questions for you: self-care for parents

As regular readers know, I’m working on a feminist book about parenting. Please help me write a better, more inclusive project by answering some of the questions I posting here at First the Egg on (some) Wednesdays.

Today’s topic:


  • Parents: what do you do to take care of yourself? How do you manage to take breaks, to nourish your whole self, to stay okay emotionally and physically? If you can’t/don’t, what effect does that have on you? If you do, or try to, is it for yourself (to feel good), for your children (to be more alert, happier, a good model, etc. for them), or for some other reason?

The details:

  • I’m working on a feminist book about parenting. By commenting on this post, you are giving me permission to quote what you say here in my book. Please indicate whether you’d like to be identified by full name, first name only, or a pseudonym of your choice if I end up using your words, as well as the age(s) of your child or children.
  • Feel free to email your responses instead of commenting here, if you prefer: molly at firsttheegg dot com.
  • Please answer any question (or questions) that strikes your fancy, in any way, at any length. Anything relevant to these topics is welcome, even if what you have to say is not really related to the questions. I’m so grateful for any thoughts you offer!

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  1. Posted 7 November 2012 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

    I’m working on month 7 of motherhood (I stay at home, my spouse has a day job). I keep telling myself that next month things will get easier, that I’ll have a few more moments to myself. It hasn’t materialized yet, but still, each month I fantasize about it. When I get about to the end of my rope, though, I explicitly tell my spouse, “I am about to the end of my rope. I need you to take charge of the nighttime diapering (and, if he’s off work the next day, to let me sleep in as much as possible) and make sure I’m actually eating.” And he spends a couple days on super-powered mode, and I eek back enough to resembling a capable alert human that I make it through another month.

  2. Lara
    Posted 8 November 2012 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

    I have been lucky enough to swing the resources to have some regular babysitting starting when my first child was 18 months old, and I try to treat that time as my time, not time to take care of the household. Except occasionally when grocery shopping alone sounds like an incredibly relaxing experience. I know not everyone can afford to do this, and I appreciate my good fortune. But I also notice that plenty of women around me, who live in much more spacious housing and seem to have more resources, say they can’t afford babysitting. I think it’s worth seriously evaluating the value of a few hours of regular child care versus other expenditures, in an explicit way, and taking seriously the possibility that the child care might be worth scrimping in some other way.

    When I have that time, I either go to a dance class, or research/write/read. Those are my two professional identities, that link me to who I am outside of being Mom, and that nourish body and soul. I am lucky that my artistic life entails exercise! I feel like it has mattered a lot for my sanity to do something that maintains the thread of my life to my pre-stay-at-home-mom past, and that helps me maintain the identity I built for myself. I know not everyone has that priority; some women I know have found great happiness starting a new hobby, finding time for coffee with friends, etc. But I do think the time is valuable, however one uses it. And I feel like it’s important to see it as primarily for me, though of course if I am feeling happy and healthy, it’s better for the people around me. I reject mother-guilt for not being utterly self-sacrificing.

    When I had nursing babies, I still went to at least once dance class a week, and left the baby with my husband, with some pumped milk, and said “good luck!” and tried not to look back. I know my babies didn’t like bottles, and it was rough on my husband, but he was so, so good to me, making the best of it even when it meant he sometimes had to soothe a hungry, screaming baby to sleep. I needed my class, and while I was willing (and happy) to nurse on demand for years, in order to make that feasible, my babies and my husband had to occasionally deal with a tough situation. I feel like it was the right trade-off for us. I tried going to a La Leche meeting to ask about pumping, and the leader told me I should take my baby to class to nurse him instead, or just not dance for a year or so. I felt like I was being told to just not breathe for a year or so.

    It’s much easier to have some time to myself now that my kids are school-aged, but my expectations of how much writing I want to accomplish have gone up, as well. I still try to push off the grocery shopping, laundry, errands, etc. onto the (still vast) time we spend together, so that my writing and dancing time is protected.

  3. Posted 8 November 2012 at 8:56 PM | Permalink

    I’m an introvert, so I need time not just for my things, but simply to be ALONE. My partner is really good about helping me with this, as he can. I try to take self-dates, but that doesn’t always work well. What works better is to try to fit it in after bedtime and during naps.

    Recently, my kiddo started sleeping through the night, over in Papa’s part of the bed, and that helps me recharge tremendously. Suddenly, we’re all getting great amounts of sleep because my toddler isn’t trying to nurse every time he stirs in the middle of the night.

    The big challenge for us is that my partner recharges by spending time with me, so sometimes we have evening difficulties, where I just want to be alone and he just wants to see me. Sometimes we work that out well; sometimes we don’t.

    We have agreed that once I am no longer nursing, an annual retreat will be a great idea for me. It won’t be anything big and fancy; just a long weekend alone someplace. Sometimes I daydream about it.

  4. A'Llyn
    Posted 9 November 2012 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

    It’s tough to find time when the baby’s asleep and I’m not so tired I also want to just go to sleep, but I do take the opportunity to play a video game once in a while, which is a nice me-time activity that I enjoy.

    My husband goes to hang out with his friends on a weekend evening semi-regularly, which I think is a nice break for him. (Pre-baby, he would tend to go out and I would stay in and play video games, which I think worked nicely for both of us, and one of these days when the kid doesn’t wake us up multiple times a night and I have a little energy to stay up past his bedtime, it shall work again!)

    I also self-care by cutting myself a lot of slack in terms of what I do or don’t get done. If I spend all day holding the baby and don’t accomplish anything else useful except washing a few dishes? Whatever, it’s fine. The bathroom needing to be cleaned isn’t going to hurt anything. It’ll still be dirty tomorrow, right?

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