Hi! My name is Amanda and I am dying.
I think it is safe to say, that many of us on the adoption or foster care journey are living a life of chaos and are pretty worn out, hanging on by a mere thread. We may have begun the downward spiral of talking to garbage cans, eating fish crackers off the floor for dinner, resorting to basic tomfoolery in our spare time, and forgetting things from literally a minute ago. There are multiple reasons for why we may feel this way, including special needs, number of children, trauma, post-adoption depression, PTSD and adoption/foster related challenges such as openness, culture, identity and more! Regardless of why we may be struggling, we are. And if you’re not, just wait, it will come (I know, I am the epitome of encouragement).
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They say acknowledgement is the first step. Who “they” are, I am not sure, but I’m confidant they are on to something. We need to first stop and recognize when life is getting out of control and that it is time to pause and take care of ourselves. This is a beneficial step even before you fall into this abysmal pit of goo. Unfortunately, this is a HARD step for parents who are hyper focused on our children. The truth is, our family relies on us. Whether you are the mom, the dad, the sole parent, or half the parenting team, YOU ARE IMPORTANT in the raising of your children and it cannot be done without you. That means your children need YOU at your best.
I am not talking about done up hair, manicured nails, and a stylish outfit. I am confidant we are far past that; wearing the same stained shirt 3 days in a row is OK in my books…well depending on what the stain is from (you know what I am talking about). Being at your best, however, has more to do with your mental care and soul care. Your children need you functioning well, happy and as a shining example to them of how parents should be. Not perfection, but the best version of you. If you continue to put your child’s needs first ALL THE TIME, your own health will deteriorate, your spirit may dampen, and your soul may become grey. And not Benjamin Moore grey; smudgy newspaper grey. Once you get to this point, you’re not helpful to anyone. You’re like one of those new cardboard straws that falls apart in your mouth and you can no longer suck any liquid up. Bleh.
While I am not suggesting you neglect your children or stop doing all the wonderful things I know you do, I am suggesting you find balance, and make a conscious effort to take care of yourself while managing this journey. The benefits will far outweigh the challenge of actually accomplishing this self-care task (since I know you are all fighting it as you read this). So how do you find time for you, and what do you do? Let’s take a closer look:
Schedule Me Time
I can tell already this isn’t going to be easy to convince you, but bear with me. When I say schedule, I am only suggesting to do so if scheduling is feasible. For some people, this may be as simple as setting the alarm each morning an extra 15 minutes early to drink a quiet cup of coffee, read a good book, or stare out the window with quiet, uninterrupted thoughts (when is the last time you had those?). For others it might include scheduling one night a week for you to watch your favorite show with no guilt and no other tasks or responsibilities. For others, however, scheduling might not be an option. You may have kids with unpredictable nap schedules, sleep schedules, and just a general overall unpredictable nature. In these instances, a mental schedule is just as helpful. Tell yourself you will take some alone time once a week at a time that works. Volunteer a grocery run and sneak a Homesense or Target visit for a quick 15 minutes on the way back home. Sneak in a bubble bath that one night you get the kiddos to bed early. Or on time. Or in bed at all. You must be intentional about this, though, for it to actually happen. If you have a spouse, be sure to discuss it so you are both on the same page. It is worth it to tag team the crew for one evening so the other can get a break, and then switch.
Reacquaint Yourself with Hobbies
You probably don’t know what this word means, likely due to not experiencing it in many, many years. A hobby is an activity that you enjoy for pleasure or relaxation. Yes. This is an actual thing that exists. Hobby’s can include so many activities, with the sky as the limit! Some prime examples might include ventriloquy, paper mache, or miniature model making. Or you might prefer more mainstream activities such as dancing, working out, scrapbooking, reading, swimming, hiking or rock climbing. Hobbies can have an added level of fun with company, so finding a friend or family member to attend can also bring the added layer of friendship (though hobbies also provide opportunity to meet new people). Since childcare is routinely challenging in adoption and foster care, don’t focus on hobby’s that can only be enjoyed together as a couple, if you are married. Finding a hobby just for yourself can bring peace and joy to those challenging days. I recently reacquainted myself with the hobby of learning European history. So far I have binge watched Outlander, Reign, became a Scottish Lady through land ownership, and purchased a kilt for my husband. To each their own.
Find Creative Outlets
Creative outlets can be gold in the self-care department. They double-dip in the hobby and creative outlet department, thus producing double the care and double the fun! There is something so soothing and replenishing about expressing yourself in a creative manner! It allows you to access different areas of your brain and affords you the ability to focus on your creative venture rather than other pressing and stressful matters in your life. Paint nights, journaling, sketching, pottery, and interpretive dance are all great, creative outlets to help sooth your soul. My personal favorite is blogging and writing, which is not only a great way to help myself, but hopefully others as they read my ramblings! Creative outlets do require time, which I know we are all short on, but the benefits are worth it when possible!
Seek Help When Needed
Self-care should also include professional help when needed. This doesn’t have to be only when a crisis arises, but beforehand for maintenance or prevention. Help can include counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, Pastors, mentors, and friends. Having someone to talk to who will listen and really get it, is some of the best self-care you can get! You can do this on your own, as a couple, and as a family. Though stigma can exist, don’t let it prevent you from seeking help in order to give your mind the care it deserves and needs!
Purchase a Pooch
Adding a furry friend can do wonders in the self-care department! I recently added a weiner dog to our family and it couldn’t have been more therapeutic! His name is Peanut and he is basically my new best friend. I originally started out with cats, which can also be beneficial for self-care, but with 10 people in our family, and the flakey tendency of cats…the one we had inevitably loved another. I did purchase another kitten in an attempt to make that one love me, but that one also migrated to one of my children (read my post on why cats are good for special needs…just not mothers in need of self-care). Thus my failed cat attempts led me to Peanut, and he has definitely delivered. He has provided an extra form of affection that has just the right effect on a weary mother’s soul, and has been an added bonus for my children too (but he’s mine kiddies!!). I have instituted a back up insurance of sorts, just in case, with my new kitty now impregnated…maybe one of these new kittens will imprint at birth like a baby bird or a werewolf….a person can hope, right?
Surround Yourself with your People
It this post hasn’t made it obvious, I can be a bit quirky at times. Finding friends and family that understand you and appreciate you, can be self-care in itself. I have some particularly odd friends, which is one of my biggest friendship requirements, and they bring oodles of joy to my life. Be intentional about making time for your friends, whether it be phone calls, hang out nights, or a simple text or gif on Facebook (gifs can really brighten any day, am I right?). Knowing you are not alone can be the one lifeline keeping you from complete destruction (Read my post here on the importance of support). If you are a Christian, Jesus can also be included in your people. Ensuring you maintain prayer and biblical reading will help to keep your feet firmly grounded in the promises He has to offer, and the understanding that you are not walking this path alone.
Oxygen Masks or Perish
At the end of the day, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be able to take care of our children. Flight attendants know a little something about that when they instruct everyone to put their own oxygen mask on before placing one on your child. We can’t help others, if we don’t first help ourselves. Even when it goes against every bone in our body to place focus and attention inwards, I promise the benefits will be greater and the renewed sense of energy and self will have a ripple effect throughout your entire family!
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That was a really good read. Thanks Amanda. Helpful to parents of all kinds