Sasha (my editor—hi Sasha!) here at Parenting.com dreamed a little dream of a “mom cave” this week, detailing the (impressively few, and well-selected) requirements that would make up her own perfect personal space (FYI, a mom cave is a part of one’s home for a mom to call her own and do what she wants with – it’s a mom’s version of a man cave). Like Sasha, my living space is too small to accommodate the real thing— after moving from Brooklyn, I’m feeling lucky to even have closet space to speak of—but I’m still drooling at the very idea of it.
Being suddenly stripped of personal time and space has, for me, been the most challenging part of becoming a parent. Of course, this particular challenging aspect has had its big reward; I’ve discovered that I am flexible, adaptable and efficient in ways I never could have imagined before babyman arrived. There’s been value, too, in realizing that life will go on if I don’t take a shower every morning, if I don’t get to my ‘plans’ exactly when I planned to. Letting go in this way hasn’t always been fun, per se, but it’s been an important part of growing up in earnest; there is a little person in my life who matters to me more than my plans do.
That being said, I firmly believe that taking care of others begins with taking care of oneself. Letting go (of planning, of control) is helpful to a certain extent, but letting myself go sometimes feels like a looming threat in the face of life’s current intensity... ‘Letting oneself go’ is a distasteful turn of phrase, I know, but I’m not talking about sweat pants and waistlines here.
I count myself lucky to have successfully shifted my life and work schedules to facilitate my active daily engagement in Kaspar’s daily babyhood, and to have a husband who supports my goals in all spheres and who’s a hands-on, awesome dad (we’re doing without childcare at the moment, though we’re planning to get something going part time once Kaspar’s a year old). Still, we are unbelievably busy, and when the unexpected comes up (family-felling stomach bugs, big-break work projects we’d be crazy not to take, a wide-awake kiddo at 2 a.m.), it’s my efforts at self-care that are first to go so that the rest can fit its way back in. Needless to say, the unexpected comes up a lot, and I end up feeling frustratingly shafted.
I know myself well enough to know that I need to make sure that I get at least some exercise sometimes, that I shower at least mostly every morning, that I do something mindless or mindful for at least a few minutes here and there throughout the week. If I don’t… well, it’s not a good scene. So I aim for maintenance. But sometimes I want to crawl into my imaginary mom-cave, which is way more pimped out than Sasha’s is, and really take a load off. My (again, imaginary) mom cave includes all kinds of indulgences that bear no resemblance to my post-baby life: an on-call massage therapist who won’t work for fewer than two hours at a stretch, a large claw-foot bathtub, the last nine months of The New Yorker pumped into the room via audio podcast (as read by Johnny Depp), lots of chocolate, lots of champagne… And an implausible giant pause button, so I can return to the rest of my life—which I love— truly recharged, and not having missed a beat.
I've gotten several massages since Kaspar was born, but they're a real time commitment (totally worth it, when I can swing it), and not an everyday luxury. I think I’ve only had one deliberately relaxing bath in the last nine months… and I like taking baths. I am therefore, as of this moment, aspiring to take more relaxing baths, at which time I will also thumb through our stack of New Yorkers. In fact, while the mom cave may be mere fantasy, I think its appeal signals something more significant. The decompression strategies that most of us cultivated before becoming mamas often simply don’t fit well into our lives with little ones. Yet caring for ourselves has become that much more necessary—not only do we have more to do, and less time to do it in (which is stressful), we’re also raising up small, important people who benefit enormously from our being balanced, present and sane. Thus the need arises for realistic recharge mechanisms that can become regular habits (stuff that’s easier to incorporate than those large “I’m going for it!” indulgences, which will always rock and should never be abandoned entirely). But... where do we start?
What little mom-cave moments do you work into your everyday life to keep yourself balanced and treated right? Bubble baths/a chocolate stash? Five-minute Pilates workouts? US magazine? (Norah M., I totally get it now). I’m looking forward to hearing about the good-- and indulgently bad-- habits that keep you happy and healthy in mamahood.