Rethink Your Summer Vacation Bucket List

Rethink Your Summer Vacation Bucket List

Has the panic/pandemonium set in, in your neighborhood, yet

There are less than three weeks left until summer vacation, aka “mommy overtime season.” Are you prepared?

Have you made your summer bucket list? Are your kids all signed up for sports camps and travel teams? Did you stock up on all the local summer activities offered on Groupon? As well as all the summer activity staples like bubbles, water balloons, plastic kiddie pools, Nerf guns…

Yea, me neither. And I’m not going to, either.

“But, Renata,” you groan, “that doesn’t sound like a very FUN summer vacation. Are you suggesting that we plan NOTHING to do all summer? That we just let our kids roam aimlessly around the house and neighborhood all summer long? That sounds way worse than overscheduling every minute of the summer.”

Of course not.

But you should choose your activities wisely and then give your children lots of space to wander (somewhat) aimlessly around your house and neighborhood and figure out something to do for themselves.

Make the bucket list, sign up for the activities, do SOME of the things. Just be mindful of the fact that you don’t HAVE TO do any of it.

Let that sink in. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT.

You most definitely should not plan every minute of your summer. And remember that it’s YOUR summer too.

I’m taking a new approach to planning our summer activities and focusing less on how many things we can cram into two months and more on how I/we want to FEEL this summer.

So, instead of filling our bucket list with things we want to do and places we want to go, I’m trying to identify the ways we want to FEEL and then identifying activities that will give us that feeling.

This is a great conversation to have with your kiddos, even the little ones (who are capable of this sort of communication, obviously). How do they want to feel this summer and what kinds of activities would give them those feelings.

So, what does the start of my list look like?

Feeling: I want to feel connected as a family.

ACTIVITIES that will help me achieve that feeling: playing games together, building something, exploring museums and other places in our area, cooking or baking, visiting with grandparents and family, date nights with each of the kids.

Feeling: I want to feel relaxed.

ACTIVITIES that will help me achieve that feeling: reading books together on the couch, independent reading time, minimal morning rushing, slower paced days, less rushing around, independent play time for the kids outside.

Feeling: I want to feel refreshed.

ACTIVITIES that will help me achieve that feeling: lots of time outside, swimming at the pool, playing at the beach, hiking, sending the kids to their grandparents one weekend a month.

See how this works? So as you start the day, think about “how do I want to feel today and what is going to get me to that feeling?

Also, I promise you that a lot of days, my activity-of-choice will be to send my children outside to play for as long as possible.

So rethink your summer vacation bucket list a little bit. Your late-August-self will thank you for it.

 

Why I want to leave my kids’ Easter Baskets empty this year.

Why I want to leave my kids’ Easter Baskets empty this year.

Easter on mom calendar, easter basketsOk ok, I will admit, this advice is a bit of a buzz kill. But I just cannot bear the thought of more holiday “stuff” thrown about the floor of my house.

Every holiday, all the cute holiday “stuff” appears at every. single. store. and all the catalogs that arrive in my mailbox. I KNOW that those things doesn’t matter and that I should be creating memories and traditions and blah blah blah, but try explaining that to a five-year-old. I want to make the holidays fun and memorable for my kids but, let’s face it, they really just care about STUFF.

How can we be Marie Kondo-ing our houses AND still creating Instagram flat lay-worthy baskets that look like they came straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog? Pick a lane, Susan, I can’t keep up!

I did actually bite the bullet this year and bought the kids some “nicer” Easter baskets. Eh hem. Yes, from Pottery Barn. They are adorable, I will admit. But, I’m kicking myself now because I don’t actually want to fill these baskets with anything.

I’m seriously considering pulling the Jesus card and telling the kids that their baskets are empty because Jesus’ tomb was empty so… “HAPPY EASTER!! Now go clean up your Legos.”

But I would prefer it if my kids’s inevitable future therapy sessions weren’t solely about how disappointing their holiday experiences were in childhood so, I’m finding some middle ground.

My solution? Gifting a combination of practical items with fun things that can be thrown away without a second thought.

Easter bunny with candy

6 Things I Guess I’d Put Into an Easter Basket.

  1. New sneakers or rain boots (and maybe both because Spring may as well be renamed “Mud Season” in the Midwest). I am a big fan of Plae for when I want to buy quality and Target’s Cat & Jack line for when I don’t. Also London Littles (a business run by an awesome mama!) are very cute and don’t seem to stain as easily as other brands I’ve purchased. Although why I buy anything but black/navy shoes for little boys who like mud, I’m not sure.
  2. Spring pajamas (shorter sleeves, brighter prints, etc.). Some of my favorites are from Primary and Hanna Anderson (matching jammies are no longer just for Christmas!).
  3. Summer baseball caps. Functional and fashionable. Also, where the eff did all the hats from last summer go? I swear that I packed them away somewhere really smart…
  4. Plastic eggs filled with: quarters, a few jelly beans, Hershey kisses, mentos, tic tacs (no joke), rocks, and random legos I picked up off the ground. Moms of young kids, here’s a tip: put any food that you want your kids to eat into a plastic egg at dinner time. You will be SHOCKED at what they will eat when it comes from a plastic egg.
  5. Books. My oldest is full on reading (!! What?!? ) and really enjoying me reading longer books to him, which is very exciting and much less boring at bedtime. Both of my boys love Captain Underpants books and the like and, while I don’t always love the attitude or snarkiness, it keeps them interested so I’m game.
  6. Trash-able nick-nacks from the Target Dollar Section, Hobby Lobby, or Michaels. Sometimes I get caught up in purging toys and kid crap because I am hung up on the money that I spent. To remedy this, I (try) to buy less for the kids and then keep it cheap. Not EVERYTHING, but particularly when it comes to holiday stuff.  So I buy things I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to throw away or that would get used up after one use: stickers, play doh, slime, (SIMPLE) craft projects, a little candy, etc.. It makes life so much easier when you inevitably step on a plastic easter bunny sometime next week to just chuck it. It’s also really satisfying.

While you might want to just skip the whole Easter Basket thing, with a little thought, you can still make your kids super excited and fill it with things your kids already need or you were going to buy, and things you can easily get rid of. Throw in a chocolate bunny or Cadbury egg for good measure (c’mon, I’m not that big of an a-hole as to not include a little candy) and you’re basically “Mother of the Year.”

You’re welcome. And Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Family Travel Organization Tips

The Best Family Travel Organization Tips

Guest Post by Catherine Gibel, Professional Organizer with Less is More Organizing Services Naperville

I got it from my maman. My love for travel and packing prowess that is. Every summer for fifteen years, we traveled home to Québec for a month. Not only did she pack for a family of four, she then drove 24 hours over three days alone with three kids. Not for the faint of heart. I paid attention though and picked up some invaluable travel tips and tricks that I now use and share with you.

Map out your travel documents

Maman had a handwritten list but I use Evernote. If you’re not already using this app, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a team favorite. In Evernote, you can create a digital trip notebook with “before we leave” and “packing” checklists. If you travel to the same destination every year like we did, you can save your checklists. It’s such a time saver! Using a checklist will ensure that you pack everything you and your family need and avoid last minute, hurried overpacking.

In your trip notebook, save copies of your IDs, birth certificates, passports, visas, and other necessary travel documents just in case these items get misplaced or stolen. You can scan these documents using Evernote. Also, if you’re using travel magazines or guidebooks, scan the pages, save them in your trip notebook, and spare yourself the bulk in your carry on!

Pack it Right, Pack it Light

When traveling, less is more.

Create a packing zone. A corner of your bedroom is perfect. As you make purchases, wash clothes that you wish to pack, come across an item you need to bring, add it to the packing zone. This makes moving from the “list” to “packing” easier and less time consuming.

Select clothing. Check the weather and keep activities in mind when selecting outfits for you and your family. Avoid packing head to toe looks for every day. Select versatile pieces that can be used in 2-3 different outfits. For kids, selecting tops and bottoms in basic colors is best. This is not the time for fancy outfits. Keep it simple.

For kids, pack by outfit. Put the whole outfit in a gallon size ziplock bag. You can then put the dirty outfit in the ziplock bag after its been worn. Pack extra outfits this way too.

Packing cubes. I finally sold my maman on these. She just packed for a six week trip to Australia and says she’s never looking back. These are so versatile and help keep your suitcase neat and tidy. You can use them to corral smaller items like undergarments, socks, and swimsuits. If you’re sharing one big suitcase, assign each family member a color for quick and easy identification. You can just throw the cube in a drawer when you get to your destination.

Roll, don’t fold. If you roll your clothes, you can fit eight days worth of tops and bottoms in a large packing cube.

Pack shoes first. Maximize space by packing socks inside the shoes. This will also help the shoes hold their shape. Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes in the car or on the plane.

If you and your kids have undergarments, socks or clothes that have seen better days or are almost outgrown, pack them and discard them on the trip. This will create space for souvenirs.

Double check what amenities your hotel or rental offer. You can avoid a lot of bulk by not packing a hair dryer. The same is true for robes and beach towels. Always pack travel size toiletries.

Kids Are a Trip

Travel insurance. You think it’s an annoying, unnecessary expense until you take your first trip with a child. Children are illness and accident prone. Play it safe.

Book accommodations with separate sleeping areas when possible. You’ll pay more for this convenience but a good night’s sleep is a key ingredient to a happy, relaxing family trip.

Snacks. Pack more than you think you’ll need. No one likes a “hangry” toddler or adult for that matter.

Load up the tablet. This is a good time to download new activities, games, and movies.

Pack a few new, small toys. Hit up the Target dollar spot for coloring books, stickers, and little toy cars, planes, and trucks. It’s fun for kids to open something new on the plane or in the car.

The big takeaway? Don’t wait until the last minute! A little planning will go a long way to ensuring that you and your family start and end your vacation on a fun, relaxed note. Happy travels!

A Mom’s Guide to Staying Sane Over the Holidays

A Mom’s Guide to Staying Sane Over the Holidays

Holiday survival 101

 A Mom

The holidays are a lot of fun but can often add a lot of stress to life, even without the spirited family members you only see once a year. (Of course I don’t mean YOU, sister!!)

The stress is especially felt by moms because it’s basically our sole responsibility to create magical and momentous holiday memories that our children will remember for the rest of their lives. No pressure or anything but, don’t effing blow it. Faaaaaack!

Ok. Take a breath. You can do this! It turns out that it’s not that difficult to actually accomplish these said “monumental memories” and it actually doesn’t require a Pinterest degree, a trip to Michaels & Hobby Lobby (although those are usually pretty fun anyway), endless baking and decorating, insane amounts of gifts, biting your tongue at holiday dinners, etc..

Here are seven tips to keeping your sanity over the next seven weeks. Cheers!

1. You are in charge of you.

Repeat after me: I get to choose what we get to do over the holidays.

Say it again: I CHOOSE what we do!

If you hate turkey, don’t serve it on Thanksgiving. If you want to spend a whole day in your jammies with your kids watching movies, skip the party. If Christmas cookies aren’t your jam, make pizzas together (or hell, just order one).

Think about the fondest memories you have in life. What are the things that you remember the most about the holidays? It’s likely that your favorite moments were simple moments: Playing with cousins or siblings for hours. Wearing your pajamas all day and snacking on leftovers. Snuggling on the coach with your parents (who were also in their pajamas all day! Woah!). Driving around your neighborhood with hot chocolate in your thermos, looking at holiday lights.

Just as you would clean out the clutter in your closet, eliminate clutter from your calendar this holiday. If it doesn’t excite you, make you smile, give you peace, respect your family values, etc., JUST. DON’T. DO. IT.

You may be thinking, “That’s great, but Aunt Edna in Milwaukee is going to be REALLY pissed if she doesn’t see the kids this Christmas. We can’t skip that.” If seeing Aunt Edna brings you joy and isn’t a stressor, but all means. But if seeing her requires you driving all three kids up for an hour long visit and that requires you to leave another event (that you and your family really want to be at) so you can do that, maybe you could skip it this year?

That’s not to say, never see Aunt Edna again. But maybe you make a point to plan to visit her BEFORE Christmas so you can actually spend more time with her and not feel rushed. Maybe you could set up Skype for her so you could “visit” more regularly without the drive. Aunt Edna will miss you at Christmas but she will love that she actually gets extra time to see you overall. And if she’s still mad, well, she’ll hopefully get over it. You did the best you could do.

The point is, can you figure out a way to manage the expectations while staying true to what is important to you and your family. You are in charge of your life and that includes the holidays.

2. Schedule fun first

If you don’t prioritize your life, somebody else will. If you want to have a fun holiday season, put it on the calendar! When are you going to drive around the neighborhood looking at lights with the kids? Are you baking cookies over a weekend? When is that going to be? Do you want to do a movie marathon? Block-off the time. Otherwise, you will wake up mid-December wanting to plan some fun family time only to find out that you don’t have a single free day in which to do it.

Plan the (fun) work then work the (fun) plan! And don’t forget to share your calendar with your significant other or family members. Make you and your family the priority this season and don’t let others dictate how you spend your time. (See #1 above).

 A Mom

3. Plan for indulgence

I’ve said it before but it’s like Halloween officially kicks off “eat all the crap” season. I don’t work in a formal office setting and thank my lucky stars during this time. I would have the hardest time not indulging all day long!

In general, I think planning for indulgence is a great idea, but it’s especially true during the holidays when they could easily become a habit.

Take a look at your calendar and look at what’s ahead over the next few weeks. Are you attending holiday dinners with family? Office parties? Did you manage to snag that Aldi Wine Box Advent Calendar? (LUCKY!) Are you doing a cookie exchange?

Knowing what’s on the horizon, can you create a realistic plan for yourself. Is it realistic that you will attend your office party or a cookie exchange and not eat a single thing? Maybe. But if it’s not, come up with a realistic strategy so you can enjoy that experience without totally jumping off the goal train. Allow yourself to enjoy (and maybe even over-indulge a little) but plan for what the days leading up to and immediately after that indulgence will look like.

Maybe you go the party in the week having already eaten a full (healthy) meal so you indulge less and maybe just enjoy some sweet treats and cocktails. Maybe during the week leading up to the party, you eat clean and eliminate sugar. And, in the days following the party, do the same. Also, put that plan in your calendar!

Maybe you amp up your workouts a little bit (or at least don’t stop doing what you’re already doing!). You don’t have to join a gym but find a way to be active everyday. Take a walk during your lunch break, run around your neighborhood a few times a week, stream a workout video or find a free app for your phone. You could even do a few basic movements (squats, leg lifts, side bends, ab contractions, etc.) while standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up kids from dance practice. Just do something. (See #1, again, about YOU being in control of YOU). And don’t forget to drink a little extra water during this season as well.

The (good AND bad) little choices you make every day add up. Even small things like skipping the whipped cream on a holiday coffee drink, parking farther away from the store, or eating before the party, can make a big impact by December 31.

 A Mom

4. Keep it simple, Martha Stewart.

Buy it in a box, friend. I’m terrible at baking. Too much science and measuring and all the things. Also, my husband and I have zero self-control so I try to keep anything that’s warm and sweet and delicious from ever coming out of my oven or remaining in my house for too long. I swear that we will eat it all before it cools and gets put away.

But I think decorating cookies is fun and my kids love doing it. So I keep it simple. I buy a mix or the “slice and bake” at Target and let the kids bake away. The same goes for elaborate meals. There’s an amazing restaurant in my town (actually several!) that will cook an entire holiday dinner for you to take home and serve piping hot. All you have to do is pick it up, although some probably even deliver. Mind. Blown. I have a 22-month old baby plus two boys that roll around my house like puppies the second I step into the kitchen, no wonder it takes me a week to prepare a holiday meal. SKIP IT SISTER. Order out.

You could even make it a pot-luck. People LOVE bringing their “grandma’s-favorite-secret-special-must-have-on-thanksgiving-christmas-new-year” dish. Let them! (Just make sure they take it with them when they leave, you don’t want all that extra tupperware cluttering your house and good luck returning it to them before Easter).

This also applies to things you have to bring to a party. Hit up the deli at Whole Foods, snag a take-and-bake pizza from Costco, or use my super-secret-crowd-pleasing-two-minutes-to-make “cream cheese + pepper jelly” appetizer recipe. You get the point. It doesn’t all have to be homemade and Pinterest-worthy.

 A Mom

5. Make lists.

List-makers are giving me a major eye roll right now. Duh, a list. Of course we have a list. But here are a few lists you might not have thought about that can help you survive the holidays:

  • A list of where you’re hiding presents. While “lost presents” sure do help you get a jump start on the next year’s shopping, it’s probably better to avoid losing them in the first place.

  • A list of people you’re buying gifts for and what you’re buying (include links if you’re shopping online). Helps you stick to a budget and actually think about each person BEFORE you hit the store. Otherwise it’s like going to the grocery store at 5pm without a list or plan for dinner. You wander aimlessly around and everybody ends up with ugly slippers from Kohl’s. Make a list!

  • A list of holiday parties where you will have to bring something (white elephant gift, bottle of wine, or an app?). Do you have to bake a dessert? Schedule that in your calendar a few days in advance. Or put it on your “to buy” list when you’re at the store the next time. This list also helps prevent you and your husband from showing up to an “ugly sweater party” that’s actually the following weekend. Not that I’ve ever done that.

  • A list of coupons and coupon codes that you may use and their expiration dates! It’s also a good idea to calendar those expiration dates in your phone or planner. I can’t tell you the number of times I went to buy the holiday cards online only to be a day or two past the “major sale” date. Sad face.

  • A list of your holiday decor. This is a list you should make after the holidays because it helps you take inventory of what you have and what you might want to buy next year (or on clearance in January). Maybe you need more artificial tress (I have seven, I’m obsessed) or new ornaments, etc.. If you don’t take inventory at the end of the season you’ll be guessing when you try to make purchases later.

I like to keep a notebook in my purse just for my lists. Some days they are for grocery lists, other days school reminders, and now, during the holidays, entire chapters devoted to holiday planning and preparation. Make the lists customized to you and your life and you’ll see how much they help you survive these holidays.

6. Give yourself a pep talk

For some, the holidays mean stressful and anxiety-inducing family gatherings. And sometimes, you just can’t say no to the “Aunt Ednas” because they are actually your mom or sister or father-in-law and it’s guaranteed that you’re seeing them at the family dinner.

In those cases, I think the best thing to do is to take some time a few days before the event to prepare yourself for the interaction. Can you role play scenarios with your spouse about how you’ll respond to topics or conversations you know might set that family member off? Can you meditate before hand to clear your mind and put yourself in a calmer and more peaceful state of mind? Can you create a game plan for that moment when you start to feel yourself getting upset or provoked? I find that a huge smile and saying “that’s a great point! Will you please excuse me while I …see if anyone in the kitchen needs help/refresh my glass of wine/use the restroom/getthefuckoutofhereasfastasIcan” is usually enough to deflate the situation, calm me down, and get me far enough away from the toxic conversation so I can collect myself.

Obviously, this doesn’t always work and can be exceptionally more difficult where there is trauma or deeper issues at play. But, if you can just remember that you can only control yourself and your own reaction in a situation, you may prevent the situation from ever coming up or be just better prepared for when it does.

If all else fails, pour yourself another glass of wine and go hang out with the kids in the playroom.

7. Find time for yourself.

Is this even a blog about self-care if I don’t tell you to find some time during this beautiful and special time to stop, breathe, and look around at all of the magic around you? All of the gifts and experiences and cookie and parties are for naught if these next seven weeks fly past in a total blur.

Look at the excitement on your kids’ faces when it snow for the first time. Breathe in that delicious aroma as you cook something special for your family. Hold your partners hand and snuggle up a little as you walk together. Sit by the fire at your house (or at Barnes & Noble if you need to get the hell out of your house) with some cocoa and a good book. Don’t stop doing the things you love.

It’s going to take a little effort and some planning but an incredible holiday season is within reach. Enjoy this special holiday time, mama friends. May peace and sanity be with you.

How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

 How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

I may have put my foot in my mouth when I claimed that “strolling the aisles of Target didn’t constitute self-care.” Or maybe I just haven’t been doing it right this whole time.  Because, recently I managed to completely turn my mood around with a quick trip to the bulls eye and an off-the-cuff mantra chanted in my car.

The weekend had been hot and rainy and basically miserable. So my husband decided that it would be a perfect weekend for a bbq. I immediately started panicking and thinking about all of the dishes that needed to be washed, things that need to be prepared/purchased/hidden/thrownaway/remodeled/reupholstered/repainted/ etc..  And that was just in the kitchen. The thought of a party immediately started causing me stress and anxiety.

I’m a great though often unwilling hostess so it was going to require a titanic-sized pregame mind shift to change my mood. And quickly.

The morning of the bbq my children and husband were driving me insane. The mood was not good. I was crabby and complaining and biting everyone’s head off. So, what did I do? I ran from my house as fast as womanly possible, grabbed my favorite new apple AirPod earbuds, and headed to the place where moms go to be understood, see friends, and restock every inch of their lives with “necessities”: Target.

 How to get from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target.

So how did I get myself from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target?

Turn on the tunes to improve your mood.

My mood was foul. I put on my “New Mood” playlist. It’s basically my Rachel Hollis’ inspired list of “songs that make me feel like a badass” and blasted them as loud as I could take it. I got out of my car and walked through the parking lot into that Target with my (totally fake) badass attitude. I walked up and down the aisles picking out hamburger buns and tortilla chips as if everything was exploding around me, like the most awesome movie you’ve ever seen, the loudest, angriest, music I could muster from my playlist, blasting in my ears.

When I got back into my car, some 20 minutes later, I realized that I was SO close to flipping my mood but it just. wasn’t. quite. there. I was so frustrated. And still irritable. The party was in a few hours and I had another 10 minutes before I was home. I didn’t want the day to be a bad one just because I was in a funk! I had to do something more.

Fake a smile. A great big, cheesy grin.

Years ago, I used to force myself to fake smile when I need a mood change. It was SUPER cheesy but I read somewhere that when your face is in the shape of a smile, it triggers something in your brain to make it think it actually IS smiling so you actually feel like you would if you were smiling. Meaning that I could basically fake myself into a good mood.

If that had worked in the past, I figured smiling AND telling myself that I was in a good mood would work even faster.

Talk to yourself.

I sat in that car in the parking lot and plastered the biggest, fakest grin I could muster on my face. And then I started to talk.

“I want to be in a better mood.”

Crickets.

“I want to be in a better MOOD.”

“I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD! I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD.”

That turned into, “I’m going to be in a good mood. I’m GOING to be in a good mood. I’m IN a good mood.”

“I am in a GREAT mood. I AM IN A GREAT MOOD!”

I started talking to myself. In my car. Out loud. And I talked. And talked. And I repeated the same phrases over and over again. Fake smile and all. Until my words began to change. Became more positive. Stronger. Happier. My voice got louder. Stronger. Happier. Exactly what I wanted my mood to be. I said what I wanted to feel as though I was already feeling it.

And, then, maybe because I felt so ridiculous, at which point I no longer could feel irritated and annoyed, I actually started to feel good. Better. It was working. It HAD worked. Woah.

I pulled into my driveway ten minutes later and felt different. So much better. I hadn’t really done anything that extraordinary and I hadn’t been gone all that long, but I was changed. And I felt good. And the rest of the day was a lot of fun.

It’s a amazing thing, isn’t it? Mindset. How’s your mindset today? Maybe you need a quick run to Target? You don’t even have to buy anything. Just walk those aisles like you own the B and tell me you don’t feel better.

3 steps to Self Care on the Journey of Motherhood

3 steps to Self Care on the Journey of Motherhood

Motherhood is a journey and there ain’t no refunds.

Have you had enough of all this self-care talk?  Thinking to yourself, “Ok, all this talk is nice and all, but I don’t really need any of this stuff. I’m good. I feel fine. I take time out for myself. I see my friends. My kids are sleeping through the night. We eat healthy, most… ok some of the time. I’m fine. I don’t really need any of this self-care thing.” 

Except that you do. Because self-care isn’t a destination. You don’t actually ever arrive anywhere. “Fine” isn’t the end goal. Motherhood is a journey and there ain’t no refunds on this ride.

Consider it like packing for vacation. Getting ready to leave can be pretty stressful for me. I love to travel but the packing of outfits, and jewelry and shoes and hair products and chargers and ALL. THE. THINGS. Into a tiny suitcase. It takes days of preparation which I always leave until the four hours before my flight.

But, the moment I get on that plane, woah! I immediately start to feel different. Relaxed. Calm. I begin to unwind. The vacation is here! I’m nearing my destination! I can finally breathe.

Self care for woman

 

But taking care of yourself is not just about lying on a beach on some beautiful island and getting a massage. Or even having a weekly manicure or standing date night with your girlfriends. That’s not to say that that’s not a lot of fun and important too. But, it’s not enough. And if you don’t establish self-care into your daily routine, all the spa treatments in the world won’t help you be the best version of you.

Self-care is more like packing for the vacation. It requires a little bit of work like deliberate consideration, the creation of a plan and, perhaps most difficult of all, discipline. Laying on the beach and getting a massage can feel incredible, but it’s generally not a long-term solution.

So, how do you start integrating self-care into your daily life?

First, let’s take some time to consider your routines.

Do me a favor and skip Netflix tonight. Instead, do this little exercise with me. Find some paper and a pen that you like and squirrel yourself away in a comfy chair on your deck or living room. Grab a cup of tea or maybe some wine.

Spend the next thirty minutes or so writing down all of the things that stress you out or make you unhappy over the course of a day or the week or in this past year. 

No rules on how to do this, just brain dump. Whether it’s how rushed and chaotic your mornings feel with your kids, to the state of your living room, or your difficulty of staying on track with healthy eating at work, or troubles in a relationship, it’s okay if you fill up the page. I almost always do with this exercise.

Getting these thoughts out of your head and onto paper is a great place to start identifying where you want to begin making some changes.

Once you have this list take some time to review it.

I don’t mean just glace over it, I mean really consider what you’ve written. Do you notice any patterns or themes? Are there any connections? Does anything really stand out to you?

Next, circle three or four things that are most pressing on your mind right now. 

Follow your heart when selecting these. And if your heart is quiet and nothing is speaking to you at the moment, select the first thing or things that came to mind.

For the record, these don’t have to be life-altering or world-changing things. It could just be that your cluttered countertops are making you bat$hit crazy every day. Or that dinnertime is a disaster every night, which makes you yell at your kids and resent your husband every night. Or perhaps you hate your commute and want a promotion so you can work from home more often. Maybe you’ve just been in a funk lately and want to get out of it. Listen to your heart. Check in with your gut.

Now, look at the stressors that you just circled.  If you were able to eliminate one of these of these stressors with the snap of your fingers, which one would it be? What would have the biggest, positive impact on your life? Select that as your starting point for self-care.

Now it’s time to create a plan!

You thought it was going to be easier than that, didn’t’ you? Snap your fingers and let’s make some change, am I right?

Well, as my fave girl, Rachel Hollis would say, “girl, wash your face.” That means it’s time to brush yourself off, put on your big girl pants and take responsibility and ownership over your life. $hitty things are going to happen. Life is unfair. It can be ugly and hard. But it’s up to you to make it what you want. To find beauty. Create your happiness. Make it exactly what you want. And don’t stop until you succeed. This applies to your career as much as it does to clean countertops. What do you want? Go. And. Get. It.

You 100% control your own actions. Which means that you can create the change that you’re looking for. You can teach yourself pretty much anything using Google and YouTube. Did you see the video where the mom taught herself how to build a freakin’ house using YouTube videos? Your power is infinite, mama. You just have to want it bad enough.

So, ask questions, find the experts, talk to friends, get on Pinterest if that’s your jam. Just. Do. Something. Create a plan to change the crappy parts of your day.

Because you’re not going to wake up one morning and find that things have magically worked themselves out. I’m still working on that invention…

Let me show you how this exercise can work:

Since having children, one of the many things I’ve struggled with is cooking. I love to cook but I do not love to cook for my children. It’s a major stressor for me because feeding a family is, as you know, never f*&king ending.

 Three Steps to Self Care

After identifying the major stressor(s) in your life, jot down the ways that you could alleviate the pain for yourself. 

Don’t worry about how realistic the solutions are right now. And don’t worry about money or feasibility. Just write them all down.

Me? I could use a meal delivery service, order take-out a lot, subscribe to a meal planning service, meal plan on my own, simplify my menu, prepare meals in advance, buy some ready-made meals, or enlist the help of my husband. There are likely many more but they are the first that came immediately to mind.

Now, identify which ONE of these solutions could you most quickly and easily implement in your life?

Select the one that would make the biggest impact on the problem. And don’t discount the “expensive” solutions. It may not be as expensive as you think if the end result is less stress, a calmer state, and increased happiness. Think of it as an investment and then consider the return on that investment. It’s likely that you can shift your spending a little bit in other areas to make the solution more affordable.

In my case, I love love love grocery delivery and pick-up services. Online shopping, local delivery, all of the above. A good friend of mine even gets Binny’s delivered to her house! Genius! Because shopping with three kids makes my head explode. I never get everything I need because I can’t think while my kids are shopping with me. And when I go alone it takes FOR EHHHHH VERRRRR because I saunter through the aisles as though I’m on a vacation.

Delivery costs extra BUT saves me the time and stress of getting the kids into a car, to the store, through the store and back home. It also saves me from a lot of random extra purchases and impulse buys. So, while there is a cost, the ROI is significantly worth it to me.

This is a form of self-care. Taking care of yourself by eliminating stress from your life. And what works for me is going to be different than what works for someone else. So do yourself the honor of thinking through this with some sincerity.

You may have no problem handling your three kids at the store at once (I’ve seen you, unicorn mama, galavanting through the store with your brood like it’s no thang. Respect.) In your case, a grocery delivery service isn’t worth it. But maybe, if cooking is a stressor, you’d gladly pay extra for pre-chopped vegetables. Hmm, now that I think about that, I may add that to my solution toolbox as well.

The point, again, is to come up with a plan that addresses and alleviates your biggest daily stressor(s). If your counters are cluttered and it’s making you bat $hit crazy every time you look at them, it’s time to address them. Clean it off, get rid of 90% of the stuff, and come up with a system to prevent yourself from putting it all back tomorrow. Maybe you need a table by your door, maybe you need a place for your purse, a desk to sort mail, etc. Look at what is piling up and why and figure out a plan for what to do with it.

 Three Steps to Self Care

A critical component in coming up with your solution is to understand your values. What will implementing a solution free up for you? Time? Mental anguish? Freedom to spend more time doing what you want and love? In my case, having the grocery shopping under control makes me feel more prepared at home and thus more easily able to handle my responsibilities.

In order for any of the above to work, you have to actually stick to the new routine that you create for yourself.

Discipline is truly where most of us meet our demise. Setting yourself up for success means taking baby steps, one day at a time. Every. Day.

There are a lot of theories out there about how long it takes to form a habit and what it takes to achieve “success.” Obviously, you have to be the judge of what exactly that is for you, but, forming a new and positive habit is a great start.

The most compelling research shows that habits take approximately 66 days to form.  That’s not exactly a short period of time but it’s not an eternity either. It’s just over two months. If you break that up into ten, one-week increments you’re working with something that’s more manageable to attain.

 Three Steps to Self Care

Also, when coming up with your solution, stay off your phone or computer. I often get caught up in researching “the best organization system for…” or “the best way to…” and I come up with something that doesn’t work for me personally. It seems like a great idea on paper but I never actually end up implementing a solution.

You are a smart woman, you know deep in your heart what it’s going to take. So think about the best solution to your stressor and then plan the steps to putting that solution into action.

In my family meal planning example, I’m going to do more meal prep on the weekends but with SIMPLER recipes in order to make the week flow smoothly. I’m creating a basic list of recipes and we’re going to eat the same damn thing for two weeks, at which point I will rotate the menu. I can do that for ten weeks. I was pregnant for 120 weeks with three kids (it seems like it was 120 weeks in a row) so I can most definitely try meal planning this way for ten.

As I step down from my soap box here, I want to give you the confidence and a little kick in the a$$ to take action towards what you want in your life. Whether it’s a change or the creation of a system or a new habit. Whatehver. Because that, mama, is taking care of yourself.

The thing about the glorious journey that is motherhood is that there’s no getting off this ride. There’s no refund, no do-over, no rewind. You wake up every day and get ready to run. Hard. You work hard, love hard, and hopefully manage to laugh and play hard too. But there is no destination to reach. You’ve already arrived. So make this the best place you’ve ever been.