Radical Acceptance For New Moms

My best friend, Chandra, wrote me a pure and honest email recently.  She had her third baby seven months ago, and she's in the throws of caring for a baby, plus all the other things, while working full time.  My blog, Dear Desperately Seeking Self Care, on actions to help moms retain their center and sanity didn't work for Chandra.  Her comments back to me were so insightful and real, I asked her if she'd write a blog in response.  If you have comments you'd like to share on this topic of Self Care for Mommas, please email.  Let's keep this conversation going!  Here you go....  

A couple of weeks ago, Jessica wrote a blog all about self-care.  While she had some great ideas for taking care of ourselves as mothers, her suggestions didn’t seem possible for me, a full-time working mom of 3 boys, one of which is a nursing 6-month-old. 

One suggestion was to get up early to exercise, do yoga, and rejuvenate before small people can emerge from their bedrooms asking for cereal.  I already get up at 5 am, and even that is sometimes not early enough to get a shower before the baby cries for milk. Another idea was to eat an earlier, lighter dinner, a suggestion I thought would be a great way to ease the stress of the evening routine.  Unfortunately, that also requires shifting the larger meal of the day to lunch, a time when I am at work, sitting in front of a computer screen and strapped to a breast pump.  While I would love to implement these ideas, they didn’t ring true for me.

Self-care is a hot topic for moms these days, but for me, reading about self-care just makes me feel like there is one more thing I am not doing right.  One more thing I “should” fit into my schedule.  One more thing to fail at.  Why can’t I get it together enough to get a pedicure with friends?  Soak in a hot tub?  Exercise regularly? Why can’t I take care of myself when I know that it is key to taking care of my family?

Sometimes reading about self-care makes me feel like a mom on a budget looking for money saving tips and reading that she should cut out her morning latte.  Moms on a budget don’t have a morning latte, and moms like me certainly can’t get up any earlier.

So how can a working and nursing mother with an hour + commute and occasional business travel practice self-care? Most days I think I can’t.  I don’t have time.  It’s too hard.  My schedule is already too packed. 

But when I think more deeply, I realize two fundamental truths.  First, for a mom like me, radical acceptance is self-care. I take care of myself by accepting that perhaps early morning yoga isn’t in the cards for me right now.  I still have a goal to exercise three times a week, but I also know that it probably won’t happen.  These days I celebrate just getting my yoga pants on and doing ten minutes of a video before my son wakes from his weekend nap.

I may not be able to get up earlier to exercise, but I can breathe deeply and turn my face to the sun while riding over the Potomac on the metro each morning.  For that minute and a half, I am taking care of myself.  Someday I will be able to do more, but for now, I accept where I am.

And this brings me to my second realization.  This time of motherhood is a season. I am not saying this to advocate savoring the moment or to say, “the days are long but the years are short” (although they are).  I am saying it because this is the key to acceptance.  In prenatal yoga we are taught to focus on the breath.  We learn that in labor our contractions will come like waves washing over us, intense one moment, and then receding the next.  We need only to focus on our breath, knowing that grace and rest follows. We need only to accept.  

And so it is with motherhood.  This moment won’t last forever, this working mother wave of intensity will crash over me and I will ride it into rest. Just as with each contraction we are taught to breathe through it, so too must we breathe through this. I may not soak in hot tubs, my nails may be ragged, and I may not do a single downward dog for the next five years, but I can breathe deeply, knowing that one day I will. Learning and accepting this is my self-care.

A couple of weeks ago, Jessica wrote a blog all about self-care.  While she had some great ideas for taking care of ourselves as mothers, her suggestions didn’t seem possible for me, a full-time working mom of 3 boys, one of which is a nursing 6-month-old. 

One suggestion was to get up early to exercise, do yoga, and rejuvenate before small people can emerge from their bedrooms asking for cereal.  I already get up at 5 am, and even that is sometimes not early enough to get a shower before the baby cries for milk. Another idea was to eat an earlier, lighter dinner, a suggestion I thought would be a great way to ease the stress of the evening routine.  Unfortunately, that also requires shifting the larger meal of the day to lunch, a time when I am at work, sitting in front of a computer screen and strapped to a breast pump.  While I would love to implement these ideas, they didn’t ring true for me.

Self-care is a hot topic for moms these days, but for me, reading about self-care just makes me feel like there is one more thing I am not doing right.  One more thing I “should” fit into my schedule.  One more thing to fail at.  Why can’t I get it together enough to get a pedicure with friends?  Soak in a hot tub?  Exercise regularly? Why can’t I take care of myself when I know that it is key to taking care of my family?

Sometimes reading about self-care makes me feel like a mom on a budget looking for money saving tips and reading that she should cut out her morning latte.  Moms on a budget don’t have a morning latte, and moms like me certainly can’t get up any earlier.

So how can a working and nursing mother with an hour + commute and occasional business travel practice self-care? Most days I think I can’t.  I don’t have time.  It’s too hard.  My schedule is already too packed. 

But when I think more deeply, I realize two fundamental truths.  First, for a mom like me, radical acceptance is self-care. I take care of myself by accepting that perhaps early morning yoga isn’t in the cards for me right now.  I still have a goal to exercise three times a week, but I also know that it probably won’t happen.  These days I celebrate just getting my yoga pants on and doing ten minutes of a video before my son wakes from his weekend nap. I may not be able to get up earlier to exercise, but I can breathe deeply and turn my face to the sun while riding over the Potomac on the metro each morning.  For that minute and a half, I am taking care of myself.  Someday I will be able to do more, but for now, I accept where I am.

And this brings me to my second realization.  This time of motherhood is a season. I am not saying this to advocate savoring the moment or to say, “the days are long but the years are short” (although they are).  I am saying it because this is the key to acceptance.  In prenatal yoga we are taught to focus on the breath.  We learn that in labor our contractions will come like waves washing over us, intense one moment, and then receding the next.  We need only to focus on our breath, knowing that grace and rest follows. We need only to accept.  

And so it is with motherhood.  This moment won’t last forever, this working mother wave of intensity will crash over me and I will ride it into rest. Just as with each contraction we are taught to breathe through it, so too must we breathe through this. I may not soak in hot tubs, my nails may be ragged, and I may not do a single downward dog for the next five years, but I can breathe deeply, knowing that one day I will. Learning and accepting this is my self-care.