Self care is a hard-won battle between that part of me that knows I deserve it, and that voice in my head that is always urging me on to the next thing – the washing, the cleaning, the working, the constant doing. That voice in my head that actually doesn’t believe I am worthy of looking after too.
Yet my self-care is a precious little island of time for me. That I deserve. An island of time that I make to nurture me. To let go of all the worries and fears I hold for other people, and to be present in my moment.
On my island, there are no limits. Apart from those limiting voices in my head, and I have been working on ways to quieten them down...
My self-care story
I found the transition into motherhood very challenging. I was used to overworking, defining my value by what I 'did' not who I was. And I struggled to 'do' motherhood well. I certainly didn't believe I deserved time off for myself.
A couple of years into motherhood, I started to visit one little self-care island a week. A yoga class.
It was a huge and terrifying step to ask my in-laws to look after my children so I could take time out for me. But I asked. And they loved the extra time with the kids. And it was the first step on a transformational journey.
Now I have a whole archipelago of precious self-care moments.
For me, self-care is often physical – because I’ve neglected my body in the past. And because that physical focus helps me to move away from my constant worries, and into myself again. I’m not one for sitting and meditating.
I go to yoga every week – and I’m just about to start yoga twice a week. (The internal voices are of course still up in arms about that, but I'm just about ready to take them on again...)
After getting used to my yoga commitment, I started to join Zumba classes at least once a week too, twice a week if I could get the childcare.
Last year, I had to stop going whenever my husband went away to work (which he does a lot) but I realised that this was when I needed self-care most – busily looking after two kids without him, working late into the night, doing everything alone. And so even though the cost of a babysitter to look after the kids while I go costs more than each class itself, I go. A mountain to climb in my head, but I made it to the top.
I’ve found that for me, making regular commitments to self-care (and not calling them that!) works best.
They start to become so familiar that the internal battle fades away. Instead of consciously being my self-care time, it is just what I do. It's in my diary, and I schedule life around it.
I’m also a big fan of the short pause - a tiny island of self-care in the middle of a busy day. Not so much an island as a beautiful little sandbank waiting to cast my footprints.
But I find these random moments much harder to create than my regular commitments. The internal criticism comes back, and I have to really push myself into that moment, into the present.
My self-care pause is a latte in the park, a short walk to breathe in the sea, 10 minutes of stretching.
By telling myself that it will help me to 'do' better afterwards, I consciously allow myself to move away from my computer and all the mess I see around me, and step out into the world.
These pauses may last no more than 10 minutes but whenever I let myself take one, I am amazed at the impact. Afterwards, I am more productive, more engaged, more joyful.
And at the end of the day, these islands of time are amongst the moments I most remember. As I drift off to sleep answering the question ‘where did your eyes linger today?’, these brief moments come to mind and remind me that I matter too.
Sometimes I let myself visit a larger island of self-care too - like feeding myself a delicious healthy meal (and truly tasting it), putting away my computer and watching a movie instead of working in the evening, and of course, getting creative whenever I can.
Story of Mum is my cast-iron excuse for spending time coming up with eccentric creative stuff to do and then testing it all, (which tricks those inner voices rather brilliantly into thinking it is work…!)
Our monthly activities and #somum Make Dates are little islands of creative self-care for me.
And rather wonderfully, getting creative is a self-care activity I can also do with my kids.
I love getting them both up at the table alongside me making stuff, painting, collaging, while I create something of my own.
There is pleasure in creating together. Plus, the self-critical voices quieten down because I'm being a good mum at the same time...
What is self-care to you?
We all have different ways of nurturing ourselves. When you're out of practice (and most of us mums are...) often the hardest thing can be knowing what it is that you need in the first place.
So we started our recent Mamas’ Retreat by collaging in answer to the question ‘what nurtures you?’.
This simple collage prompted some fascinating discussions and insights amongst the mamas.
You can see several of the collages here. Every one was completely different, but each offered a rare window into the different ways we can each nurture ourselves, if only we could reach that precious island.
Where can you start, right now, today?
If the very concept of making time for yourself is blowing your mind, and you're wondering how on earth you would even start, try this. Just start by taking 20 minutes of creative time for you. Join us in making a 'what nurtures you?' collage.
Don’t think too hard, just grab a couple of magazines and quickly choose the pictures or words that jump out at you, there doesn't need to be a clear explanation for any of them. Don't judge what you make - it doesn't have to be beautiful or perfect, you don't have to show anyone. Just have a go.
(My collage is the one below – it took just 20 minutes, and I didn't think at all about the images, just went with my gut... and found it hugely useful).
When you’re done, take a moment to step back and look at what you’ve made. How was the experience of making it? What do you see there? Are there any patterns? Anything that surprises you? What truly nurtures you?
And most importantly, what could you do in just 20 minutes a week to start to provide more of that time for self-nurturing in your life too?
Create that first tiny island for yourself. Because you need that space mama.
We'd love to hear how it goes. Tell us what nurtures YOU below.
This post is part of our Mama Self-Care Blogging Carnival celebrating the launch of our DIY Mamas' Retreat Kit - find out more and read other posts from inspiring mamas that encourage you to take time out for YOU here.