- Coming Clean -

COMING CLEAN: Mom Needs a Timeout

We all need a break to recalibrate. How I’m using my timeouts for self-care.

Soapy hands in a bath make a heart shape.

For my toddlers, ages 1½ and 4, sometimes the world seems like too much. Too much stimuli. Too many big emotions. The world just doesn’t make sense. Aggressiveness ensues in the form of hitting or throwing toys or stomping feet, and I suggest a timeout. They need it, and I need it.

Many parenting gurus recommend one minute per year old. Four minutes seems like an eternity for my oldest.

Yet, for me, sometimes 37½ minutes is not nearly enough time alone. Sure, I can sit on a zafu and meditate in that amount of time, but if I want to expand my self-care routine, the ticking clock is not on my side. I’ve barely any time for a facial mask, body dry brushing, Epsom-salts bath, a mani-pedi — and what about using my new rose-quartz facial roller or that new apricot walnut-shelled body scrub?

Before motherhood, I lavished in weekly beauty self-care routines. I painted my nails. I deep-conditioned my hair. It was a glorious, soul-nourishing ritual that I modified and perfected over the years, taking notes on what worked and what didn’t. For an introvert, this time was crucial to helping me feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the busyness of life and work.

Times have changed, but my intentions for self-care haven’t. For weeks, I’ve been staring at a review copy of Self-Care for Moms by Sara Robinson, MA, and thinking, I really need to try one of these 150 ideas in the book. Then I’ll peek at my to-do list and think, maybe not yet.

I might’ve kept staring at the butterflies on the book cover forever if it weren’t for a conversation I had with Lauren Ash, founder of Black Girl In Om, a website and podcast dedicated to promoting holistic wellness and helping women of color find their inner beauty. I asked how she, as a busy entrepreneur, makes time for self-care. Her answer?

“You make time for it,” Ash says. “I used to approach it with the question, How will I find time for this? But now it’s like, How will the other things fit around the wellness?

So I heeded Ash’s advice to reprioritize my wellness and self-care routines, and dug into Robinson’s book for advice. Robinson starts off with a reality check for moms about what self-care is, what it isn’t, and how to overcome the barriers to integrating wellness activities into your days.

She then suggests ways to reinvent self-care: Ways to be spontaneous, tips for including the kids, and even multitasking activities, like listening to music or a podcast while you clean or watch your kid’s swim class, or doing a craft while watching Finding Nemo (again).

Paging through the book, I found other suggestions, such as go to a nursery to look at flowers, cuddle with your kids, or do a mani-pedi lunch with a friend, and I started to realize that maybe the biggest lesson I needed was to rethink my self-care routine. Just last month I enjoyed a mani-pedi while on vacation to visit my friend, and last week I saw my college girlfriends for a hot-yoga class. It doesn’t always need to be baths and facial rollers and smoothing serums.

There might be times where I can revisit my extended routine, body scrub and all, but even a walk in a garden or the woods can be part of my self-care methods. My weekly calls to a good friend during our commute counts. The moments I stop and notice the beauty of the trees or the kindness of the barista adds to my gratitude practice, as Robinson suggests in her 5-Minute Activities chapter.

It’s a relief to approach self-care in this new lens, and know that the timeouts I take can help me feel more balanced with whatever tools or techniques I try. And, thankfully, the shelf life on the body scrub gives me plenty of time to consider it for the next round.

is Experience Life’s managing editor.

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