One of the tricky things about parenting is that, just when you feel like you’ve got a handle on things, something (or everything) changes. Growing kids means things are always in a state of transition, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up.
This spring unexpectedly turned into an exceptionally busy time for my family, and for one child in particular. This year was already rather change-heavy; with one kid starting high school and the other starting middle school, we’ve been navigating lots of new environments, new expectations, and many new firsts for all of us. Add to that the taking on of new activities, which means new events and working toward new goals that have all of us in a whole new state of ‘busy’.
And I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s all bad. Because it’s really not. Both of my children are pursuing new adventures that are challenging and fulfilling in ways that bring us all joy; they’re building important life skills and making the kind of memories that will stick with them throughout their lives and I’m so grateful that we can support them in this.
But, dude, is this shit a LOT of work.
Every day is filled with various tasks from the moment we wake up until the moment the kids go to bed. And each day is different–from early morning practices to late starts and early release days, the ever-changing calendar of activities keeps us on our toes and requires a level of mental load not before experienced, by us at least. Add to that the impact of long covid on my ability to keep up (mentally and physically), and life often feels overwhelming.
Fortunately, I have some really good supports in place: flexible work schedules, supportive bosses, my customized covid-recovery protocol, a close circle of friends, and my Conscious Mothering community all help keep me feeling nourished and supported through all the busy-ness… but the most important support I’ve cultivated is me.
Like so many who learned to survive a capitalist society by caretaking and people-pleasing, I spent much of my life putting my needs and desires on hold for the sake of doing what needed to be done for others. Shortly after my youngest was born, I hit a breaking point; then began my journey of finding self care and reparenting practices to help me figure out how to include myself among all the people and things in my life that need tending. Through years of practice, I started to see my pattern of putting Little Me on the backburner in times of stress and overwhelm. “Just sit tight over in the corner while we take care of what everyone else needs… when things calm down, I’ll come back for you.” I’d often abandon myself so readily that it would take weeks or months for me to realize how I’d literally hidden myself away (usually because the anger and resentment of Little Me at being ignored for so long had built to the point of blowing up).
So it was important when, after explaining how busy this spring had suddenly become, my mentor asked how Little Me felt about all that we’ve taken on. And I was surprised when the answer was, “Fine.” No, seriously… I wasn’t concerned or resentful, but really okay about it all.
I was so surprised that I immediately asked myself why that was… and this time, the answer didn’t surprise me: it was because this time I wasn’t letting the busy-ness get in the way of remembering to take care of Little Me. Instead of putting her in the corner and telling her to wait, I’ve made sure to find time and energy for her needs, too. Even during the busiest days & weeks, I make time for fulfilling work (like client sessions and The Wonder Sessions meetings), for joyful pursuits (hello Warm Up America Crochet Challenge), and for intentional restoration (napping is my new super-power). Being this busy is still really hard, but I’m able to do it in a way that isn’t self-abandoning, and that’s a big step.
The most amazing thing about all of this is that I didn’t even realize that I was doing anything differently. It’s been years of practicing mindfulness, conscious reparenting, self-reflection, and exploration of my personal habits, labels, and patterns. Over time, these various practices have led to incremental shifts in my ability to care for myself… shifts so subtle that sometimes it felt as though nothing was changing.
Of course, anyone who has done this kind of work knows that it’s the subtle shifts that can often be the most profound. And anyone who has done this kind of work for any significant amount of time knows that there is no arrival. I know this work is cyclical; hard times and messy days are going to come again. And I definitely don’t mean to write this as if I think I’ve got anything “figured out” (whatever that means). There’s a reason I call this a practice of self care and reparenting, and I know there will eventually be moments when old patterns come back around. But I also know that I have really good supports in place for whatever tough moments arise, and the more I practice remembering Little Me in all moments, the easier it will be.