Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Taking care of yourself

Today I got home at nearly 4 pm.

I'd left this morning in a bit of a flurry, with an unsettled stomach and no breakfast (due to the unsettled stomach).  Coffee and vitamins had to carry me.

By 1 pm I was running late, and I was hungry.  Out-and-about is a bad place to need gluten-free food, especially when there is no time.  I ended up with a strawberry milkshake which, while not particularly nutritious, was delicious.  Sometimes you just have to be thankful and enjoy, and try not to worry.

When I finally got home at 4, having consumed nothing all day but coffee, vitamins and a strawberry milkshake, I found myself hungry, shaky, sore of foot, and staring at a pile of dog vomit in the bathroom.  What?  Did I say dog vomit in the bathroom?  Yes.  Yes I did.  And not only was it in the bathroom, it was not on the rug in the bathroom; it was on the hard floor.  A miracle.  (If you have pets, you understand.)

I cleaned up the dog vomit, kicked off my shoes, walked the dogs around the yard in my bare feet, put away the groceries, ate some potato chips and an over-ripe banana, and threw away a rotten green pepper I found in the produce drawer.  Mom is in the house!

When I had kids around, a homecoming such as today very likely would have disintegrated into frustration and angry words.  But by myself, I was able to stop, breathe, plan the next step and implement it without interruption.  When you are only responsible for yourself, you can be a lot more careless with yourself and get by with it.

When you have kids to care for, you need to care for yourself responsibly.  This is a concept I did not grasp.  I consistently ran myself to a breaking point, and then broke.  Today I ran myself to a breaking point, but I did not break, because life is easier now and I can get by.  But I could have had an easier, more comfortable day if I had thought out and prepared for it better.

The funny thing is, when I had kids, I recognized the importance of protecting them from hitting blood sugar lows, or getting overtired, or taking on too much.  I packed snacks for them to eat in the van on long afternoons of driving from activity to activity.  I set the schedule with a limited number of activities per day, and a limited number of busy days per week per child.  However, I made it my mission to get everyone to everything, and I rarely packed a snack for myself, although I did suck down a Capri Sun now and then, like an oral IV bag.

I wish I had known how to take better care of myself when I was a busy mom.  I think it would have been so much better for everyone.

Here are some things I wish I'd known:

1)  Vegetables.  Eat good food at regular intervals.  Buy tasty vegetables, then wash them and cut them up soon after you get home.  This will provide you a constant source of quick, healthy snacks to grab.

2)  Protein.  Never substitute a glass of milk and a piece of chocolate cake for lunch.  Always eat a serving of protein at the beginning of every meal or snack, to balance your blood sugar before you consume carbs.  (Oh, how I wish I had known and done this.)  Hard boiled eggs are a good protein source to keep on hand.  Nuts can be a good, quick energy booster, too.

3)  Teach your kids to be responsible for their own stuff.  It is exhausting and nearly impossible to keep track of the music books, instruments, and sports equipment needed for for numerous children on a given afternoon.  Train them to organize, store and gather their own things for their activities.

4)  When you are planning a day, plan down time.  Recognize that you will need rest.  I actually got a fair amount of down time during music lessons, and have read many a novel that way.  However, even reading a novel in a waiting area can be taxing; you can't get quite perfectly comfortable, you have to keep your feet off the furniture, and you are always listening for how your child's lesson is going in the background.  So plan some real time off for yourself, because you're going to need it if you're going to keep your perspective.  Schedule time at home to sit on the sofa and put up your feet with a book, a TV show, or even just a moment to look out the window and collect your thoughts.  Also, go to bed at a reasonable time.

5)  Use positive self-talk.  Prayer and abiding in Christ are extremely important, but they can be quite theoretical, in a way, and actually keeping your calm comes from asking Jesus to teach you how to keep your calm, not just asking Him to help you.  What I mean is, His help can come through strategies.  Just as He nourishes us with food, provides for us through money, and heals us through medicine, He helps us keep our calm when we work with Him to develop strategies for keeping calm.  Positive self talk (or as some Christians say, preaching the gospel to yourself) is a huge help.  This is another thing I wish I had learned so much earlier.  When everything starts to fall apart and the day is going to the dogs, it is not only okay, it is actually good to tell yourself, "It's okay.  Everything is going to be okay.  God loves me.  God is in control.  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also along with Him graciously give us all things?" (that's from Romans 8:32).  It is good to forgive yourself rather than panic and beat yourself up.  If you never treat yourself with grace, you will not treat your children with grace, and they may not learn to treat others or themselves with grace.  Be gracious to yourself.  This is a good thing and it sets a very healthy precedent.

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