I cradled my son’s sole birthday request in my hand: chocolate cake. He was just moments away from attacking his chocolate cupcake, frosted thickly with chocolate frosting, eyeing both the fire from his candle and the desired dessert with curious anticipation.
Out went the candle on his second birthday cake, and, in my mind, out went the babyhood in our house.
In this same season, I was due (no pun intended) for my spur of healthcare visits. I dutifully marched in to the dentist, optometrist, and gynecologist for exams, armed with the excuse reason I had clutched for the past few years carrying and having my babies: I have a baby! I can’t possibility do <insert whatever healthcare best practice said doctor is presenting>.
But, my youngest baby is now two (and a half). I’m not carrying another baby, at least that I plan on.
I blinked, and my babies turned into a preschooler and a toddler. But I kept clutching stale excuses I had forged in the fog of those tinniest years, convincing myself this was a season.
But, at what point, does that season end?
For me, the season of shelving my own health due to babies has come to a close.
Remember, I do still have those tiny people in my house, so don’t hear that I’m suddenly logging 10 running miles a day, juicing a morning snack, and prioritizing a regular massage. (For the record: I am doing exactly zero of those things).
What I am aspiring to do instead is measure my choices not with what I can’t do right now, but against what tiny little choices I can make in the moment to bolster me to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Instead of burying my hope of change in an impossible list of “should dos,” I’m looking for a smaller list of actual “can dos.” This sounds a little silly, but I literally had a doctor ask me, “Can you just spend less time in front of the computer and get more sleep?” Um, I work 40 plus hours on a computer and have two kids and a husband. So… no? When I looked at it in the macro, that refute felt true. But then, I started to look at what small, tactical changes I could implement without throwing anyone’s sanity out the door.
On the back end of nearly six months now, I can tell you that while my blog has clearly suffered, my health has more certainly improved.
- Breathe deeply. I’m not kidding, people. My FitBit (not sponsored!) has a 2-minute breathing exercise that is better EVERY TIME than shoving 2 minutes’ worth of garbage food in my face as a “break.”
- Set a bedtime. I have a bedtime. I don’t make it in bed by that time every night, but it helps me in a few ways. First, it helps me prioritize and curb working. For example, if I come upstairs at 8:30, I have two hours before bedtime. I can spend one hour writing, and one hour relaxing. Or, I can spend two hours with my husband. What I cannot do is all the chores I’d like to, all the writing I feel I should do, and binge-watch our latest obsession for hours.
- Take a night “off.” On Wednesday, I do not do bedtime with the kids. Instead, after we clear the dinner table, I get ready for a yoga class and my husband tackles bedtime. I cannot evangelize this one night “off” enough. I am a much, much better nighttime mom for this. And, if Wednesday doesn’t work, we pick another night.
- Set a realistic workout schedule. The aforementioned yoga is my main workout right now. Yup, it’s just one night a week. I used to run 5 days a week, and log 20+ miles, but that’s not realistic right now. Now that I’m in a better groove with yoga, I may layer in running 1-2 mornings a week. I also strive for a walk break instead of a snack break.
- Establish limits. This ends up on every self-care list because it’s true. Not only can we not do it all, we don’t have to. Our house rule is that we leave some freedom in our week to be responsive. Right now, this means even though my daughter asks weekly to be enrolled in ballet, she’s not. Her level of adorableness in a tutu is very high, but she is more adorable when is available last minute for a play date or able to go on a mommy date. I also started setting limits on my social media. (Your iPhone will do this for you!) My phone has a bedtime one hour before I go to sleep and one hour after I wake up, because I simply do not need to be staring at my phone during those times. I am choosing to start and end my day in other ways.
- Foster rhythm. The theme throughout all of this is establishing a rhythm that helps the kids know what to expect (Mommy will be at yoga tonight) and helps me fall into it more naturally. (I need to do my deep breathing today).
- Explore your options. Giving birth is no joke. Whether it’s physical, mental, or both, we all wake up on the other side transformed in some way. But not all of those transformations have to become the permanent new normal. Seek pelvic floor therapy, ask your doctor about what is ailing you, or source a mental health expert. What has become normal might not actually be the clinical expectation for “normal” – and if there is a better way on the other side of treatment?
What tiny little choices can transform your world?