by Dr Gemma Elizabeth (in collaboration with Team AYEINA)
Self Care As a Busy Mom
Are you a busy mum? Perhaps you homeschool your children too? Are you looking for ways to improve you own self-care?
As a mum, taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. It is something that you need, and that your family will benefit from too. Your husband and children are happiest when you are happy. When you are fresh and positive, your family feels it as the mood in your home lifts. Although our purpose in this world is essentially a spiritual one – without taking due care of ourselves; our mind, body and heart, we put this intention at risk. We make it harder to reach our divine objective. This blog post aims to give my fellow busy homeschooling mums some great tips on how to establish a self care routine in your life! Even if you’re not a homeschooler, you may find some tips for self love and care in shaa Allah:
Reasons why we ignore self care:
As AYEINA highlights the possible reasons why we think self-care isn’t necessary:
1) We believe we aren’t worth it. And may be surrounded by people who think the same.
2) We fear others’ judgement- thinking they may brand us as narcissists or selfish (although narcissism, selfishness and arrogance are completely different from self-care).
3) We take pride in sacrificing for whatever it is that we hold above ourselves – be it work, kids, studies…anything!
4) We think it’s selfish to do something for ourselves and people around us expect the same.
5) We don’t consider self care necessary until we physically start to show the signs of damage we have done to ourselves all those years – the time by which it’s not just necessary, it’s a matter of survival.
6) We aren’t raised with an example or any idea of what self care really is. It’s not a part of our culture. Self care is even considered non-religious in some parts of the world (if you look into sufism etc.) So we aren’t even sure what it means. the worst part is, when…
7) We don’t accept it as our own duty to take care of ourselves. We think that others should do it for us because we are doing it for them. And even though you may have a right to feel that, unfortunately it doesn’t always work like that and you end up with nothing but disappointment and resentment.
1) Time alone
One of the most common complaints of homeschooling mums (myself included) is that you never get a moment to yourself! One of the inevitable outcomes of home educating your children is that your children are always with you. For introverts like me, that can be especially challenging!
Establishing some time alone for yourself is so important. It allows your mind to breathe and recuperate. One way of establishing this time is to start a “quiet time” in your home. For half-an-hour, or more, ask your children to stay in their rooms and play or read quietly. I find this works best in the middle of the day. The children are not allowed to leave their rooms, except for the toilet, during this time. This will give you all time to rest and come together refreshed in the afternoon.
You may also like to establish some quiet time for yourself in the morning, but I’ll come to that later!
2) Self care by learning
As homeschool mums, we devote our days, and sometimes even nights, to educate our children. Our minds are filled with new learning resources, lesson ideas and educational materials for our children to learn from. But what about our own learning?
Prioritize your own education once a week, or even once a month, or every day if you can. You could join an online course, attend a seminar near you, or take time to read before bed. Whatever you chose, try to do something that is not related to education, parenting etc. Chose something that is only for YOU!
By continuing your own education, not only are you keeping your mind sharp and active, which is important when you are educating your children, but you are also setting a good example of life-long learning to the children. Your children will also benefit indirectly from your new knowledge and skills, as will you in shaa Allah.
3) Flexibility in homeschool routine
When you’re having a tough day; maybe you’re ill or the kids are not co-operating, we all like to do something different.
Instead of choosing something for the children, like an indoor play-centre or a visit to the zoo, chose something for you! What makes you happy?
For me, I like nothing better than visiting my local bookstore and stopping off for coffee on the way home. But that’s just me! Whatever it is that you enjoy, do that with the children for a change. They might like it too!
“I’m so tired!” – It’s become the universal mantra of motherhood. Personally, I am only now coming out of an eight year-long fog of sleep deprivation. Looking back, I wish I had prioritized my sleep more.
There were so many other commitments and jobs that I prioritized instead of rest; all to the detriment of my health and well-being. Mamma….you need to sleep! It is more important than the un-ironed clothes that are piling up, than volunteering at the mosque, or cleaning the car, or scouring the internet for the “perfect” math curriculum! It is more important than all the projects that keep piling up on your to-do list.
Without a well-rested body and mind, your spirit will suffer. You’ll start rushing your salaah, being short-tempered with your children, ignoring your husband, and everyone will suffer for it, and all your efforts will be half-hearted because you just don’t have the energy to fulfil them as well as you are capable of.
If you’ve got little kids, I know it’s hard to find the time to sleep. One habit that I am I trying to establish is to be in bed at the same time each day. Having this kind of evening routine can really help you to get more sleep and use your evening more wisely.
Another idea is asking your husband, or someone else you trust, to watch your children one morning a week so you can have a lie-in. If you’re feeling tired now, STOP reading this blog post, and GO TO SLEEP! It’s more important.
5) Morning routine for yourself
If you are a mum whose child frequently wakes you up in the night, you can miss out this section! Like I mentioned before, your sleep is more important!
However, if you are able, waking up a little earlier before the children, to prepare yourself for the day, can make an incredible difference to your outlook on your life and the outcome of the day ahead.
Whether you use the time to pray, meditate, write, read, exercise, or just have a quiet breakfast, those quiet mornings can have an incredible impact on your mood and your happiness. It is also one of the rare occasions when you will be alone, so use that time wisely to meet your own personal needs.
6) Slow down
We mums, already in the mood of serving and self-sacrifice, tend to say, “Yes,” to other commitments more often than we should. Some of us just find it hard to say, “No.”
Your priority is always, first and foremost, your relationship with Allah. Your husband, your children, your community come after that. Whilst serving others is a noble act, full of rewards and valuable lessons, it should not be at the expense of your spiritual well-being. Sometimes, the only way to slow your life down and re-prioritize, is to stop saying, “Yes,” and start saying, “No” – first and foremost to your own expectations of you.
You do not need to sacrifice attending a class or gathering so you can host a dinner party. You do not need to sacrifice reading the Quran in the morning to make pancakes for your children. They’ll be fine with yoghurt and grapes, or something else that’s super easy to put together. It’s more important for you to take some time to reflect and be present with your Lord. Try to limit your time on social media and watching the television, which inherently makes us feel like we need to buy more, do more, and be more. Just switch them off. You’ll be happier for it.
7) Prioritizing physical health
I’ve left exercise to the end because, if I’m being completely honest, it’s the one I struggle with the most. When I do make time to take care of my physical body, I feel the results almost instantly; that surge of energy, an improvement in flexibility and strength, and generally feeling more positive about life.
As will everything that has been suggested in this blog post, I believe the secret to establishing regular exercise in your life is through routine. It’s about finding time in your day to make it a priority. We all have 24 hours in a day but different priorities and circumstances so ponder where can you make space by leaving something that isn’t serving you – and replacing it with something that will benefit you now and in the long run in Shaa Allah.
What you do and when you do it depends on your own circumstances, but how about just beginning with 5 minutes of stretching in your bedroom before you get dressed, or a fitness DVD during “quiet-time”, or maybe you could even attend a class one evening?
Here’s the bad news friends; no one else will, or can, do this for you. You need to do it yourself. No one else can take care of you, like you can.
Set aside time for activities that will meet your needs every day, every week and every month. Whether it’s daily “quiet time”, a weekly class and a monthly mummy trip out, make it a priority. Because YOU matter!
Author’s Bio: Dr Gemma Elizabeth is a homeschooling mother of three from the U.K. As a passionate advocate for home-education and slow-living, she writes widely on the subject for various publications and speaks to mothers across the country about the benefits of homeschooling. In between the science experiments, read-alouds and nature walks, she finds time to film videos for YouTube and writes on her blog OurMuslimHomeschool.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.