Two weekends ago our staff went on a weekend trip to Kiawah Island in South Carolina to attend the annual Montessori Education Peace International conference. The seminar topics that we all attend are geared towards educating teachers in various ways. One of the cornerstones of Montessori’s philosophy is peace. Most, if not all, “Montessorians” will tell you they were led to this type of education because of Maria’s words, “Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child.” We all want peace and we believe that our most loving, forgiving, and impressionable world citizens are the people we wish to invest our time in. As parents, grandparents, educators, whoever you may be reading this, you know that investing time into children is no small feat. While honorable, it is often without praise. While rewarding, it is not without exhaustion. And while it is fun, exhilarating, and joyful, it is not without hardship. At the peace conference last weekend I spent a lot of my time learning how to reflect back inwards, how to slow down, and most of all how to care for myself. I want to share a few of my insights with you. Here are a few tips for how to care for yourself while caring for your 16 month old – 6 year olds.
1. Cry. Let it out. You’re tired, you’re trying, you’re hopeful, stressed, scared, etc. When caring for little ones your nerves are on end. You’re concerned about their health, safety, future, runny nose, new cough, are they eating enough, sleeping enough, being read to enough, hugged enough, challenged enough, etc. etc. etc… You’re working long hours. The weight of the world, y’all. It’s real. Sometimes all you need is a good cry. (I cried a lot at Kiawah Island). Crying is healing. It helps you to soothe yourself, releases oxytocin and endorphins, and can help reduce stress. Watch a sad movie. Read a sad short story. Or just take a hot shower and let it out. You’re worth it.
2. Take time for self-reflection. Write in a journal. Record yourself talking into a voice memo on your phone or take a video recording of yourself. LET. IT. OUT. Be your own therapist. (If you have your own therapist already- you’re winning!!) Most of us live fast-paced lives. We take in so much that sometimes we don’t take time to listen to ourselves. Write out your thoughts during a lunch break, while you’re sitting on the toilet, or right before bed. If you don’t feel like free-writing, think about times during the day when you felt a very intense emotion. Example: “This afternoon when Fred said I needed to re-do my report I felt so angry!”. Dig deeper. “I think I felt angry because I take pride in my work or maybe because I feel like he doesn’t appreciate me.” OR “I felt so happy today when my mom called me” WHY?? “It was unexpected and made me realize what a great support system I have.” You know you better than anyone else. You know what you need. You know what you need to hear. (Journaling is most effective after a good cry- it also may be the catalyst for one.)
3. Stretch, Walk, Breathe. Release tension in your body. Take time to slow down and breathe. Leave your phone at home or in the other room if you can. Drive around the neighborhood with your sleeping babe in the car in silence with the windows down and focus on breathing deeply in and out. Take a walk and notice the light on the trees, the tiny details of houses around you, and the color of the sky. Before going to bed or any time throughout the day, do some stretches. Make your back like table top when you bend over. Move your neck from side to side. Shake it out! Do yoga with your little babe. Smile and have fun. Move your body and intentionally slow down.
4. Be Kind to Yourself. Literally give yourself a hug. Let your children hug you and be grateful for all you do for yourself and for everyone around you. Think about your entire life. All of the things you’ve accomplished. Think about everything that you have learned, how you’ve applied it, and the good that has come. Trust the journey. Trust the progress you are in. Kiss your own hand. Write yourself a thank you card. I’m serious. You’ve got to appreciate YOU.
If you have any other ideas for self-care, please share them in the comments. It takes a village to raise a child. I’m so grateful to be in this work and to share it with such caring parents. Let’s stay hydrated, well-rested, and real. Take care of yourself.