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Put on the danged oxygen mask: How to get some self-care even when it seems impossible

Two very tired parents
Self-care may not be a cure-all...but it can be a cure-a-little.

When you are running on fumes, I know it is a big ask to even consider self-care…but, trust me, it’s so insanely important. Being overtired and energetically overdrawn sucks the joy right out of parenting and makes every day an uphill slog. Self-care isn’t magic. It’s not going to make your livewire any easier, but it will allow you the breathing space to make reasonable decisions and to possibly be a little kinder to yourself. Parenting a livewire is hard enough without us heaping tons of self-criticism and doubt onto our plate.

Not enough bubble bath in the world

I’m telling you what I wish I had learned. Back in the baby days, I would laugh at advice that said, “Moms, take time out for a nice bubble bath.” Please. Like that was going to fix anything. I felt like I’d need a month of bubble baths to even make a dent in how exhausted I was. So, I rejected the idea as stupid and completely unhelpful. What I failed to realize was that, while a bubble bath wasn’t a cure-all, it could have been a cure-a-little. I am here, over twenty years down the road, and I can definitively say that rejecting any amount of self-care was a very bad idea.

Teeny tiny snippets of self-care...

1. Take some time every day to be on your own. Thirty minutes? An hour? Take a walk, just be in the bathroom…whatever it is, do it.

2. Practice self-compassion. Sounds dumb when you’re tired, but do it. Research has shown that it helps. Here are a couple of great resources on this:

3. It’s okay to ask our kids to bend a little. If you’ve been getting up every time they wake or you’re doing a ton of gymnastics to get them to sleep (and they’re older than six months), it’s okay to ask them to learn some skills so that the load on you is a little lighter. You won’t survive always meeting a livewire where they want you to be. This is a system and you count, too. Make sure that whatever you are doing is sustainable…for YOU.

Whatever you can do to get a teeny bit of a break is going to help…a lot. Trust me. Don’t do what I did and just soldier through it. This is a long road and you need to pack snacks. 🔶

Macall Gordon has a B.S. from Stanford in Human Biology and an M.A. from Antioch University, Seattle in Applied Psychology, where she is currently a Sr. Lecturer in the mental health counseling and art therapy departments. She researches and writes about the relationship between temperament and sleep, and the gap between research and parenting advice. She is a certified pediatric sleep consultant working with parents of alert, non-sleeping children in private practice, as well as on the women’s telehealth platform, Maven Clinic. She comes to this work because she had two sensitive, intense children and she didn’t sleep for 18 years.
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