Finding the time to schedule in a spare minute for self-care – or me-time, whatever you like to call it – is challenging at the best of times, but after having my second baby Gabriel and continuing to run around with my toddler Rosalie, I can honestly say I’ve never felt so tired.
I’m often making Rosalie breakfast or lunch with one hand as I breastfeed Gabe with the other. And, of course, as anyone with a newborn baby will understand, time for sleep is limited and precious. Having said that much of the time spent sleeping is also spent with a baby on my breast.
If by some miracle I do get a window of time during the day when the baby has a nap and Rosalie is otherwise engaged, there are the usual household chores to do and obviously basic self-care (I’m talking going to the loo, having a shower and putting on some face cream at least). Beyond that, being completely honest there is seemingly not much time for anything.
But for myself, I’ve found that there are a few tricks to fit in time for self-care. Firstly, being responsive and flexible so that you take care of what is necessary for baby and yourself at that moment in time is key. So if the baby has finished a mid-morning feed but then wants to be held and I’ve still not had any breakfast, I will put him in his amazing all-singing all-dancing 4moms Mamaroo chair for five minutes whilst I grab some muesli or porridge. He might grizzle a bit – usually he’s happy to sit for a minute – or if he’s really not happy I pop him in the Ergobaby carrier. When I’ve got my breakfast I can sit back down with him and we can have a lovely cuddle – or he can have his second breakfast – whilst I eat my first.
Secondly it’s so important to ask for the support you need. In the evenings I ask my husband to burp Gabe after a feed so even if he wants to come right back to me to feed some more or if he’s only happy on me, at least I get a couple of minutes to breathe without holding and/or feeding him.
In addition to these basic musts, I’ve found that with a simple mindset shift about what self-care actually is, I’m able to appreciate those small moments of time to breathe and reboot.
I’ve heard other mums talk about how lovely it is to go to the supermarket without a baby or children and it’s actually so true. And as weird as it may sound I do relish just twenty minutes in the shop alone to browse and pick up what I need.
I also think that I’ve learnt to be more savvy about how I fit in the self-care that I feel I need. It’s about stealing moments for yourself. Here are some of the things that have worked for me.
I have an impromptu self-care yoga session
If Gabe has long nap one afternoon I might roll out my yoga mat and do some stretches and poses. Of course, it’s usually short and sweet, but valuable time spent none-the-less.
I make the bathroom a self-care spa and relax in the bath with oils
If Gabe’s finished an early morning feed and Rosalie’s not yet awake I might steal a few minutes to squeeze in a shower – or better yet a bath. In the evening, Tim sometimes takes Gabe while I have a bath or at the weekends, Tim sorts out breakfast for Rosalie and holds Gabe whilst I have a quick bath. I love to add organic coconut oil and some aromatherapy to my bath water and I might do a face mask if I have time.
I find that adding the coconut oil means I don’t have to apply a body moisturiser or cream because the oil sinks into the skin in the bath. I love the Tisserand De-Stress Bath Oil and the Herbivore Blue Tansy Mask
But even if I end up having a bath with Rosalie and/or Gabe before bed, Tim is always there to take them out and get them in their pjs, which means that I can have some playtime in the bath with Rosalie (or cuddles with Gabe, depending upon who gets out first) and then five minutes of relaxation in the water on my own before I need to get out to do Rosalie’s bedtime story.
I light scented candles
I have a few different candles in the bedroom, the bathroom and the living area and I like to light them whenever I feel I need to relax a little. They definitely add to the spa bath experience.
I sample guided meditations and hypnotherapy tracks whenever I can
I have the free version of the Stop, Breathe and Think app and I use YouTube to find new meditations and hypnotherapy sessions to use as and when I’m able to. Sometimes I might do a chakra cleansing session in the morning before the kids are awake or a body scan in the day if Gabe has a nap and Rosalie’s with her grandparents. More frequently, I will listen to a healing meditation or hypnotherapy session for sleep at bedtime as I fall asleep. I find that I’m calmer and more rested when I wake up to feed Gabe in the night and also in the morning.
I use aromatherapy to aid sleep
I definitely struggled to get to sleep in the early days when Gabe was born. I felt very panicky in those first few days, even though Gabe is my second baby; I actually think I had more anxiety during those first few weeks with Gabe than I did with Rosalie, which surprised me considering that she was so unwell with Group B Strep when she was born.
I found that a few drops of Lavender oil on a tissue next to my pillow really helped to soothe and calm me; my sleep improved and I felt so much better. I got into the habit of having a lavender tissue on my pillow at bed time so now I always do it and I really learned to associate that smell with relaxation and the bed became even more of a sanctuary for me since them.
I use coconut oil for pretty much everything
Organic coconut oil is basically my go-to product for my whole body and for Gabe and Rosalie as well; I put it in the bath so I don’t have to apply it to my body later (which saves precious time), I slather it onto my hair, lips and cuticles, I use it as a makeup remover and I also have a pot for the kitchen to cook and bake with.
I get outside for a walk
If all else fails, so long as Gabe has eaten I can put him into the Ergobaby carrier and go for a walk around the fields surrounding our house. Listening to the birds and experiencing the sights and sounds of nature really helps to bring a little peace to my day. Not to mention, the vitamin D and fresh air are great for the body and mind too.
I like to read a fun book
I always seem to be reading baby books so I do like to switch off occasionally with a novel or an engaging book about something I’m interested in. I feel that I would love to find more time to read because it’s one of my favourite things to do. But there will be more time when the kids are a bit older.
I breathe to stay calm
As simple as it sounds, taking several deep breaths has a profoundly soothing affect on me.
During my hypnobirthing class I learnt to breathe in slowly through the nose for four counts and out through the mouth for eight. Just three of these deep breaths can transform the way you feel.
During the day, as a mum of two, there a plenty of moments which might potentially test your patience or make you feel desperate, lonely or lost and I have found that the clarity that comes with just taking a minute to breathe has been so remarkable and actually life-changing; it can turn a really low moment into a reflective, peaceful or thankful moment as you take a pause and experience the here and now.
I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and chocolate for dessert
We have dinner with Rosalie before her bedtime because we feel it’s really important for us to eat as a family and we enjoy it. Having said that I do like to have a small glass of wine with my meal, which I find really special.
Sometimes I listen to some chilled music with a glass of wine in the evening after Rosalie has gone to bed. Usually it will be as Gabe is feeding or if I’m lucky I get to enjoy a lovely cuddle with him.
I don’t drink to excess because I’m obviously breastfeeding but I find that a little of what you love in moderation does the world of good.
The same goes for chocolate and I love to have a few squares of very dark organic chocolate after dinner with a cup of tea – absolute bliss.
So that’s how I’m fitting in time for self-care with an active toddler and a newborn baby. It’s certainly a challenge but very necessary and whilst these are the things I like to do, I’m not able to do them all everyday, let alone every week so it’s just about little and often; experiencing moments of calm, peace and joy that enhance your feelings of self-love and wellbeing.
I’m trying to have a lot more self-compassion lately so if I find myself being highly critical or hard on myself – which can be quite often – I’m mindful that it would be good for me to take a moment for myself to breathe and do something that I love and that makes me feel good.
Even today, for instance, I had an hour of time alone when Tim took the kids to see their grandparents for a bit. When you get so used to putting the needs of your babies first it can be quite odd when you have a block of time to yourself, particularly without a breastfeeding baby.
It’s not always totally natural to switch off. First I cleaned the kitchen, then the bathroom, then I organised some things in the bedroom before I realised that I hadn’t done anything for myself, so I took the time to check in to see how I was feeling and gave myself fifteen minutes to do a meditation and I definitely felt more compassionate, content and grounded afterwards.
How do you make time for yourself? I’d love to hear from you about some of your favourite self-care activities and any tips or techniques you have.