How we care for ourselves is both about what we do and what we don’t do.
I was reminded of this while listening to Sarah K. Peck’s excellent podcast, StartUp Pregnant: She often asks her guests to share the tasks they don’t do.
To me it’s these kinds of discussions that are important and empowering. Because so many of us put so much pressure on ourselves to accomplish everything. And in our quest to accomplish it all, we become overwhelmed, worn out, and weary—very weary.
We lose ourselves.
This is why I interviewed different moms about all the things they don’t do. You’ll find great examples in this previous post. Below are several more.
Katelyn Denning is a mom of two and a coach for new moms just returning to work. She helps them set priorities, tackle mom guilt, and simplify their lives so they can enjoy working motherhood. She doesn’t clean her house on a regular basis. Instead she hires a housekeeper to tidy up every other week.
She also doesn’t make homemade baby food or wash sheets and towels (her housekeeper does, and she’s totally fine with both getting washed every other week).
Denning doesn’t cook every meal either. “My husband is an amazing cook and we share the responsibility of cooking, either doing it together or trading off. We also eat out if life gets too busy.”
She doesn’t stay home with her two sons. “We have an amazing nanny who takes care of childcare for us full-time. Not only does she care for and love my kids, she also does things like feeds them breakfast and lunch, drops off and picks-up for preschool and so much more.”
Sarah Argenal used to commit to all sorts of activities in order to please other people. (You, too?) Now that she’s a mom to two sons, she doesn’t say ‘yes’ to anything that’ll make her feel resentful.
“I do a quick gut-check to make sure I’m not filling my calendar with anything that will deplete my energy or time,” said Argenal, who writes, speaks, consults, and leads interactive trainings on work/life balance, intentional living, and connected family relationships for busy professionals at www.workingparentresource.com.
Argenal also doesn’t plan activities in the evenings during the week. “My evenings are sacred, and our whole family needs the down-time to relax, spend time together, and stick to a consistent evening routine for the kids.”
She doesn’t deep clean the house (her housekeeper comes once a month). “I’m also lucky to have a wonderfully supportive husband who takes care of most of the housecleaning, laundry, and cooking during the week.”
Argenal doesn’t run errands, and instead gets “everything possible delivered directly to my house by Amazon Prime. I never buy anything that requires dry-cleaning. I do a huge grocery run twice a month, and avoid random trips to the store as much as possible.”
Finally, Argenal doesn’t try to keep up with the Joneses.
“Whenever I feel guilty or jealous or pressured to do something because someone else is, I shift my focus back to my life. I remind myself there’s no one else out there who has my specific blend of time constraints, goals, stressors, relationships, children, etc. What works for other people may not be a good fit for me, and vice versa. I spend my time and energy managing my own life and I let go of what everyone else is doing.”
Because when we focus on everyone else, we’re only setting ourselves up for deep disappointment. “I think disappointment comes more from expecting that you’re going to do something and failing to do it, than it does from deciding to not do something from the beginning,” said Denning.
For instance, if we tell ourselves, “I should be able to do that” or “I know other moms who find the time” or “I should give something else up so I can do that,” then we’ll keep feeling terrible, she said.
But if we tell ourselves something such as, “not doing this allows me to give my kids more attention,” then we start seeing our decision not to do something as a positive, supportive decision—“one that you’re making deliberately in favor of something else,” Denning said.
It’s also important to surround ourselves with genuine, sincere support. “Everyone’s situation is different, said Amber Anderson, co-founder of MORE and Tote + Pears, a full-service agency that creates and markets products, services, and experiences for women, and the proud momma of a very special and active little boy.
“Some of us are single mothers. Some have a partner but are living far from other family members. Maybe you’re lacking a sense of community. The bottom line is: we all need support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — have a conversation with your partner, loop in your parents, reach out to friends.”
Parijat Deshpande, a perinatal mind-body wellness counselor, high-risk pregnancy expert, and author of the must-read book Pregnancy Brain: A Mind-Body Approach to Stress Management During a High-Risk Pregnancy, also stressed the importance of community.
“Evolutionarily, biologically, emotionally, and physically human beings are not meant to do it all on our own. And that’s even when life was very simple,” said Deshpande, mom to one son and expecting a daughter this fall.
“Now that life is complicated, fast-paced and seemingly nonstop, it is even more important now, more than ever, to build your village. And having that village means not only do you rely on others to help you, but they’ll rely on you to help them as well. It’s a beautiful system that is designed to help all of us thrive.”
Perhaps that’s really the foundation of self-care: taking actions and participating in activities that help you to thrive—and letting go of those things that don’t.
So what helps you thrive? How can you make this part of your days? What can you relinquish and delegate?