As we've been doing all week, let's start with actually writing 5 things that you love about yourself. Seriously, it takes only a moment! Grab a piece of paper and write a few things, or send yourself a text. Notice how you're feeling about this practice, how you're feeling about yourself. Muscles we use get stronger, right? When we practice paying loving attention to ourselves, that gets stronger, too. And amazingly, when we are more loving toward ourselves we tend to be more giving and loving toward other people. Isn't that great?
Today's self-care practice--do something small that you love. Consider small changes in your day and routines that can make you feel good. Try one of these or dream up your own:
Music: Listen to some music that fills your heart with joy. Make a playlist of things that make you really happy. And actually listen to it! Put on music while you cook, while you drive, or while you're doing something that needs a little lift.
Beauty: Put a flower next to your bed or on the table. Hang a beautiful photo near your desk. Wear something that you love rather than saving it for a special time. Add beauty to your day where ever you feel inspired.
Movement: Enjoy stretching your body when you wake up, like a cat. It may feel too hard to start a yoga practice, but just do one pose that you enjoy. Dance while you cook or clean.
Connection. Is there someone you really enjoy but don't have much time with? Maybe reach out and go for a walk, meet for coffee, or just talk on the phone with someone you like. Slow down and connect with people in your own family, taking the time to listen deeply to them, to savor the experiences that you share rather than rush past them or being distracted from them.
Inspiration. Give yourself an inspirational experience. I love my Zen calendar and look forward to reading a new quote each morning! Whether you enjoy a daily reading from a book like Mark Nepo's The Book of Awakening or getting an app that shares daily inspirational quotes (Gandhi Inspirational Quotes or Zen Quotes android apps or Buddha Quotes or The Now-Mindfulness and Gratitude iphone apps), build in some reminders.
First, please join me and write 5 things you love about yourself (from yesterday's practice). Make an actual list,five things about yourself that make you smile. Let this become a new habit.
Your needs matter. . . our needs matter. Parenting isn't a form of martyrdom! We know that becoming a parent can completely transform our priorities, enhancing our ability to serve lovingly. A wise parent stays balanced, though, giving self-care a high priority because:
If you need more rest, actually consider how to make that work. Is there something keeping you up after your child goes to sleep that isn't in the 'need' category? Facebook? Work emails that you're catching up with in bed? Or do you have time during the day that you spend cleaning or getting caught up with bills? Your need for sleep is actually much more important than these things! Simply being conscious of the need may help you to nap before you clean or go to bed without checking your email.
Maybe you need time to talk with friends. exercise, a feeling of order in your space, or opportunities to do art. Imagine the shift from a wistful or hopeful or even resentful mentality toward this need to the sense that you deserve it. Does that help you to begin to create it?
Our needs matter and that we deserve to take care of them. Even when outer circumstances can't change immediately, let inner circumstances begin to shift to elevate your needs to a more important status than they may have had. There will certainly be days when needs go unmet, but remembering that we matter can transform our patterns into healthier ones.
Sometimes Mother's Day makes us feel pampered, cherished, and cared for, but it can also bring up mixed emotions. Motherhood is complicated, so it's not surprising that our relationship to it is complicated as well, If you are feeling depleted, emotional, exhausted or resentful post-Mother's Day, consider joining me for a week of self-care.
It would be great to spend a week at a spa, but I want to focus on self-care that is accessible to all moms, even those of us without a dedicated budget or babysitter.
Today, let's begin with a powerful awareness practice.
Right now, stop and consider who you are in the world, your relationships, service, work, and play. Consider some things about yourself, big or small, that make you smile. Write five things that you love about yourself. It doesn't matter whether you write them in a beautiful notebook or on a post in note or even as a note in your phone or computer, but do write them.
If you have trouble thinking of five, don't worry! This will get easier with practice, and you're going to get some good practice this week. Start with something simple. Are you kind to animals? Do you smile at harried-looking moms in stores? Do you make a point of brushing your teeth twice a day? Those are wonderful qualities. Do you recycle? Feed the birds? Cook dinner? Make silly jokes? More wonderful qualities.
Think of this as watering seeds. You are watering the seeds of your own goodness, your love, your kindness, or your sense of fun. Each time you notice something wonderful about yourself, you are helping that part to grow.
My own childhood memories come back strongly when I'm on the parenting side of a similar situation. When my kids are sick I remember so vividly how my mom took care of me when I was sick.
I remember how my mom would tuck a blanket around me while I rested. I remember her bringing a tray with flat 'pop' and crackers or soft boiled eggs. Most of all, I remember cool washcloths. Whenever I was throwing up or feverish, my mom would run a washcloth under cool water, wring it out, fold it, and drape it over my forehead. That felt so good! It wasn't just the cool washcloth, although that was great, it was also the presence and quiet nurturing that felt so good.
When I was sick, my mom and I both changed. In normal life she was busy. A single mom with three kids, she worked hard and came home tired. But when I was sick, she had plenty of time and energy and tenderness to care for me. On my end, being sick was like being a littler child again. I needed her so much more than usual.
When our children are sick, exhausted, or injured, it's like we go through a trap door to an earlier developmental time. When they're babies, sickness intensifies their neediness and can open our hearts to them even more fully.. It's exhausting! As children get older, sickness gives us the chance to revisit the relationship we had when they were small. We can reconnect deeply with a sick child, rebuilding a sense of loving attachment that may be faltering as they grow older and more distracted or independent. We can feel our own hearts open, letting go of frustrations or grievances that may have been interfering with the relationship. We can nurture the baby self that lives inside of our ordinarily capable kids.
Do you have special rituals or routines that come up when your children are sick? Can you feel a stronger connection develop? Or the chance to heal more than their bodies?
Eating together matters! The ritual of sharing food is a powerful, especially when there's a 'breaking bread' component, sharing something communal like a bowl of popcorn, veggies and dip, or a plate of cookies.
But dinner can become a battlefield. We struggle over controlling our children's eating habits or manners, and can sometimes forget to enjoy the food and each other. As parents, it's up to us to set the tone for dinner as a connecting experience by getting into the habit of being with our kids in pleasant, non-critical, accepting ways at the dinner table
If meals haven't been so fun in your family, here are a few to consider:
Assemble-your-own meals like tacos, 'roll your own' sushi, baked potato or salad bar, or rice bowls offer a chance for each person to create their own customized food while sharing a table and ingredients. These are often kind of labor-intensive to set up and clean up, but they are worth it. They take longer to eat than simpler meals, bringing us together to share and talk. Everyone can find something they like, and people may get excited about sharing their innovations and trying new things. Don't worry about how they combine the foods, just put some good wholesome stuff on the table and let them do their thing. If you can, get curious about their ideas and let them inspire you to try something new!
Pizza is a staple of family life. Rather than ordering pizza, try an occasional tradition of making it yourself. It can be ridiculously simple with Mark Bittman's crust recipe or you can buy dough or even pre-made crusts, homemade or store-bough sauce, and a spread of possible toppings. Don't be surprised if your kids raid the pantry for things you would never have considered topping a pizza with! One of my sons experimented with salsas and cilantro (which wasn't bad) and walnuts (which turned out to be amazing). You can set up a space in the kitchen where everyone makes their own. Rather than make individual pizzas, I like to make each crust big enough to share so that everyone gets a chance to taste each person's creation. Even if the kids only eat their own, you get the chance to try and appreciate their creations. Find something positive to say about everything they make, and you'll find them looking forward to new ideas for the next family pizza night.
Hors d'oeuvres night can be another fun one! Forget a sit-down dinner and eat 'cocktail party style.' We did this when I just couldn't face the restlessness my guys had a the dinner table when they were little. I would soemtimes make plates of finger foods--something like hummus and tapenade and a spinach/yogurt dip with cut up veggies and pita. We would put away toys and other things, turn on music, and have a dinner party together. It can be fun to really play, walking around and making 'small talk' together. Just like at a real cocktail party, the conversation may sparkle and it may not, no pressure. The important thing is to bring some fun into the process.
Food can draw us together, creating space for connection. If you try these ideas, bring a sense of lightness and play. We don't need to control what our children eat, we need to offer healthy, nutritious, and pleasant eating experiences and trust them to find their way.
It's Friday, which reminds me of one of my favorite family rituals when my kids were young. On Fridays we would sometimes leave school (where I was a teacher and they were students), stop at the library on the way home to get a few books and usually a video, and then have a jammie afternoon. We walked in the door and changed into pajamas , break out some snacks, and enjoy the new library books. Most weeks my boys would pick out a big stack of graphic novels and I would get something light and just fun to read. Later we would often have a movie night. Remembering this now makes me smile. It felt so good to just relax together. No rush, no busyness, no demands.
Are there special rituals in your family? The things your kids will remember and tell stories about years from now? These are often small moments that can add a lot to family connection and joy, don't forget to savor them.
If there's a rough time of your day or week, maybe theres's a ritual or routine that could make it special in a pleasant way rather than special in a hard way. For example, I know a mom who has the routine of 'hors d'oeuvres' most evenings while dinner is cooking. It feels special and fun for the kids, like being at a party. It's not a lot of work, she really just puts cut up veggies and dip on a platter. It helps everyone hold it together during the pre-dinner 'witching hour' and ensures that everyone eats some veggies.
Do you have a ritual or routine that brings joy to your family and makes your life easier? Share it with us!
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.