Today is my birthday (thank you, thank you), but unfortunately it seems my almost 2-year-old either didn’t get the memo, couldn’t read the memo, or did somehow read it and now wants to bite the memo and throw it into the pee-pee pool sitting at the bottom of his race car potty. In other words, he’s being a bit of an ass.
Resolved not to let it get me down, I’m writing out this list of quick mood lifters during his nap time — and using them liberally during his awake time. They help me out when I’m feeling downtrodden by the demands of another 24 hours of solo parenting while my husband is on shift — and I hope they’ll help you, too.
1: Give Yourself a Hot Towel Treatment
While a real facial is not an option while you’re taking care of two children under four, this crude yet effective pampering moment is possible to squeeze in, no matter what is going on around you.
Wet and wring out a clean hand towel, put it on a microwave safe plate and nuke it for 20 seconds. Carefully check the temperature with your fingers (obviously, microwave speeds and strengths vary), and if it’s pleasantly hot but not scalding, hold it over your face until the heat dissipates. Repeat as necessary. Today, this ended up turning into a game of peek-a-boo with my youngest, which put him in a better mood temporarily. Bonus!
Then, pop the cloth in the freezer for a few minutes, remove and place over your blessed, endlessly patient face again for a cooling sensory experience you so very sorely deserve.
2. Make Your Plate First
I’m finding it very difficult to sit down for a stretch at mealtimes these days. The requests (for more ketchup; more water; some salad dressing; a different drink; a different utensil) come in such a steady stream that I’m lucky to get a mouthful in before I’m up again.
I don’t have a perfect remedy for this situation (see more on it in #4), but I do have a symbolic ritual I sometimes use to give myself a mealtime morale boost and just generally to appreciate myself: I make my plate first. It’s intuitive as a caregiver to dole out dinner to your sweet dependents (and spouse) first, and to serve yourself what is left over. But for me, the simple act of occasionally creating my plate first, even though I know quite well that I will be digging into it last, gives me a sense that I am an important human being.
3: Buy Yourself a Carton of Organic Berries
They’re loaded with antioxidants and micronutrients. They’re deliciously juicy. They’re expensive. Organic berries are one of those foods I bought for myself religiously pre-parenthood and while my wee ones were in utero, but more recently they’ve become a luxury I buy “for the kids,” and if they leave some on their plate, I’ll eat the sad and squishy remnants.
Then one day I read an Instagram post by Jennifer Anderson, mom, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and creator of @kids.eat.in.color. In it, she described how she, too, gave all the berries to her babies for the first two years of parenthood. Then, in a desperate act of self-love, she bought a carton of ruby-red raspberries for herself and ate them all during her kids’ nap. After that day, raspberries became a symbol that she was still a person after having kids.
That’s what I’m trying to say. Let’s give ourselves some pre-picked-over berries.
4: Tell Your Kids You Matter
I’m embarrassed to admit that my mother really coddled my sisters and I when we were kids. She served us meals on trays in front of the TV, washed and folded all the laundry until we went to college, cleaned our rooms and didn’t really require us to lift a finger. To this day, my mom seems to revel in the fact that other people need her. That’s part of who she is.
I’m not quite the same way. My limits are more defined than my mother’s were/are. And so, in those moments where my very young children are pushing them — say, when I’ve been interrupted mid-bite for the seventh time at a meal to fulfill the urgent need for more sauce, etc. — I sometimes, very gently, say that I am a person too and that I need to eat my food for a few minutes before I can help with that.
It feels good to say this out loud, and I can see in my kids’ eyes that it makes them think. My 4-year-old never argues with me on this. Even my toddler rarely does. It isn’t hard for them to understand, and I feel like it sets a positive precedent for understanding that adults (and all other people) have needs too.
How do you honor yourself during the course of a typical day of momming (or daddying)? Please share your experience in the comments below.