Before I had children, I would roll out of bed in the morning to the sound of the work alarm. A quick stretch, a shower and breakfast before heading out the door. My morning routine was consistent, simple and but usually rushed. When I became a parent, I spent a year at home, learning how to nourish a small human. My wake up alarm was now a tiny being needing milk, a diaper change, a cuddle.
It took time, but we settled into a new routine. A welcome the sun at dawn kind of routine, a try to feed myself breakfast with a baby balanced on my hip kind of routine. A semi-chaotic movement in the early darkness hoping I was doing it all right.
As most new parents, I became tired. Worn out. Frustrated by nights fraught with interrupted sleep, having to be and do all of the things, all of the time, mostly on my own. The only support offered was “sleep when the baby sleeps” or “make time for self care! Have a bubble bath while dad watches the baby!”
Surely self care for mothers should go beyond the basic hygiene cycle of a solo shower? And don’t get me started on who picks up the slack in the house when mom steps out for ‘self care!
Mornings have settled, I’ve found a better balance between caring for children and caring for me. I’ve leaned into this season of life, and my children have taught me that moving slowly is sometimes best.
Recently I have started adopting Ayurvedic practices into my daily rhythms. Even if the children are awake, I spend time on pranayama (breathwork). I give the kids an early morning snack and do some yoga in the living room. I do some dry brushing or abhyanga (oil massage). Throughout all this, there are children underfoot. Sometimes they join in, asking for some oil to rub into their feet, or joining me on the yoga mat. Sometimes they tumble and play around me as I breathe.
I watched them today, watching me practicing pranayama. It struck me that I don’t remember my own mother practicing intentional self care. My hero of a mother spent all her time caring for her children. I remember her staying up late to clean up the kitchen. I remember her spending hours with us at the library and the park. I remember her researching and preparing learning experiences. I remember her reading aloud to us and jumping in mud puddles with us.
I don’t remember her leaving for a night out. I don’t remember her taking time for herself. She gave herself wholly to the work of mothering and I am grateful for her care. I wish she knew she was worthy of so much love and time, as a young mother with small busy children. She deserves rest.
As I watch my own children watching me, I am struck by what patterns and habits they are absorbing from simply observing me. When they see me, nurturing myself, I hope they will learn (and remember) that they are worthy of self love. That tending your mind and body are habits worth cultivating. I hope they will learn to care for themselves and advocate for themselves because they see me owning my own worth.
So even when it’s messy and a little bit chaotic, I take that time for myself. I show my children that I believe in my own worth. If they follow me out of bed in the early morning, I continue with my breath work and invite them to share a cup of tea with me. I finish abhyanga and spend a few minutes in meditation. I let my children participate when they want to. I turn ordinary moments into rituals and rhythms of self care. I approach motherhood as meditation, slowly and mindfully.
This is the wisdom of Ayurveda, learning about yourself, loving yourself, taking responsibility for your own being and balance.