Parenting is exhausting.
Understatement of the year, right? It's one of those jobs that can feel like 497 Mondays in a row, followed by a Tuesday complete with a forgotten dentist appointment.
Of course, all it takes is a cute little phrase or kiss from your little one to turn it into a feeling similar to a 4 day weekend right after summer vacation.
And then right back to Monday. And then a long weekend. Back and around and back again, so much so that you don't know what day it is and your emotions feel like a boiling pot of Ramen noodles.
Now, add all of your parenting feelings to the rest of your adult life and what have you got?
And how do you combat stress? Self-care.
I know, I know. Plenty of articles will tell you about the importance of self-care. In fact, you might read one in a magazine right before you shred it up and turn it into paper mache for your 2nd grader's art project. You might read it and think, “You know, I really should take a long relaxing bath tonight.”
You might think that, but let's be honest: you're probably going to fall asleep on the couch as soon as your tuckus hits the fabric at 8:45. Self-care sounds nice, but it's not all that easy to include into your busy lifestyle.
This doesn't mean, however, that self-care isn't important - but how do you fit it in!?
I'm going to be blunt, and I'm also going to remind you that I can only speak for myself, but:
Self-care won't work if it doesn't fit into your life. And trying to force it is going to cause you even more stress.
It's not realistic to read self-care recommendations from Gwyneth Paltrow and expect all her methods to be achievable for your routine and budget. It is realistic, however, to add a few moments of pleasure to your day in order to make it through.
3 (Realistic and Totally Doable) Ways to Add Some Self-Care to Your Day
1. 10 Minute Bucket Soak
Alright, so yes, it would be amazing to light 50 candles, draw a hot, aromatic epsom salt bath, and listen to whale songs or a 30 minute guided meditation from the peace of a child-free bathroom, but there’s no way I can pull that off on a regular basis. Instead, as I sit at the kitchen table in the mornings and check my email, zone out on Facebook, or watch a Will Ferrell gag reel while the kids watch a cartoon, I soak my feet in a 5 gallon bucket of water.
It's not glamorous, and it's not a tropical vacation or anything, but by adding a cup of epsom salt, a few drops of calming essential oils, and some hot-as-I-can-handle-it water, I’m able to relieve my aching feet, smell some soothing scents, and take a break.
2. Froth Up Some Milk
I love few things more than sitting at a coffee shop by myself, enjoying a tasty cup of something a little more extravagant than my typical black cup of joe. My budget (both financial and timewise) though, doesn’t really allow for a daily escape to my favorite barista.
I highly recommend buying either an easy-to-clean blender or a little stick blender specifically-designed for frothing up milk. I know, it seems silly, but when you've just been asked — for the 51st time — about the mating habits of Australian crocodiles or if you've just stepped on your 17th lego, a frothy, delicious mug of "fancy" coffee can go a long way. Invest in some nice flavorings and some half-and-half to make it extra decadent.
Note: I recommend you close your eyes and drink it in a locked bathroom.
3. Try Out an Audio Book
While it would be lovely to sit in my corner chair with a La Croix in the afternoon sun while my kid naps or plays quietly, I also usually have at least 3 loads of laundry and/or dishes to do at all times. By putting an audiobook through my headphones, I'm able to add something pleasant and self-nurturing (enjoying a book I've been wanting read) to a mundane but necessary task. And, hopefully, I'll have a few less loads of responsibility by the time evening rolls around.
You can try sites like Audible.com or iTunes if you don't want to wait, and you can also check with your public library to see what kind of eBook platform they use. Most libraries allow you to "check out" audiobooks using their library app for free — you just might have to wait a little while for someone else to finish the book first!
Remember: self-care doesn't have to be an epic vacation from your daily routine — it can be peppered throughout your week in realistic doses that make sense for your life.