So, Wednesday was kind of a rough day.
It didn’t start out rough, aside from the momentary panic that set in when I thought I had lost my wallet (found it in the depths under the passenger side of my car — whew), and there were plenty of good things that happened.
While I didn’t sleep great the night before, Penny slept in which is always a plus. We had lunch with a good friend. I saw my family for dinner and got to hang with my precious baby niece Marnie. All in all, it had the makings of a pretty good day.
And yet, despite the fact that there wasn’t really anything specifically wrong, despite the fact that nothing bad happened, it just ended up being a really hard day. There was this undercurrent of stress and tension running through the entire day as I tried to juggle getting to the gym and previous commitments and travel time and scheduled calls and simply the looming obligation of everything on my to-do list. I felt like there wasn’t enough time to do anything, let alone everything, and more than that, like my time wasn’t my own.
And so as the day wore on, as things slowly began running more off schedule, as I clamored to make sure I dropped Penny off in time to dial into my next call, as I went back-and-forth over what I needed to do, I just started to feel more and more overwhelmed. Toss in Penny being extra clingy, fussy, and not sleeping well (her top teeth are breaking through, so she’s definitely off right now as well), and me still dealing with the extraordinary terribleness that is being on your period postpartum and, yeah. You end up with a sleeping baby strapped into the back of a yellow Ford Focus on the parking pad outside her parents’ house, and a crying Gretchen, lol. It really was just the perfect storm of stress, hormones, and mental and physical fatigue.
So after a somewhat snot-filled drive home, I handed a sleepy Penny off to Sean to put down for the night and indulged in some much-needed self-care. I gave myself a facial, took a hot shower, diffused some calming essential oils, donned some soft, clean pajamas and climbed into bed early, where I read three chapters of a real, actual, for-fun fiction novel. I then popped two Unisom tabs and fell asleep.
I woke yesterday morning feeling uplifted, energized, and so much more optimistic. A few simple acts of intentional self-care and a solid night’s sleep (8 hours!!!), and I was like a new person! Well, sure, okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that groundbreaking, but it was like I’d woken up on the right side of the bed for the first time in a spell. And it really went to show A) how long it had been since I’d “indulged” in even just a little “me time”, and B) how true the cliche is: you simply cannot pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself.
And while I’ve been taking lots of strides to take care of myself in other ways — therapy, working out, eating better — they don’t really feel like self-care in the traditional sense (to me, at least. Maybe one day exercising will feel like a true form of self-care, lol, but for the time being it’s still firmly rooted in “chore” territory.) And before I had Penny, I used to REALLY prioritize self-care: massages, pedicures, facials, shopping, getting my hair done, reading for fun… I used to partake in these kinds of things relatively regularly — things made me feel good, helped me relax, and that I just truly enjoyed.
These days, recoloring my hair usually comes at the expense of my sleep, because I can’t tackle my roots until after Penny’s gone to bed (and it takes like 3 hours, lol). I can count on one hand the number of pedicures I’ve gotten since she’s been born. Reading, as I mentioned in my last post, has long dropped out of my top priorities. And all my shopping happens online.
All of which is super normal, I’d imagine, especially when you’re a new parent. And honestly, it’s fine most of the time. My priorities clearly shifted when I became a mother. Having my life run by my tiny human is something I wouldn’t trade for all the massages and manicures in the world! But Wednesday was just a very marked reminder that finding (making!) the time to treat and take care of myself, even if it’s naturally going to be much less often than I used to, is still so crucial. We need to fill our cups so that we can be sharper and more focused employees, kinder and more considerate friends, loving and more patient parents.
Maybe the next step will be making the time for a real vacation, eh?