An A+ Self Care Dunce

It’s been hanging around a few weeks lately which is why, a few days ago, I wrote the post Anxiety: The Flamingo Does Not Define Me. I’ve been trying to climb out of a rut that has seen me stuck for three weeks or so. I have to be honest, because that’s who I am and what I do. I consider myself a self care idiot. I should know better by now. I should know how to look after my physical needs and the needs of my ever spinning mind. I really should but I’m feeling the pinch of being overwhelmed lately and it has swallowed up any opportunity I’ve had to care for myself. Overhelmed with balancing working from home and being the Momma Bear I want to be, but feeling as though I’m failing in the process because I want to hide in the kitchen. Overwhelmed with my relationships with friends, family and Papa Bear. Even overwhelmed with how the furniture is positioned and how Un-Marie Kondo’d the house is.

I’m stretching myself that little bit too far. I honestly thought I had learnt a thing or two about self care. I thought, throughout it all, as everything became too heavy for me to hold, I could lighten my load and be kind to myself but I find, lately, that this is an impossible task.

In Jaunary the amazing Dr Malie Coyne began the #31daysofparentalselfcare challenge. It was a challenge I enjoyed but it turned out to be a revelation as the month wore on. I had no resolutions this year bar one. Be good to myself. And in a way I have. I’m more conscious of myself. More conscious of what I need to keep carrying the burden of daily life as a stay at home Momma Bear, as a work from home Momma Bear for that matter. I’m attempting to not be so hard on myself but considering I’m overwhelmed and stressed with a lingering anxiety under the surface, it hasn’t worked out so well. Being good to myself comes in last as the day races on and sometimes being good to myself never even crosses the finish line.

I enjoyed partaking in the hashtag every day on Twitter. It made me take stock of how I was prioritising myself every day. How it was important for me to remember myself as well. When I look back, I see that I don’t necessarily look after myself or put myself first, or anywhere on the scale at all, when I really need to. I should know by now that self care is a priority. But I fail to make myself a priority in any sense of the word. Cake and coffee don’t count. Not anymore. What I long for is headspace. Distance. A chance to breathe and let go. A moment of invisibility. A chance to remember me as well as everyone else.

Being Momma Bear means that any chance of that is few and far between as the day wears on. Working from home adds to the strain and freelancing, well that’s a whole other ball game as the fight to find work is relentless.

I’m now back in the old feeling of being overwhelmed and despite trying to shake it off the last few weeks, I’ve simply drained my cup. I’m running on empty.

But being overwhelmed means I then push too hard. Too far. I let the overwhelm take over and I run with it. I do too much because I think it has to be done. As though, the more I do the less overburdened I’ll feel. Ticking off a neverending list.

It doesn’t work like that but still I push on. But really, who gives a shit if the beds aren’t made, the bathrooms aren’t clean, the floor isn’t mopped? Who cares if the kids are living in tracksuit bottoms for a week after school, that their shoes have mud caked on the bottom? What does it matter if the washing machine hasn’t done its daily duty of washing our clothes? The regular mundane tasks are not necessarily what has me overwhelmed. It’s the everything. The exhausting, unrelenting everything of life.

I need to pause. Reevaluate. Lean out a bit. Navigate my way to self care and to self care the shit out of my life.

On the outside, as I wander after Little Bean at softplay or bake muffins with Little Miss after school, it may seem like I have my shit together. My house is tidy, not necessarily clean but everything has its place even if it means stuffing everything into my un-Kondo’d kitchen drawers. I meet my deadlines for work. I answer my emails (albeit not as promptly as I’d like to lately), make those calls (even if I’d rather slowly send an email), and look forward to the week ahead and plan, plan, plan. I parent as well as I can, balancing the varying needs of the 5 year old and the 1 year old who both pull and claw and breathe the air right in front of my face. I cook. I clean. I nurture. I kiss those sore hands and knees. I breathe quick breaths as I’m constantly moving and adding to the overwhelm.

When overwhelm hits, worry nestles in beside it. I worry about whether I play with the kids enough, give them enough attention. I worry I’m not talking to Papa Bear enough, that our relationship is suffering, that I overload him with my unnecessary but high functioning state of overwhelm and anxiety which I can rarely explain or rationalise. I worry I don’t get in touch with my family enough, that they think I’m ignoring them when really I’m thinking about them all the time. I worry about school homework even though she’s only five. I worry about the kids diet and how utterly shit it is at the moment. I worry about work and whether I can keep it going and keep the work coming in. I worry about feeling like an imposter as a journalist and as a writer. I worry incessantly as the overwhelm kicks in and makes me live a life of self doubt.

I need to cut myself some slack.

We all do when everything simply gets to be too much. We can’t live in overdrive and except it all to level out. We will crash eventually. Which is why self care is so important. Which is why it should be at the top of our list, or at least as close to the top as possible, or at the very least remembered.

We need to know that what we do is enough or too much at times. We need to recognise that being overwhelmed does us no good which means it does the house no good. Four people live in my house. Three of them follow my lead and suck the energy I give off. Momma Bear has a natural tendency to set the mood of the day. We set the tempo.

Right now the tempo is too quick. I want to waltz. I want to glide. I want the music to pause.

I give myself a metaphorical hiding when I start to feel the weight of life spin around me. It works at times. I slow down. I give myself permission to ease up. I now count this as self care. How do you manage your parental self care? 

Anxiety mental health depression

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