Last year, a pastor at my church used a Jim Gaffigan bit to describe what its like when you are already overwhelmed and people tell you how easily you can get some peace if you just take some time for self-care. The story goes something like this. You are swimming in the ocean, and you have swum a bit too far out from shore and your feet just cannot touch the bottom any longer. Waves begin to start to get bigger and bigger until they are crashing over you. You are swimming with all your strength just to keep your head above water. Finally, you see the rescue coming towards you and you are so relieved. Just as you think they are going to hand you a life preserver and pull you onto the vessel, the sailor hands you a baby or in our case two or even three babies. So now you are treading water trying to keep your head above water and trying to keep the babies above water as well, and someone says, “You really need to make time for self-care.” What are you supposed to do? Drop a baby? At that point, self-care, does not sound like needed relief, but just one more thing you are not doing correctly. As a new parent, who needs that stress?
Good news is that self-care does not have to be one more big thing on your to do list that you can’t possibly manage to check off this week. Do not read the lists you find on most of the online sites, they are trying to sell you products and affiliate links in the name of self-care. Truly restorative self-care practices are not grand gestures that you have to make reservations for, a budget or place an order on a website for several new products. The most important part of self-care is remembering that your needs and the things that bring you peace and joy are just as important as everyone else’s in your family.
When you are in the weeds, or the crashing waves, of parenting infants and very young children, finding moments for yourself can seem impossible, but it is imperative. These moments may be very short, but you can make them meaningful. Here are a couple of easy ones everyone can do right now.
Step outside of your house, with bare feet in the grass or garden soil and take deep cleansing breaths. Try square breathing. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and hold your breath for a count of 4. Do this for a few minutes when the world seems to be too much. Putting your feet in connection with the Earth has scientific benefits. Its called grounding. I believe that small children instinctively know this as they love to run in bare feet through the grass.
Turn your shower into an act of self-care. You are going to shower anyway so you may as well make it restorative as well as functional. Put on your favorite music and light a candle or use a diffuser to fill the room with a calming scent. I sometimes just put drops of Eucalyptus oil in the bottom of my shower and let the steam of the shower infuse it in the room. Use really nice bath products and lotion when you get out to keep your skin hydrated.
Drink a lot of water
Drink a lot of water. That is a wonderful act of self-care. Water helps your skin, your hair, your hormones, your mood, and will help your body flush out the excess fluid built up during pregnancy. It will help you to have more energy and to think clearer, and if you are breastfeeding, it will help with your milk production. You can make your water spa water for an extra sense of special if it gets to be a bit boring with lemon slices, cucumber, fresh herbs, or fresh berries.
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Limit social media
Limiting your social media consumption can also be an act of self-care. Parents of infants and young children can feel isolated, and often turn to the internet for connection which is wonderful. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of negativity on social media that you want to avoid. If you find yourself on social media, be intentional not to mindlessly scroll or even doom scroll, going from one bad news story to the next. Go to the places of connection where you will interact with positive people, close friends or your Multiples group or your TLC facebook groups.
Ask for help
The most valuable thing you can do for self-care as the parent of infant twins is to ask for help. Humans are not designed to parent alone. For all of human history, people have raised their children in community groups with people from multiple generations all involved in helping the new mothers. The reality we live in modern times is we don’t always live near our extended families so we must create a community from those around us. If you haven’t already, join your local or closes Mothers of Multiples of Parents of Multiples group. Take it from someone who thought she wouldn’t like that sort of thing and is still an active member 16 years later. It will be the best decision you make.
Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help, and when people offer to help don’t be afraid to be specific about what you really need. People who come to visit when you have babies should not expect to come for a purely social visit. When my cousin’s wife has had each of her babies, I go and stay after her mom leaves and clean her bathrooms, wash her laundry and stock her freezer with meals while she sleeps, nurses her newborn, and takes nice long, uninterrupted showers. What are the things you need help with? Some ideas for those who are still expecting are ask for someone to watch the babies while you shower, take a long soaking bath or nap. Ask for help with household chores, laundry, or yard work, ask for help making meals or stocking your freezer, running errands, buying groceries,
This stage will not last forever, and you will not always feel overwhelmed and exhausted. You will return to having time for the pastimes you enjoy, and maybe with the help of friends and family, you can do some of that during the harder season, too. Do not forget, self-care does not mean you throw a baby into the waves. You can catch the life ring and hold onto the babies and a bit of yourself.
About the author
Linda Kennedy is TLC’s Dallas area Associate and the mother of 16 year old boy girl twins and wife of 25 years to Shane, a physician. She is a former high school and college level science teacher with a masters in Biology, Linda is also a busy stay at home mom and community volunteer. After nearly ten years of marriage, Linda and Shane welcomed their twins following IVF and a high risk pregnancy that ended on bedrest and an early delivery at 31 weeks and long NICU stay. A long time member of the Fort Worth Mother’s of Multiples club, Linda served in many capacities including as Programs director and President where she developed a program and curriculum for expectant moms of multiples and parenting infants and toddlers. She continues to be an active supporter of moms of multiples finding their own parenting style, becoming confident making choices for their children that bring joy and wellbeing to themselves and their family. You can reach Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our Dallas services.