A weekend getaway can be a great way to reset
I've been in a pretty good mental space over the last couple of months but when the opportunity to go on a weekend getaway with my mom came up, I jumped at it.
We flew to Arizona to help my grandma celebrate her 75th birthday. It was really great to spend the weekend with them, but I had to leave my kids and husband behind. Three days without my kids. Three days of contact only through a pixelated screen. Seriously, thank goodness for technology! I was delightfully surprised to find that I didn't miss my kids nearly as much as I expected to.
The mom life is hard work
Taking care of your children, while fulfilling and important, is really hard work! You're on call around the clock and your needs usually fall somewhere behind everyone else's. Self-doubt, mom guilt, loneliness, and depression are just a few of the things you may begin to feel when you aren't making time for you.
Taking time off can sometimes be harder than not
I often take time away from the house for writing or meeting up with a friend, but when I first started doing that, it wasn't easy. I would spend hours debating whether I should call a friend or spend the time alone, whether I should go sit at a coffee shop or go for a walk or try to get a pedicure. I'd build up so many expectations that I would often return from my alone time feeling like I had wasted it or, else, find myself wandering around the grocery store rationalizing it as me-time.
When you give yourself a whole weekend away, you can get over those tendencies to use your alone time on errands without kids (lame!) and start using that time to rejuvenate your spirit, remember what you love to do, and do it!
How To Plan The Perfect Weekend Getaway:
Step 1: Stop planning for it to be perfect
Let it be what it is. Keep your expectations low, but plan to have a good time. Give yourself the freedom to nap (I almost always crash when I have a couple hours of downtime) or to eat what you want when you want or to do nothing at all. Leaving margin in your travel plans allows you to relax and go with the flow, which is exactly what you need, Mama!
Step 2: Be true to where you're at
If you can't spend a ton of money on a big getaway, find a way to do it on the cheap so you don't waste time feeling guilty about it (or worse, pay for it plus interest afterwards!) If you need time away from people, plan a solo or partner trip with someone who fills you up, like your spouse or best friend. There are times to plan around other people and there are times you may need to be totally selfish in order to really relax. Learn to distinguish between the two and be okay with putting yourself first for once.
Step 3: Put the to-do list away!
Plan and prepare for your trip and then put that expectation-inducing-list away for good. Let the weekend roll by. Let yourself relax, agenda-less, for at least a whole day. This time is about decompressing, letting go of responsibilities, and taking care of you and only you, Mama. Just chill.
[caption id="attachment_312" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Don't mind the blurriness #selfiefail[/caption]
Take care of you
Wherever you end up going and whatever you end up doing, make sure it's something that makes you happy and fulfilled and doesn't cause you a ton of stress. Some stress is normal when you're traveling, but don't let yourself get caught up in the little things. Only you know what makes you most relaxed so, while I can share some ideas, only you can decide what's best for you.
What's your ideal getaway weekend?
Try relaxing at the beach, soaking in the sun. Head to a snowy mountain cabin with a book and lots of firewood. Drive into the city and spend the whole day chilling in a coffee shop or browsing a museum.
Join a short-term missions group; see another place and give a little of yourself. Volunteer at an event or ministry where you feel needed and valuable. Visit an elderly family member and spend the weekend doing what they do.
Need A Change of Scenery?
Go camping or hiking. Visit a state or national park (and take loads of pictures to share!). Visit a nature preserve.
Visit family far away. Head into a big city, like LA, New York, or Vegas, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of humanity. Take along your best friends and/or your spouse.
Self-care is others-care in disguise
Whatever you do, do it knowing that a little break will make you a better mom. A happy mom can give so much more of herself to her kids and hubby because she has so much more of herself available. Your self-care is directly linked to your ability to care for others, so don't neglect you, Mama!
Kids and Media
We all know it's better to talk to our kids than to plunk them down in front of a television. We all know that reading aloud to our kids is better than having a read-aloud book or robot voiced ebook read to them. But when we're tired and lonely or battling depression or anxiety, it's really hard to fight the urge to occupy them.
I'll be honest about my battle here: At our worst, my toddlers spent as many as 7 hours a day in front of a screen, be it television or interactive media in the form of a tablet or phone. While trudging along through two infants, 16 months apart, and battling postpartum depression, the sanity provided by the iPad probably saved my life. It certainly helped me get by. But it also left me feeling guilty... Really guilty. It took me three years to figure out how to battle my depression successfully. That was three years of tablet babysitters. Three years worth of interactive media from which to break free.
When I finally got treatment and found myself in a healthy place, my husband and I decided to purchase the Amazon Kindle for our kids because it has a built-in timer and excellent parental controls. Rather than sending my girls upstairs with their tablets and calling them down at some arbitrary time hours later, I could set a 2-hour daily timer so that they, and I, wouldn't lose track of time. It helped me stay accountable. And it worked for the season I needed it to work.
Then my oldest daughter started having nightmares. I did everything I could think of to help her with her nightmares, but nothing seemed to work. Shows as educational and innocuous as Octonauts were giving her wake-up-screaming nightmares every single night. My husband and I were desperate for change.
The answer we landed on made me more nervous than I thought it would.
We decided to take away their tablets.
Just for one week. One week of screen-free play time. One week to purge their little brains of the media they had been consuming constantly since they could barely even talk. It was a one-week hail mary to clear my little girl's brain of all her scary thoughts.
And you know what? It totally worked!
By the very next night, my little gal slept through the night without a single scary dream. And the next night, and the next, and the one after that. But it didn't stop there. We saw even more benefits in the form of their behavior and sociability and creativity. And it wasn't nearly as life-changing for me as I expected it to be.
The Benefits of Screen-Free Kids
They became more socially adept:
They play together better. There is way less fighting and way more cooperative play. My girls are close enough in age that they've always played together pretty nicely, so I was honestly surprised to find that, in the absence of screens, they formed an even closer bond.
Longer attention spans:
Together or separate, they play with one toy longer, stick to one storyline longer, and rarely ask me for a new thing to do. They're more independent and it actually worked out that I'm able to get more housework and more writing done while they play on their own.
This may actually just be due to the developmental stage they're at, but they make up and act out new (non-movie) storylines every day. Artwork and writing have become primary activities which they can happily spend hours doing. Rather than tracing a letter on a screen, they are writing words with actual paper and pencil.
It has been a month since we've ditched the tablets and my eldest has only experienced one night with a scary dream. Compared to the 2-3 nightly wake-ups before, this has been amazing!
Decrease in the "Gimmies":
They don't see any commercials or mainstream cartoons, so they don't even know about the latest and greatest, let alone ask for them. When we walk past a store's toy section, they like to look and admire the pretty dolls and animals, but they don't have the influence of the media telling them they need all those new things. It's pretty darn fantastic.
Decrease in Mom Guilt:
I used to spend hours agonizing over the feeling that I was failing my kids. Or else, I'd feel so guilty I would have to force myself to stop feeling in order to cope. I totally understand the whispers of depression that say you don't have a choice, you can't survive without it, or even that it's better than what you, Mama, can offer. But it's not true! You can do this and you can survive the transition!
For more help, get in touch with a therapist or call a helpline 1-800-273-TALK.
Decrease in built-in "Me Time":
Without those two hours of silence, I've had to get more creative with my days. When I need time to myself now, I ask my husband to take care of bedtime so I can meet a friend for coffee or do one of these self-care activities. I also set out special activities for times when I need to get work done. Quiet time boxes can be super helpful for little ones, as well as monthly craft boxes like Koala Crate.
My kids are living and playing more, which means they leave more of a mess in their wake. For me, it's a small price to pay for all those benefits and I remind myself of that every time I trip over a toy. And if the mess becomes a deal breaker, you can institute a toy storage system like we did to help control the chaos.
We won't go back
Sometimes things as simple as arranging a quiet time box for the afternoons can be enough to shift your whole perspective. I know I always feel ten times better waking up to a clean kitchen than a dirty one. It's the same with screen free kids. When I see them playing together or building a fort with every pillow and blanket in the whole house, there's this deep-seated mom happiness that shines through all the other gunk I might be feeling.
And, because there's always someone, let me say: I'm not at all what you'd call tech-phobic. I'm a blogger married to a web developer, after all. Our livelihood depends on the internet and constant connection with the world. Because of that, I understand that my kids will need to know how to use things like tablets and computers. I have no intention of keeping them away forever but, for now, I'm happy to limit screen usage to the occasional car trip or family movie night. I have awesome kids and giving them the gift of a screen-free childhood is worth the extra effort required on my part.
Blessing upon blessing,
Other parents on the subject of Screen-Free Kids:
"This was the wildest thing: They played together so much better...It seemed like they were more friendly, more sociable with each other. It's not a scientific study, but they came alive, if you will, for those months." Chicago Tribune
"And their approach to relaxation was so different from mine. When we finished exams, I would plunk down in front of the TV and just zone out—whereas they would make art, read, go for a run, call friends…. it just didn’t occur to them to relax in front of the television." Commercial Free Childhood
How much do you depend on tablets or television? Would you ever consider a screen-free week with your kids? Let us know in the comments.
I just finished watching Taryn Brumfitt's incredible body image documentary, Embrace. Have you seen it yet? Wow! (warning: there are a few instances of language and some nudity--it is about body image, after all...) I just had to sit down immediately to get my thoughts on paper (or the screen, in this case).
I Take My Body Shape For Granted
First, I should begin all of this by saying that I've never had major body issue struggles and I absolutely take that for granted. Seriously, the things so many of you Mamas deal with make my insecurities seem ridiculous. In the same vein, our insecurities are crippling for exactly that reason: We compare ourselves to each other, letting guilt and shame dominate our emotions about our bodies.
The thing that struck me the most after watching Embrace was the fact that I never considered writing about body image here on BohemiMama. That's how often I think about it. But as I listened to other women's stories and heard these beautiful girls and young women talk about their bodies using words like 'disgusting' and 'ugly' and 'horrible,' I couldn't NOT talk about it! Especially since mental health is such a large part of what I'm so passionate about. How you view yourself is a major factor in your mental health.
So I'm going to talk about it today. I'm sharing my personal story and a few photos. I haven't been through a dramatic before and after apart from pregnancy. I recognize that my story is not woeful and I have not walked through the fire of body shame, but the story is mine. I'm certainly not looking for sympathy. Quite the opposite, in fact. I hope my story encourages you to find a way to accept and embrace your body. So please be kind with any comments and shoot me an email if you really have to get something off your chest. Thanks in advance. Also, this is a long one, so get comfy.
Body Image As A Young Woman
I'm the daughter of a teen mom. My mom has always been young and fit and beautiful. I grew up being constantly told how much I looked like her so, naturally, I perceived myself as young, fit, and beautiful. (Side note: This should tell us a TON about how our daughters are learning about their own self-image from us, their Mamas! Kindness to yourself is kindness to your beloved girl.) As a teenager, I was 5'8", 140 lbs, lean, and pimple free. I wasn't popular by any stretch, but I had a solid group of friends who accepted the real me, so I was able to maintain a relatively high self-esteem. I had my insecurities, of course. I've been in glasses since I was a year and a half old and contacts, despite my two attempts at switching over to them, just don't work for me. In addition, I had curly, frizzy hair, small boobs, and a high forehead.
Gaining the Freshman Fifteen
After high school, I gained the obligatory 15 lbs due to whatever mysterious curse befalls woman upon moving out of their parents' homes. I also developed mild adult acne by the time I was 20, leading to a series of different acne treatments, none of which worked particularly well. Diversifying my diet to more than Totino's Pizzas and Costco muffins helped me to drop those mysterious extra pounds. By the time I got married at 23, I was basically the same size and shape I had been in high school. I had my first baby at 25 and my second at 26 and I now know that I will never be the same. Ever.
[caption id="attachment_224" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Shortly after getting married, early 2010[/caption]
Pregnancy Changes Your Body Forever
A baby changes you. Two babies change you forever. I can't imagine what three babies must do. My hips are wider, my thighs are flabbier, my stomach has twice as much skin as it needs and it's scarred and stripped beyond recognition. Pregnancy wasn't easy for me. I always imagined being one of those women who adores being pregnant and walks around with a grin on her face all day long. Instead, I was too exhausted to enjoy it. I gained 60 pounds, the same weight as an eight-year-0ld kid. Miraculously, I somehow dropped all the weight in the 6 months between pregnancies (yay, breastfeeding and no, we didn't plan to have them that close) and then gained all 60 pounds back with my second.
[caption id="attachment_223" align="aligncenter" width="560"] Pregnancy One in 2012 (left) and Pregnancy Two in 2013 (right)[/caption]
The second time around, I felt just as wiped out, but I had a baby to care for. I had to take much better care of my own health, even denying the strongest of cravings: cream-filled donuts. I know! After my second, I had moderate post-partum depression and I didn't lose the weight as quickly or as completely as I did the first time. My maternity clothes were far too big and my old clothes were still too tight. One year later and 15 lbs over my old weight, I realized that this might just be the new me.
The New, Flabby Mom Body
I would stand in front of the mirror pinching my stomach skin, daydreaming about how I used to look, wishing I had appreciated my old figure more. As my babies weaned and my breasts emptied, my over large nipples sagged toward the floor and I missed my small, but perky, youthful boobs. Knotted varicose veins run from my groin to my ankle on one side, though I am considering corrective measures for those. Ouch! Not to mention, the remnants of back pain from all the extra weight I had carried in the front.
I did everything right and still couldn't lose the weight. We ate a whole food diet; no white flours, no refined sugars, lots of fruits and vegetables. I ran around all day chasing my babies, working in the garden and cleaning a constantly messy house. I joined a gym. I started cycling, even completing an 85-mile ride over the Coastal mountains of Oregon. Despite my best efforts, those extra pounds clung on. In addition to my body image issues, the depression I had been dealing with since my early 20's was the worst it had ever been (probably contributing to my body image issues...).
[caption id="attachment_226" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Late 2016. This is a rare photo of me without a child or other person strategically placed in front of me. My wardrobe is now a medium instead of a small. But one letter on my label doesn't define me.[/caption]
Coming to Terms With My New Body
My depression climaxed just last summer and I finally started seeing a therapist. (Best decision ever! Seriously, Mama, money very well spent!) But even now that I'm mentally healthy again, my body still wears the scars of pregnancy. But I'm not unhappy about it.
In fact, I've grown to love my body. I really have. There are moments when I'd like to have firmer breasts or less jiggly thighs and I probably won't be going out in a bikini (not that I would have before anyway). But those aren't things I think when I look in the mirror. When I see my stretch marks, I remember the feel of my babies rolling inside me, the smell of their newborn hair, and the velvety baby skin that's unlike any other texture in the world. When I see the fine lines around my eyes, I think of all the times I've laughed with my mom, my husband, my girls, my grandmother, all the joy I've been privileged to feel. When I see the thick blue veins crisscrossing the tops of my feet, I remember all the places, the countries, the sights those feet have carried me to.
Accept the Body You Have
And so, I stopped trying to change my body. I still exercise and I still cycle and I still chase my babies around the house. But I don't do it to lose the weight. My priorities don't lie in what my abs look like or if my stomach skin will ever shrink back to normal. I do it because it makes me feel good and it keeps me healthy. I realized that unless I was willing to work out almost obsessively, I wasn't going to be able to significantly change my body. And, honestly, there are many other things I'd rather do with my time. To those of you who love working out that much, I think it's awesome. Keep up the good work! That's just not me. I'm a writer. Instead of changing my body, I just went shopping. I bought clothes for this body because it's the one I have. And it's worth it.
Embrace Your Body - It Helps You Do the Important Work
The most important thing I have to say today is this:
You, Mama, you are beautiful, but more than that, you are important. You are valuable. You are irreplaceable. You, Mama, are doing the best work on earth. You are needed. You are intelligent. You have gifts and goals and dreams that are unlike anyone else's, on the whole planet. You are unique. You are bold. You are courageous and capable of more than you know. Your body is the thing in which you dwell and which enables you to do the important things.
To quote Taryn, Mama, "Don't waste a single day of your life being at war with your body. Just embrace it."
Thanks for sharing your journey as I share mine.
Blessing upon blessing,
How can we help each other to embrace the bodies we have and learn to love them for what we can do with them?