Take Care of Yourself – 3 ways to nurture your soul when you’re parenting on empty
I am more than tired – I’m mothering on empty, a bowl scoured clean; a fire burned to ashes. And yet there’s still more to do.
Then, of course, I get a cold and wind up having to back out of commitments and rest as best I can just in order to do the basic tasks of taking care of a family. It becomes obvious that it is time to look inward and find a way to care for myself in the midst of this unending job.
Have you been there too? At that point when you finally crack open and see that you MUST take care of yourself?
You Deserve Care
If you say to yourself, “I deserve loving care.” How does that sit with you? Do you feel like you deserve to be cared for?
When you care for others without taking care of yourself, you will eventually crumble from the strain. No soup can be served from an empty vessel. We lose our ability to nurture others when we do not nurture ourselves. It shouldn’t take illness or mental break down to get to this point. We all, each of us, deserve loving care.
That’s me in the photo – four years old. You were four years old once too. Small and vulnerable, needing care.
Do you have a photo of yourself as a child? Get it out and take a look at that little one.
Doesn’t she or he deserve your care and love?
That four year old is still with you, and you are the only person who knows just what they need. It is up to you to take care of yourself. For many of us it is surprisingly uncomfortable. You deserve care. And YOU are the person who must care for yourself.
When you can give yourself loving kindness you can refill your reserves, heal your emptiness, and by that, be able to continue caring for others, as I know you do.
Three ways to nurture yourself when you’re running on empty:
For today…and I hope for tomorrow and the next day and the next….
Stop your mean internal monologues.
When you start berating yourself, think about that four year old. Would you talk to her that way? Would she learn anything from her mistakes if you called her stupid or worthless? How could you speak more gently to yourself? If you wish to teach your children kindness, perhaps you can start by discovering how to speak kindly to yourself.
If you find yourself in a funk that’s very hard to get out of, one friend suggested something that I find helpful:
Do 10 minutes of something useful like washing dishes or folding laundry, then do 10 minutes of something for yourself, this might be enough to break the chain of self depreciating thoughts.
Which brings me to the next point-
Make your mini-care list
Find a few things that nurture your soul that you can do even in busy times. These are little things you can do for yourself anytime and they’re especially good to do on days when you feel down.
- Taking a look at your Self-care Bookshelf – here are my favorite books to turn to when I’m feeling sick of parenting.
- Making yourself a cup of tea,
- Stepping outside briefly,
- Turning on music you love,
- Calling a friend,
- Eating a healthy snack,
- Putting lotion on
They’re not giant change-the-world activities, but are meant instead to remind you to be gentle with yourself as you take the next step forward. What are the small actions that tell you that you are loved and you are valuable?
Stop the comparisons
You can probably think of enough self improvement projects to fill a lifetime. Taking care of yourself means that you can gently acknowledge where you are right now, and know you can move forward from here. You don’t have to “fix” everything all at once.
You are the only one who knows how far you have come and the challenges you’ve faced along the way, and you do not have to compare yourself to anybody else. We say we want to raise life long learners, but I think we forget what it means to BE a life long learner. We learn from mistakes; it isn’t always a comfortable process.
You still have the child inside. You have her ability to grow and become better, and you have so much more experience now to tell yourself where you want to go from here. You can be gentle with yourself because you hold the potential for growth. You are a work in progress.
When I need to remember how to go on when I feel broken, I often find hope in the articles Finding Joy. Rachel’s authenticity will help you see the beauty in the work of mothering.
You need care, but no longer can you hope to have a hand of a parent provide for you. The four year old has been given into your own care. Are you providing for yourself? Can you believe that you deserve the kind of love that you give to your children? Can you give that kindness to yourself?
Know you are deserving of care.
Can you list three ways to nurture your soul? I think we could all use more ideas. What will you do to take care of yourself in this busy time in your life?
- Parenting from the Dark Pit
- 20 Journal Prompts on Nurturing YOU This Year
- The Joyful Parenting Habit that Shifts EVERYTHING
If you’re wanting to feel better and more present, my friend Shawn of the Abundant Mama Project teaches of the Abundant Mama course – a four week experience to help you become a more centered, peaceful, playful and present mama or papa. I’m an affiliate because I strongly believe in her work and the positive changes she helps parents enact. If you want to be present, to enjoy now, but don’t quite know how with all the chaos of this time in life, her project may really appeal to you. Sign up for the upcoming free class and fill your cup. ~Alissa
64 Positive Things to Say to Kids
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I have started getting up really early in the morning to run. At first, I thought it was a horrible idea, but it has been the best thing for me. I run with a group of friends so we get in a good workout and quality therapy session before our day begins. Then, I treat myself to a hot shower while the kids and husband are still sleeping. When I said really early, I meant it! I make sure that I go to bed early on the nights before runs, and I treat myself to several Epsom salt baths a week. We are in the middle of a lot of change and stress, and I can honestly say that I have never felt more calm. Taking care of yourself is the best thing that you can do for your family!
When from a 4 year old you struggled to have friends and fit in ,then schooling was just so belittling with your childhood esteem dashed every day, its pretty hard to look positively upon any thing you do as a Adult. Then to have children with ASD it’s not an easy unstressed life. Nice idea the spoil yourself thing but better still would be if neighbours offered to help when they heard you screaming and at you wits end. Even if they rang DOCs at least you could get some help finally to sort your life out..PS Many of us don’t cope with reading books .But thanks A. anyway for the website
It sounds very stressful and absolutely exhausting. Wishing you respite and a bit of peace.
Wow… This could not have come at a better time. I’m so stressed about bills and the housework is so behind I feel like a fraud for giving myself any me-time before its all done. Thank you for the wisdom it totally gave me a loving slap across the face to say wake up girl! You’re no use to anyone in such a state of stress! (I actually had a meltdown last night thank goodness it was after his lordship’s bedtime!) Gonna see if I can sneak in a jog before hubs goes to work if not hop on the trusty cross trainer. Thank you for helping hot hit the mental reset button. I’d say thank you cos you don’t know howuch this means… But the very fact u posted it means u do… So thank you so much xx
Good luck Dani – I have a had a few meltdowns lately myself. When you’re maxed out on responsibilities and the kids are never giving you a break it can feel so hard to take care of yourself,and yet you’ve got to in order to keep going. Sometimes a very frustrating puzzle. I wish you the best.
Thanks for this post. I found it through Pinterest. I just had a miscarriage, D&C to take care of it and got a cold that developed into a sinus infection. The last two weeks have been BAD in the mommy arena. I have barely been able to keep up with the minimum and have felt pretty down about “not being able to do it all”. This was a good reminder that I need to allow myself some grace for this time and also to look to my own needs. Thanks!
Just found your blog and really appreciate the down-to-earth great advice! My husband is leaving for a 6-month deployment next week and I have been trying to make mental lists of how to best take care of myself and my little kids. I keep reminding myself to make sure I keep things in perspective, and to take care of our basic needs and make sure we all feel the love. We are going to be doing lots of simple meals and lots of little treats (even things as simple as a fun mid-day bubble bath for them so I can have some time to just watch them giggle and splash!)
What an incredible idea to challenge us to think of the child we once were! It’s so much easier to answer her needs than it is to admit to mine 🙂 Thank you for this.
Thanks so much for this reminder. I have been doing better with the peeing and eating but not so good with the sleeping. My husband has taken on a project which means he’s gone 4-5 evenings a week for the next 3 months. While I fully support him and am helping with it, it means I am taking on a lot more at home right now. I tend to stay up late getting laundry and dishes done because it’s easier to do it when the kids are asleep. I know I should be going to bed but sometimes I feel guilty about it if I leave too much for tomorrow. I do have some little things I use to nurture myself – a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, pilates class. A few times a year my husband and I try to get to our favorite spa for the day. It helps us reconnect as a couple and relaxes us, which makes us better parents. We go in 3 weeks and I can’t wait!
I need this so badly.
I thought I was the only one feeling like this. Sure, other moms say they’re tired/overwhlemed but I didn’t think anyone was feeling as empty vessel-like as I am.
You’re welcome Mia. I have had day where the only way I feel hope is to think about the Phoenix rising from the ashes – because I am SO burnt to nothing. Hugs to you.
I so read this at the right time- battling a cold, feeling frazzled and burned out. Thank you for the wonderful reminder. I was just thinking today also about how interesting it is that I feel like it’s easier to take care of myself when I really take the time to focus on how vulnerable my kids are. I think we get stressed out when we’re just rushing through the motions, but then when we really focus on our family members we take ourselves less for granted. Phew.
Thank you! Like others, I’d been doing very well with trying to care for myself, and I had noticed what a difference it made in my relationship with both my husband and my daughter. But something changed a few weeks ago, and I’ve fallen back into my bad habits. This was such a good reminder for me!
I have also been feeling that my bucket is empty, bone dry, and my reserves are nearly gone too.
What I know works to fill my bucket and nurture me is SLEEP, running (i’ve rearranged my schedule to fit it in again. I’m starting a couch to 10K training), and doing something nice for myself-painting my nails, soaking in the tub, treating myself to Starbucks.
On days when I’m exhausted, I give myself a break on mothering too. They get a simple and easy dinner and I let them play with little or zero nagging about chores or even brushing their teeth. Then I get them all to bed a little earlier-this is made easier if I’ve been able to keep them from watching TV or having any screen time.
I’ll be doing the above tonight. Hot dogs and chili for dinner with sweet potato fries. No tv. early bedtime. Then I’m painting my nails.
Sarah @ ActivityHero
Oh this post was just what I needed today. Just became part of the 2 under 2 club and the lack of sleep is really starting to catch up with me. I constantly need to remind myself to be patient and not a complete crab to my older son & husband.
What I (try to) do:
Sleep. When I go to bed before 10 it’s amazing how much of a better mom I am and how much less yelling and feelings of frustration there are in the house.
Yoga. I started more than a few weeks ago and it’s amazing how the breathing associated with it along with the stretching has been good for me.
Stop and breathe. It can be yummy smells: just something as simple as turning on my scentsy with my favorite smell in it or rubbing in my lavender scented hand lotion for 10 seconds (purposefully slowly, and while my feet are still). It can be my music: I have a playlist on my computer with music you’d hear at a spa. I can put that on and it makes be take time and breathe purposefully.
The point is taking care of yourself doesn’t have to mean booking a sitter or making sure there’s someone else to stay with your kids. It doesn’t have to take an hour or require you to leave your house.
What a great and simple idea to smell yummy smells! I actually do this with my toddler sometimes when she’s having a hard time calming down – take her over to the spice drawer and just start smelling things with her. I haven’t thought to do this for myself!
Fantastic challenge Alissa! I really needed it this week. Yesterday I definitely needed to go for a run–even if it was inside on my exercise trampoline–but we had so much to do that I didn’t. It definitely made the day much more stressful. Today I am going to take the time to do it.
Love this post and this challenge is exactly what I needed this week. Ways that I nurture my soul include having time to run by myself or with friends and talk, time to study spiritual things, and time to just be present with my family have fun. The main thing I need to get better at doing to take care of myself during busy times is to get enough sleep… and sacrifice fun things in order for that to happen. It is hard 🙂 but I need to do it for my mental health!
Alissa, it seems like there is some cosmic powers working between us. I read your articles and it always speaks to me. I feel like you are someone who can read my mind! Thanks for writing this. I think I will put my 4 year old picture somewhere where I can see it often so I can be reminded to take care of myself. Beautiful! Peace and grace to you!
I feel honored to be connected with your Tracy 😀
cerys @ rainy day mum
This is so timely for me I’m there on empty last week my body said enough and I was ill. I’d been doing well but in the last few weeks had let myself go back to old ways. Luckily it’s given me a new start so I’m doing some simple things drinking water and fruit teas instead of the constant coffee fixes swapping my chocolate snacks for fruit and vegetables and booked a spa day for myself and my mum
Dawn @ PricklyMom
Thank you so much, Alissa. This is timely for me too (I had kind of a breakdown back in December, and have been doing a lot of soul-searching since). I’m (1) making sure I have a novel to read (NOT a parenting book) or a fun TV show to watch at the ready, (2) I’m not going to beat myself up for being an introvert anymore, and (3) I’m scheduling a weekly “night off” where I can go window shopping or have a cup of coffee at B&N or something. It’s a start.
This was such a timely read – I do feel like an empty vessel trying to serve people soup, in a manner of speaking! A key thing for me is to stop the negative self-talk – I’m constantly finding unfinished projects (laundry, toy-pick-up, dishes, etc – just little things like that) and I’m letting it make me feel like I’ve failed. Deep breaths.
What I really lack in my life right now is sleep. I think my soul would be nurtured if I were as vigilant in protecting my bedtime (from myself, mind you, nobody forces me to stay up!) as I am in protecting my boys’ bed and naptimes.
If possible, I try to go outside. Even just grabbing the baby and walking around in my garden for five or ten minutes (versus changing clothes, putting on shoes and jackets, getting the stroller out of the garage, packing a snack and some water blah, blah, hours later… I do that, too, but it’s A Thing rather than a quick reset button.). Being outside helps me take deep breaths and find some peace.
I’m working on not staying up so late too. Man, it’s hard to go to sleep when the house is so peaceful at night! We need a 10pm bedtime club. Or 10:30 maybe…
I would also suggest reading “One Hot Mama Guide” available on Amazon. No, I do not make any money from the referral just really enjoy her stuff!
Oh, I think I’ve seen that one. Thanks for the recommendation!