I’ve had so many people these days telling me that self care is super important and how I shouldn’t neglect myself.. Yet as a single mum, I’m the last thing on my mind in priorities if I’m honest.
If I google self care, I get a lot of fluffy articles telling me I need to put a face mask on and have a manicure like I don’t have a toddler investigating everything I do. I tried to do a face mask once when he went to bed, and unfortunately he needed resettling while the stuff was still on my face – walking into our shared bedroom with a charcoal mask over my face wasn’t my best parenting moment.
The same people tell me to have a shower or bath to relax – I shower with my son playing with his bath toys sat in the bottom of the bath while I literally do what needs to be done. Shaving? Ha! Nope, not unless I want to have him trying to investigate the razor as I’m doing it. Besides, I’m a single mum and it’s winter – any fur I cultivate on my legs counts as another layer of clothing.
I decided to think long and hard on what I’d class as self care – and what I could manage. I decided against such gems as ‘leave the washing up till tomorrow’ because.. Honestly, what monster is able to do that and relax?
1. Go outside!
Since moving back to my hometown in Yorkshire I’ve walked close to four miles a day – and it makes such a difference. Just being out in the open air, or chancing that small interaction from other people with no pressure? It’s wonderful. Take a walk to your favourite bakery, have a wander to your local park.. Don’t let the weather decide for you either. Puddle suits are made for wet weather, and if I’m being honest Ted loves watching the rain on his rain cover.
2. Eat well
This one is easier said than done I know. But I’ve been the person eating Ted’s leftovers because I’m too tired to cook, and it isn’t the best. I try cook for two these days, and we both eat at the same time. That way he watches me eat and it encourages him, and I actually get to eat something that hasn’t already been smushed around a plate for half an hour!
3. Spread your wings, social butterfly!
This is a big one. As I eluded to in #1 and seeing people when out on a walk, never underestimate the power of seeing another adult during your day.
If you feel up to it, baby groups and parent meet-ups are a great place to meet other parents who might be as frazzled as you are – learning that you aren’t alone in feeling exhausted is sometimes the best cure. If you don’t feel up to meeting people face to face, apps like Bumble or Peanut offer an online alternative.
4. Make an effort, just for yourself. You’re worth it!
This could be styling your hair, putting on makeup – or even just slicking some lip balm on your lips. Do one thing that usually you wouldn’t bother with. Yes, putting on a clean pair of pyjamas for your movie day does count!
5. Try fit in some exercise – even if it’s sneaky.
Again, this makes me feel a little better! It might not be your thing, but give it a go and see how your mood feels. I walk a lot, and I try make sure I stretch out before bed – it makes me feel like I’m being productive with my body at least. That, and it almost justifies the emergency chocolate snacks I’ve turned to throughout the day.
6. Make time to indulge in something you want to do!
There’s something to be said about watching a show you enjoy, or sitting down and having a cup of tea while you enjoy it hot. I try and do something I want to do when Ted eventually goes to bed – it doesn’t always work out and I have to balance the ‘fun’ things with the ‘not so fun’ things like studying.. But that hour or two I’m able to buckle down and get things done really does realign my sense of self.
7. Rest, and don’t you dare feel guilty.
I always cringed when people said ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ way back in the newborn days.. But I actually do this much more these days now Ted is a toddler!
It’s well known that when he has his daily nap, I can be found cuddled up in bed sneaking an hour of sleep. I used to feel incredibly guilty, but these days that’s long gone. I’m up between 4-6am. I have a tiny little ball of perpetual energy to entertain until sometimes 9pm at night. Through the night I’m up every three hours to feed said perpetual ball of energy as he recharges – and then it begins again.
If anyone begrudges me getting an hour of sleep then they should have a week on my schedule!
8. Buy some fresh flowers for the home.
One of my favourites. I don’t have my own home at the moment, or my own garden.. But a vase of fresh flowers is a wonderful pick-me-up when you enter a room. Whether you pick them yourself from your garden or allotment, or buy them from your local shop – give it a try.
9. Have a ‘picnic tea’!
Dinnertime is a stressful time for us. Especially when he’s teething as he is right now – he’s incredibly picky and I can spend hours preparing a meal and he might have a mouthful and then turn away. Those days, it’s hard.. So I make a plate of easy foods. Finger sandwiches, crackers with cheese, maybe a chicken nugget or two. It gives Ted a range of food to pick and choose from and relieves pressure on me trying to get him to eat something.
10. Get out the tablet.
Oh the tablet. Oh oh the screen time. But being able to bust out Peppa Pig or Hey Duggee at a moments notice is a massive positive. It might give me ten minutes of time to do a much needed chore, ten minutes to gather my thoughts – and sometimes just ten minutes of cuddling while watching Peppa.