written by a wife and a mother, but husbands and fathers need these five things to care for themselves too. So, if you’ve been reading this and nodding along and saying, “PREACH!” and are itching to share it with your significant other and tag them in it as if to say “YES. DO THIS. DO THESE THINGS.” Feel free to do so, but also consider that maybe you could be doing some of these things to help them, too. It doesn’t even have to apply to your significant other, it could apply to your friends or family. After all, it doesn’t matter who we are, we are all struggling with stress in some way.
Let’s help each other out.
A huge thank you to Perla Farias Photography for her gorgeous photographs for this post. Check out more of her work on her Facebook page here.