Self-care is Not Selfish

And just like that, 2019 is here. I think I have said this every year since having kids - how does a year fly by so fast. This year was even full of LOTS of long, long days. Not the kind filled with heavy grief or other major hardships like a few years ago, but the ones filled with piles of parenting challenges like I’d never faced before (and piles of laundry too of course). I would say 2018 was my year of being immersed in motherhood, and sometimes feeling like I was drowning it in. I am starting to learn that parenting might not ever feel like something I can 100% succeed at, but at the same time I know that I truly gave it my all this year.

Sometimes though (ok almost always) this was at the sacrifice of self-care. So that is where I’m starting 2019 - from a place of wanting to put self-care first again. I know SELF-CARE IS NOT SELFISH. I know that by taking care of myself I am better able to take care of others. But of course it feels hard to shift those priorities when I have slid into the habit of putting others first. If I can make self-care a non-negotiable, a top priority, I do know I’ll feel like a better parent too. Because those long, long days, require a whole lot of energy, patience, and personal happiness in order to keep my cool and stay rational (ie. not think my 1.5 and 3 year old are purposely out to get me). The saying about only being able to love others as much as you love yourself makes sense for the first time ever. I’m also motivated by the fact that I want to be a good role model for my girls!

I hate to dwell on things that could have been done differently and hold on to them as regrets, but the one thing that stands out from 2018 that I want to learn from is that I actually had “down time” most days where I got my girls to overlap their naps (part luck and partly probably me forcing this schedule on them haha). Of course many times, I was dealing with a nap battle with my oldest or way too short of a nap with my youngest at the beginning of the year, BUT most of the 365 days of 2018 had some kind of “break” for me. What did I use it for? Cleaning, meal planning/prepping, and work. I still always had my mid-day latte at home, but it was while doing something else. The number of times I took a nap, sat in quiet while drinking a hot latte, worked out, read a book, or did anything else self-care related could probably be counted on one hand - maybe two. I had always intended to get to those things, but after I got the work and housework done (which as we all know is actually a never-ending list) - and so the me-time never happened. Thinking about that makes me really sad. But it also makes me want to make a change.

I believe that personal goal setting should happen at all times of year, and even works best when broken down and revisited (lots!), but also that the New Year is a great time to pick a theme or a focus that future realistic goals can be set around. So mine for 2019 is self-care. This means many things to me - it means loving myself enough to put myself first and creating time in my life for all the things that make my heart full. It means regular exercise. It means not over-committing (to work or activities). It means baths, lattes, and reading in bed. It means date-nights with my hubby. It means calling my best friend to talk only about how we’re doing and not just the kids. It means setting aside proper time to visit with my sister. It means lots of time in the mountains with my family on all kinds of adventures. It means taking more landscape photos (where my love of photography all began, even before family photography). It means starting my day with intention and not a phone in my hands. And it means ending my day with gratitude.

It is a long list and I know it’ll be hard. But I also know the benefit to myself and all those around me. I have a few small goals to start with to build towards the whole list that needs to be done regularly enough that I can be living life whole-heartedly again. I am thankful for all that 2018 brought. It was full of so many amazing memories and milestones, many of which I was able to capture in my personal family films. And so to end this off, my one photography related goal is to complete more documentary family photos and films, both for my own family, as well as others! Below are a few more photos of my girls captured from the holiday season before I sign off here and go forward into 2019 :) Happy New Year everyone!

Shirley Sullivan