By Brittany Carlson
Motherhood is a balancing act. Balancing grocery bags and diaper bags, sippy cups and snacks. Balancing babies on hips while making dinner. Balancing housework with enjoying the kids. Balancing discipline with love.
But one thing that often gets lost in the balance is time to recharge. Time to be alone.
It’s natural, especially at the start of a new year, to set self-improvement goals, like losing weight or trying something new. But I think it’s just as important for moms to consider what gives them energy and joy – what helps them become better mothers and embrace the life they have.
I recently attended a mother's group meeting where one of the mentor moms talked about this very topic.
Rebekah Zehr, whose three children (two girls and one boy) are now grown, said she remembered the busy-ness of being a young mom and encouraged mothers to find a set of recharging “tools” to daily to combat stress and help them cope with challenges. She said that moms should think about how to refuel themselves in three main areas: physical, social and mental health.
Here are a few of her ideas and how I incorporate some into my daily routine:
- Take a hot shower, or bath.
- Exercise. “Taking a quick brisk walk is extremely beneficial to your health. You can enjoy whatever’s around you,” Zehr said. My family lives in an arctic climate, but I love bundling my kids up and putting them in a long sled and for a ride around the neighborhood. When we come to the top of a hill, I hop on the back and we ride down together.
- Have fun with your kids. Play outside and run around and be silly.
- Work. “Work is good for you. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, especially doing something you enjoy,” Zehr said. Every mom has something she loves to do, just for her. Some of my favorite things include journaling, reading and baking.
- Watch the sunrise, or watch the sunset. “Doing that, you might forget about things that might be trivial, or nagging on you,” Zehr said.
- Put on some soothing music. Acoustic, classical, children’s music – something positive. Personally, I find the best times of day to play music are first thing in the morning, to set a peaceful tone at breakfast, and during dinner and bath time, to help my kids calm down before bed. I like the Pandora piano music station or the Raffi children’s station best.
- Take a deep breath. This fresh supply of oxygen helps slow your heart rate, Zehr said.
- Take a time out. “Just stop what you’re doing,” Zehr said. “Read some books with your kids. Find something to do that’s quiet. If they’re running around like crazy… and you want to scream, just be like, ‘Hey, let’s put a puzzle together.’ Play a board game. It will change their mood mentally as well as yours.”
- Call a friend (rather than texting). “Sometimes just hearing somebody’s voice can really change how you’re feeling too,” Zehr said.
- Spend face-to-face time with your husband (or a close friend). “If you’re both looking at your screens, it’s not going to help combat some of the stuff that’s going on inside,” Zehr said.
- Take a day to go do something fun. “There should be one day throughout the week where you just take off and do things with your family,” Zehr said. “Don’t worry about the messy house. Don’t worry about the to-do list. You really need that. Your body needs it.”
- Have some screen-free time. “There’s so much noise in our world. That’s draining. If you can have a time to just turn it all off and just walk away from it, it’s relaxing,” Zehr said. To this, I would add that going on a date night is a great way to reconnect after a long week. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but taking a couple of hours to be together without kids has been a game-changer for my husband and myself.
- Laugh. “If you can’t find anything to laugh about, look up a video or something,” Zehr said. My husband and I also like to read books by comedians together, such as Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat” or Phil Robertson’s “Happy, Happy, Happy.”
This list has a few ideas for recharging, but in the end, each mom knows herself best and what would help her refresh mind, body and well-being.
As I write this, my hope is that moms join me in deciding that this year, we won’t spend each day frantically trying to get everything done and meet everyone else’s needs at the expense of our own sanity. Rather, I hope that I, and others like me, can learn to take a step back each day and recharge, for the sake of ourselves, and those we love best.
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (4) and James (18 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY.
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