My goals for this moon cycle was self-improvement. With the New Moon, I focused on creating internal self-care habits that can be seen by others, but only work for me. Things like journaling and meditation. It’s nice when the kids see that I am trying to make time for myself, but I can’t really include them into these activities with me. Sure, I can try and have the 2 year old sit still and meditate… (I laughed as I typed that sentence) or have the 5 year old color with me while I work on my journal and maybe not ask me how to draw an X or Y or Z.
And that led to my external list. The goal is to take time for myself, but these are also things that the kids could do too with little explanation or coaxing. While I will NOT let them light incense for a few years, we can sit at the table and enjoy the smell or look at the smoke together. I can make them lemon and honey tea to sip along with me while I sip my coffee and we can try to be mindful about how it feels to drink our beverages.
And even though the point of self-care is to focus more on yourself, these simple activities actually cause the kids to slow down for a few minutes with me and we both benefit. They don’t join me every time, and occasionally I do wait until they are doing something else entirely (mommy needs space some days).
However, the fact that they can see me taking a break is important to me. I don’t remember seeing much of this in my own family. I am sure my parents had their methods of taking a break, but most of it was at the end of the day. My mom would always go to bed early and read or watch TV, and my dad was a computer geek who would be working on his computer for fun. Beyond that, I don’t remember much. Day time was always for being active and busy, and while there is nothing wrong with that, I need breaks of silence and aloneness to function my best. (yay for being an introvert!)
For my parents, the active days and relaxing nights worked for them. But for me, after I left home, I thought I was doing something wrong. I would seek out lunch breaks at work alone or with a book. I would come home and not want to talk or even see my husband because I had to be around people in a very small clinic all day long and I was very done. And even now, staying home with the kids, I thought I was a terrible mother because I still make my 5 year old take naps (okay, rests) in her room, so that I can have time to just sit and be still.
I didn’t “know” I could take a break or a minute when I became an adult, especially a mother. Not during the day, anyway, I would rush rush rush to get everything done – chores, meals, handwriting and letters for the soon to be kindergartener, errands, lesson planning/grading (I taught part time at the local technical college), laundry. I had to do ALL the things before the sun went down. I would read at night, but sometimes I’d still be thinking or worrying about my day or work the next day, or the kids (once they came into our lives).
The burnout was intense, but I didn’t realize it until I stopped my teaching job last month. I have extra time without grading and lesson planning. And when I tried to enjoy it, I felt wracked with guilt. I can’t sit and work on a novel that I tried to start for last NaNoWriMo. I can’t take a nap. I can’t actually (and finally) open and start playing Stardew Valley (only been putting that off for about two years).
This moon cycle was my first step to making sure that I take care of myself in order to take care of those around me.
I’ve read about self-care for years. I even talked about it in my English 101 classes (hypocrite!). I studied it, but never acted on it (what I do about everything I’m interested in) I even started trying to make small things happen daily. Things that were just for me, but then something would throw off my rhythm and I would spiral downward. But, if I can have small things, non-routine things, that I can even do with the kids, then this habit should grow and help all of us.
These simple things are something I can pull from when I need to clear my head and only have a few minutes. They also can work when the kids want to be with me (which some days is ALL day long). And things they can pick up and use for themselves. My daughter occasionally takes short breaks in her room where she just lies on the bed and looks out her window for a few minutes. She usually comes back a lot more relaxed.
Eventually, I plan on teaching them about journaling. That is my real outlet when I’m over-stressed or can’t shut my brain off.
But for now, I am trying to incorporate something daily that they could join me in if they want to. Something that is not a routine either, so that I can be more flexible – something I really need to work at right now.
I am trying to make an effort to take a break in front of them. And tell them that I am taking a break. It will be a challenge – I will have to fight off the mom guilt for ignoring them for 5 minutes (maybe). Something we can both benefit from.