Last night I stood on a train platform for 30 minutes, which meant that along with getting to day care 20 minutes past close, I had time to read a piece from the Washington Post called “Why Self-Care Is an Important Part of Parenting, and How to Make Time for It.” The first part encourages parents to take time away from their kids, while the second suggests what to do with this time. The recommended activities are “say no,” “get counseling,” “pick up a new hobby,” “set a goal,” “ask for alone time in the house,” and “take time with your partner.” Other suggestions include “sleeping, eating well, and moving your body.”
In theory, all of this is a nice, if self-evident idea: Parents — along with everyone else — should take care of their mental and physical health. But long-term, holistic solutions often work against reality, where “Me” time is scant and can feel like one more thing on an already-long list. Sure, stretched resources are what parents sign up for. But there are ways to grant yourself small moments of kindness within the narrow confines of everyday life — sooner rather than later, and at little to no cost.
Below, some suggestions for parents (or anyone who’s busy, or having a rough day) who want to take care of themselves right now.
Spend about six minutes alone in the bathroom. When does your day end? Mine ends around 8 p.m., once my son is asleep. In the kitchen, there’s a pile of dishes and pumping equipment for me and my spouse to clean, bottles and food to prepare for the next day, a neglected dog to tend to, but you know where none of that is? The bathroom. Go in there, wash your face. Put on lipstick if that’s what you like to do. Apply lotion to your hands.
Dispose of delivery boxes. Since having a child, you’ve probably found yourself ordering more and more household items online. This is a great idea, because it saves a lot of time. The downside is your house, which is now full of boxes. You’ve got to break them down and put them in the recycling anyway, so my suggestion is to do this with zeal. Tear them apart with your bare hands, maybe yell a little if you need to.
Do your favorite chore. You’ve probably matured to realize you hate some chores but derive intense satisfaction from others. On a bad day, hustle through the chores you absolutely have to do and make sure you do one you actually enjoy. I like to vacuum. If I really need to cut loose, I clean out the fridge.
Contact your representatives. If you feel trapped by conflicting demands, exhausted, and overwhelmed, do something productive: Get in touch with the politicians who represent you and let them know what matters to you and your family.
Yell into a pillow. It only takes a moment.
Dance with your baby (or a pet, or couch cushion) for exactly one song. You might not have the time to shove on a sports bra and lace up your sneakers, but you do have time to do this. Close your eyes, even. Set aside your cares for a few minutes and shake your butt.