I am a social worker. One particular practice the social work field highly emphasizes is self-care.
You can’t take care of others if you haven’t taken care of yourself. At one point, I didn’t think this was necessary. I somehow had it in my head that because I loved serving others, service in and of itself was my self-care. While I do love serving others (why I pursued the social work field), I absolutely need time to take care of just me. This realization came to me while spending a year (2012-2013) in Chicago, volunteering fulltime for AmeriCorps through a program called Amate House. The realization didn’t just come to me; it had to be put right in front of my face. At Amate House we participated in weekly “community nights” which consisted of spending each Wednesday with the other program members to focus on central themes. During one community night, we discussed the importance of self-care. This means different things to everyone. To some, going for a bike ride is self-care—to others, taking a nap. For me, self-care manifests itself in many ways: a phone call with an old friend, painting my nails while sipping hot tea, writing while listening to depressing indie love songs, etc. Self-care is vital in a high burnout career fields like social work. Even with a passion for serving others, we must restore and nurture our own well-beings.
I recently had another realization. I’m not working right now, but self-care is absolutely necessary for another life facet, one about which I’m just learning—parenthood. Putting our needs on the backburner can easily become second nature when we’re taking care of tiny humans who are incapable of taking care of themselves. Yeah, I know I’m preaching to the choir here. But I’m just figuring this out! So, I’m searching for ways to take care of myself while I take care of my little miracle 24/7. I think I’ve figured out what I’m lacking that has the potential to make my life a lot less stressful: Discipline.
But how do I get said discipline? I called my mom and asked how she does it—“Years of practice,” she said. Oh, man. I better get started.
Needs I’m Putting on the Backburner
1- My house looks like a tornado tore through it.
Yes, I live in tornado alley, but we haven’t had any actual tornadoes lately. Yes, I have a 4-month-old baby, so visitors typically give me a pass on household cleanliness. But it makes me crazy. And frankly, my house was like this way before Jack came along, but that’s neither here nor there. Point is, it’s gotta change. We let our house get terrible and then despise it. We love a clean house! We just lack discipline. Here are some of our habits: A- let the dishes pile up until the sink overflows. Granted, we have shallow sinks, but this is an excuse I need to stop using. B- let the laundry sit unfolded for a week or two until we have enormous piles of wrinkly clothes that take forever to fold. We have other bad habits as well, but these two are the worst.
2- I’ve plateaued on losing my baby weight.
“You’re young,” they said. “The weight will fall right off,” they said. Well, 22 pounds fell off pretty quickly, which was awesome. The other 18? Not so much. I truly wish I didn’t care so much about this; after all, I did just spend 9 months growing a human and then faced the immense task of pushing him out. I think I deserve a cookie or ten. But the fact is, I miss my clothes and don’t want to buy new ones. And I just want to feel better about myself. I recognize that my body will never be the same; motherhood has changed it. I am totally okay with this. However, I do need to be healthy! Not only do I want this for myself, but I want to set a good example for Jack, as well. Right now, he only eats delicious breast milk, but before we know it he’ll be on to solids, then crawling, then walking, then running marathons, etc. I want him to know that eating well and exercising are important. I’m not into that “do as I say, not as I do” crap (well, maybe a little bit, but I try not to).
3- I need a creative outlet.
Don’t get me wrong; I am so happy and grateful for all the time I get with Jack, especially at this age. I can’t imagine not getting to spend this time with him, watching him change daily. The thought of going back to work soon is breaking my heart. Women who go back to work sooner are total badasses. Teach me your ways. (*SAHMs are awesome, too*). But all of this aside, I still get a little stir crazy. I’m used to pouring myself into school and work, so, even though I’m busy with Jack, it’s a little weird for me to be home all the time. I need an outlet! Thus, this blog was born.
1- Making my house not look like tornado alley
I have been making a point to do dishes as soon as I dirty them. No piles. Rinse them and put them straight in the dishwasher. It takes 30 seconds, as opposed to 20 dreaded minutes. Just doing a little at a time makes a big difference. When the dishes are clean, put them away so the sink doesn’t pile up. I have not been perfect at this, but I’m doing much better than usual! I’m using a similar approach with laundry. Fold it as soon as it’s out of the dryer! A little bit at a time sure beats an overwhelming amount all at once. Yeah, yeah, cleaning doesn’t sound like self-care, but it’s working for me right now!
2- Losing my baby weight
I finally started going to the gym. Not every day, but I started. Sometimes I work out at home. I’ve gone to a few Zumba classes (since they are baby-friendly), run on the treadmill using the C25K app, used the 7-minute workout app, started doing YouTube yoga, and dug up some workout DVDs I purchased right before I found out I was pregnant. I aim to do at least one of these every day. I’ve also started logging all of my food intake and exercises into the My Fitness Pal app. I’m a little bummed they don’t have breastfeeding under exercise (since it burns 300-500 calories a day!). Nonetheless, the app is helping me hold myself accountable. I am not supposed to “diet” while breastfeeding, but I’ve stopped allowing myself to shovel anything and everything into my mouth.
3- Finding a creative outlet
I have wanted to blog for years but figured I had nothing of importance to say. Well, I finally stopped letting that excuse stop me and found I have quite a lot to say. Whether it’s of importance is neither here nor there! I’ve put my excuses aside and decided to follow Nike’s advice—just do it. My goal is to write every day. I don’t plan to post every day, but I have to write something, whether it be a paragraph or page.
This was kind of a novel. Whoops!
How do you do self-care? How do you practice discipline? Let me know in the comments!