Parenthood is about balance, I like to think of it like those old-fashioned scales in the image. On one side you have your children (with their valid physical, intellectual, social and emotional needs), then there is maintaining relationships, looking after your home and garden, your job and finances etc. On the other side of the equation are your own unique needs. This is a delicate balancing act at the best of times, so when you add to the scales Christmas – with its decorating, presents, gatherings, baking etc, it is no wonder that the scales get tipped off balance.
The surprising irony of motherhood is that you can happily pour your heart and soul into your children, however, when you do this for too long at the expense of your needs then there is no heart and soul left to give and your children suffer. I can easily fall into this trap at Christmas, so focused on creating the wonderment that I so enjoyed as a young child, yet falling into the trap of compromising my needs so much that I lose my joyful spirit.
I am not even going to suggest here that you do less, it would be way too hypocritical. I could not imagine a Christmas without trekking into the woods with my secateurs and coming home to make a wreath, or hosting cosy gatherings or a Christmas without creating magical elf activities each day to delight my son (this blog post explains) BUT I have to balance this with extra self-care otherwise I reach burn out.
I would like to share some practices for how you can nurture yourself in this magical yet busy season. I suggest approaching self-care holistically so that you nurture not just your physical well-being but also your emotional and mental well-being too with the intention of parenting from a place of wholeness.
To start with getting into your body and out of the to-do list in your head will help. Ideally go to a yoga class, but if that is unreachable then a good stretch for 15 minutes in the living room would suffice or even a crazy dance to your favourite track. Try to use “conscious” calendering, schedule into your week a night to take a hot bath with calming essential oils or a night or two to fall asleep when your child does, book them into your diary now to support you in restoring your energy levels.
If you have the budget, this is the time to book a massage, acupuncture, sauna or whatever activity relaxes you and nourishes you the best. I want to reiterate that this is not indulgent, it is necessary to maintain balance in your family. Remember, one of the best presents you can bring to your child is a happy, relaxed and present parent.
Little actions in the daytime will support you too, yesterday my son and I made a huge green juice because even something as simple as good hydration can make a huge difference to your feeling of balance.
Listening Partnerships (organized through the wonderful Hand in Hand Parenting) are calls you can set up with another parent for mutual listening and support, they are a great opportunity to get heard, process challenges and feel emotionally held. I will be publishing my article about my experience of that and showing how you too can connect with Hand in Hand for this after Christmas as they have necessary protocols to follow to make it a safe and well-held space. In the meantime, perhaps you can reach out to a friend or partner for some mutual sharing time?
I like to have my fellow mama friends over on occasional evenings, it is so very bonding and nurturing, we light a fire and get to talk about our parenting journey, our visions and how we can offer practical mutual support to each other.
Any mindfulness activity, such as a meditation, will bring you out of your to-do list and into the present moment, giving you instant balance and calmness. I love the Headspace meditation app, you can try for free for 10 days (perfect between now and Christmas). The meditations are guided so you do not need any experience. Headspace also has the flexibility that allows you to choose the length of your meditation, note that even 10 minutes a day will make a huge difference. I love the 3 minute one on overwhelm for a quick reset.
Increasing self-care can also look like having some strong boundaries during busy times: This may look like saying “not this week” to requests from friends for childcare, saying “not right now” to playing with your child for an hour so you can do some work in the afternoon instead of late at night, or saying “this is enough” and resisting buying more so you don’t overspend. This then allows you to say “Yes” more, “yes” to your need to go more slowly, “yes” to parenting from a calmer, more restful place, “yes” to giving you the presence to parent with more empathy and connection.
If you have child carers or family that can help in the run-up to Christmas, call them in, give yourself that extra time.
If your budget allows then consider how else you can get extra support, for example, can you get a cleaner or get a takeaway for dinner?
Consider putting some downtime into the calendar (Click Here to Read my post on Snail Days). If you cannot manage a whole pyjama day even a few hours either side of the busy times will provide a great opportunity to breathe and recentre (This article on supporting your child at Christmas shares the benefits of snail days for your child).
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!
I am not suggesting that you add to your already full to-do list or worse still your subconscious “should-be-doing” list. I merely hope to inspire small changes that you can incorporate around your day to offer additional self-care to match the additional seasonal activities and if you would like to learn more about Radical Self Care I am running a webinar in January that goes into these practices a little more (Click Here to Read)