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Real Parents On: Stress Relief + "Me Time"

Being a parent seems to be synonymous with exhaustion, busy-ness and having absolutely no time to yourself. What do you do when you desperately need to have your batteries recharged? I asked my always inspiring panel of parents to weigh-in on some of their ideas. And since I know there is always lots of great wisdom from my Facebook friends, I've included some of my favorites from there as well.

Elizabeth says:

ABP (always be praying)

"Oh stress relief.  I guess number one is recognizing when I need the break, and two communicating that a break is needed.  My hubby is an avid golfer (and used to be softball too), and we just bought a new home.  I am a stay-at-home Mom who (until a break this year) attended grad school in the evenings.  We also have 4 kids under the age of 7, so life is neither quiet or boring. Recognizing that I need to unplug and reconnect with myself usually happens when my screaming level out paces that of my children--no joke.  I'm learning to be present in the moment, mindful, and to just ABP (always be praying).  When God is on my mind and praises are on my tongue, I usually find stress leaves pretty quickly.  When all else fails, I beg for a Borders trip--me alone with a coffee and millions of books that I don't intend to buy and peruse for free...it's bliss!"

Elizabeth says:

Making Your Home Your Spa

"I don't feel relieved very often but something that I enjoyed recently was just pampering myself one morning while the babies were napping.  I soaked my feet in one of those home foot tubs (I got it for $10 at a rummage sale and sanitized it with bleach before using it).  Then I put my moisturized feet in socks all day.  I also did a MaryKay microderm facial and satin lips and then to top everything off I used their Satin Hands to make my hands all nice and smooth.  It's extra special when Jerry paints my nails for me."

Kelly W. says:

Part of Being a Great Mom = Taking Care of Myself

"I have to be honest, when I saw the topic was "Stress Relief" I was kinda like "Stress relief?  Holy crap, what's that??!!" (Picture me saying that while holding a giant mug of caffeine, with bed-head and one eye twitching.) Parenting is a challenging job indeed, and we have an additional facet: autism.  So my idea of stress is.....well....crippling.  In order to maintain neutral affect in the face of a colossal meltdown involving intentional urinating on the floor, screamed inappropriate tv lines, and matchbox cars launched in my direction, I am forced to exercise a level of emotional dissociation that most people don't understand.

Stress relief, for me, is finding a way to release and process the strong emotions that I've been forced to bury.  It's finding pieces of myself I have forgotten.  It's finding balance, mental clarity, and peace.  And it's finding the things that remind me why I still love life.  In order to find all that, I have to intentionally seek it. Diligently. It's taken me years to realize that part of being a great mom is making sure I take care of MYSELF.  We spend so much time being selfless for our families, that we think of anything saved for ourselves as selfish. Putting the kids to bed on time so I can read a book is not selfish. Making them wait in the Starbucks line with me, despite their whining, is not selfish. Wanting to use the bathroom by myself: not selfish. Insisting that they entertain themselves while I finish a phone call: not selfish. Once a week "guy night" with Dad so I can get out of the house:  not selfish.  Simple concepts, right?  But they took me years to figure out and begin to practice.  I am now learning that adequately balancing out the high stress in our house, for me, requires a high level of self care.

So "stress relief" looks like this for me:  periodic professional counseling, journaling/writing, an occasional expletive (be honest, I know I'm not the only one), time out with good friends, date nights with my man, a walk through Animal Friends with my kids, singing at the top of my lungs in the van, painting my toenails late at night, a lot of reading (I recently discovered fiction!), a power walk in the park, saying "no" when I need to say "no" even though I'm tempted to say "yes", gardening, sitting down in the afternoon to read a magazine when I really should be doing something "productive", baking, an evening shopping alone, venti iced skinny vanilla lattes, giving up coupon-cutting (I know, that's shocking), watching lectures on www.ted.com, surfing the 'net, taking pictures, trying a new recipe, and finding as many reasons as possible to laugh. This is how I re-charge my batteries :-)."

Jen M. (that's me!), mom of a deliciously cute munchkin baby, and wife of 4 1/2 years. Read my bio below.

Napping + Blogging Make This Mama Remember Who She Is

I guess to be honest, I don't feel rested all that often. It's probably because I'm one of those always-on-the-go people who's never satisifed just sitting and resting. Since having the baby, my mindset on that has changed somewhat, and I do find that I choose napping far more often than I did before her. Maybe part of me knows that when #2 comes along, naps will be a thing of the past, so I'm trying to get as much as possible now...while I still can!

Writing for imanimama.com has also been a huge way for me to keep track of who I am and not get lost in the busy-ness of being a wife, mom and full-time corporate America worker bee. There are probably only 5 hours a week left after everything else is either done or intentionally ignored, and I try to use those hours to write and share on this site. Those hours only ever really happen when Sean is working till midnight or an overnight shift, and the little one goes to bed on time. Still I cherish that time when it's just me and my thoughts...and my keyboard.

wisdom from the masses

My amazing parent-buddies on Facebook also had some secrets to share, although I was sad to see that so many of them felt as if they weren't able to take any time at all to themselves. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • Have your spouse take the kids for a bit, while you do whatever your little heart desires: take a walk, dance, watch movies, get a massage or a mani/pedi, go shopping, hit up the gym, enjoy a frosty beverage ;) — anything to get a mental break. It's hard as a wife and a mom not to lose yourself. (h/t Amber K., Jen M., Denise R., Chris W., Rachel H.)
  • Take a quick nap outside while the sun is out. The rest and vitamin D are a surefire way to perk up. (h/t Abby S.)
  • If your local library has a story time, go as a family...then one person takes the kids and the other sneaks away for some peace and quiet. (h/t Kristen W.)
  • For working parents, start seeing your job as a chance to reconnect with your other interests and talents. (h/t Nicole H.)
  • Color, preferably inside the lines. (h/t Kat L.)
  • Hide books (devotionals, fiction, anything that strikes your fancy) in the bathroom and try to sneak away for a few minutes to recharge. (h/t Chris W.)
  • When the kids are in bed, enjoy some time alone with a good book. (h/t/ Chernika Y.)
Above all else, my very favorite advice from veteran mom Chris W.:
"When you can get away, don't feel guilty-time to relax makes you a better mom and wife!"

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