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Are you taking care of yourself, Mama?
For a while there, I know I really wasn’t. I was homeschooling, selling Avon, doing dishes, folding laundry, and about a thousand other “mom” things that come with running a home.
Then one night, a week or so before Christmas, my husband said to me, “So I guess makeup is your hobby now, huh?” The temerity! The assumption! I was selling makeup! It was my career! How dare he suggest it was a hobby? My flash of anger led to a tart reply, but when I chilled out I realized he was suggesting that makeup was what I was doing for fun. What am I doing for fun, anyway? I asked myself. A big fat nothin’ was how I answered.
I wasn’t reading any books, I had stopped buying myself magazines, I hadn’t watched a non-kid movie in eons, and I wasn’t creating a thing.
Sure, I was doing a bit of gumshoeing for Avon. I had a blog and I wrote interesting and well-researched articles for it. Some were even from the heart.
But the closest thing to fun I’d had in a long time was watching depressing documentaries about world slavery or the Fundamentalist Mormon Church (spoiler, Warren Jeffs rapes a little girl in that movie!). I was educating myself and don’t get me wrong, we always want to be learning something new. But there was not an ounce of fun anywhere in my life.
And it was taking a toll. I was anxious to the point of having panic attacks, I was running around in yoga pants and a t-shirt, even to church!, Jon and I hadn’t had a date in weeks, the house was a mess, we were living on convenience foods, and I just felt horrible about it all.
I had a little money in the bank and I decided I needed to do something for me—desperately. That night, I made a trip to Michael’s where all the Christmas stuff was like 70% off. I bought up a bunch of clear glass baubles and a lot of “inclusions” or little doo dads to go inside the baubles.
I brought my treasures home and made gorgeous ornament after gorgeous ornament. My son Josh saw what I was doing and decided to help. Together we made an entire tree’s worth of ornaments. Our tree was glorious that year! Josh and I had created something together and it felt so good. The best part was, we had fun.
I had so much fun creating in fact, that I went back in a few weeks and got the stuff to make a Valentine’s wreath for the front door. That was so much fun, that I began scouring Pinterest for wreath ideas. I had this crazy notion that I was just going to pump out wreath after wreath, enjoying them for a while, and then pass them along to ARC so I would have room for yet more wreaths.
Before long, I discovered a woman named Nancy Alexander on YouTube. Her wreaths were unlike anything I had ever seen—we’re talking way fancier than the ones I was making. But she had how-to videos that took you through the process step by step. I joined her club, Nancy’s Inner Circle for $20 a month and got unlimited access to every video she ever made or was ever going to make. I also got to join her private Facebook group where she and I regularly chatted. In her, I found a mentor. I ditched Avon and took up wreath making in my spare time. I was entranced with my new hobby and had soon made enough to start thinking about selling them on Etsy.
Other things changed as well. I got an Audible account at Amazon and bought myself an Echo Dot so I could listen to novels while I was making the wreaths. There is nothing like immersing yourself in a good book and if you can whisk yourself away to Renaissance England or the South of France for a few minutes or a few hours, so much the better! I love my Audible subscription and my Dot and have gotten so much use out of them.
Getting out into nature has been a powerful way for me to reconnect to God and the universe, not to mention myself. My kids are now responsible and old enough to leave for a couple of hours so that I can head over to the local reservoir where there are miles of trails, wetlands, a huge lake with tons of water birds of all kinds, and lots of other interesting wildlife. I once had to stop traffic to let a giant tortoise cross the road to get back to his pond. It was fascinating. I also have seen coyotes, plenty of deer and their babies, and watched while a pair of energetic foxes hunted mice in the tall grass.
Or, if the weather is foul, I’ll grab a couple of magazines at Barnes and Noble and head to Starbucks for a caramel machiato and a couple of uninterrupted hours of home decor fantasy.
I also started utilizing my Amazon Prime membership to watch actual grownup movies that didn’t depress the hell out of me. I Purchased memberships to Stars and HBO, as well as The Hallmark Channel and some others through my Prime Membership. Most of these subscriptions cost around 10 bucks a month—way cheaper than the price of a newly released blockbuster. Now I’m averaging about 2 or 3 movies a week. I try to watch uplifting or funny stuff, but the occasional drama or tragedy will sneak in there. Yesterday, my parents were over and we all watched Rogue One, A Star Wars Story. It’s a sensory feast for the eyes, ears, and heart—I think it’s my second favorite Star Wars after The Force Awakens. Both movies feature bad ass women who kick butt and take names. They are much better films in general than the ones we grew up with. George Lucas wishes he were such a great director!
I know…you’re shaking your head and saying you don’t have time for fun. The living room carpet has cat hair all over it and needs to be vacuumed; there is a pile of disgusting dishes in the sink, your husband has no clean underwear; and the kids are clamoring for attention. First off, make your husband wash his own underwear! You work as hard as he does, he can help a little around the house. Next, if you haven’t had some fun in a while, leave the dishes where they stand and sit down to do something enjoyable for half an hour. Scrapbook, knit a hat for a preemie, watch an episode of Call the Midwife, tell your kids it’s “Quite Hour” and have everyone read independently for a bit while you get swept up in a Philippa Gregory novel.
If you just can’t stand the stank coming from your kitchen sink, put on some loud rock and roll and dance a little while you do those dishes. I have a playlist of songs just for housework that makes the drudgery more bearable. If you have an Echo Dot or other Alexa-type device, buy a bunch of peppy songs to play while you work.
Mama, I’m not telling you to slack off or be lazy.
You work your butt off for your family and I admire the heck out of you for it.
But how can you give them your all when you’re so drained from lack of fun and stimulation that it’s hard to even get out of bed in the morning?
Joy in our homes is what drives us to excel there. I honestly believe that there are so many more important things in life than a perfectly clean house. Your kids don’t care if there are toys scattered around the living room—they want a peaceful, content mom who will laugh and play with them. And one way to get that peace and contentment is to nurture your own fun time. There are tons of other ways to take care of yourself, and I will be talking at length about self-care on this blog. But right now, I want you to focus, just a little, on your own sense of adventure and pleasure. It will make you a better mom, it will make you a happier, more attentive wife, and it will bring you joy and peace.
What are you doing for fun? Do you keep a journal? What are you reading for pleasure right now? Do you have any tips on how to carve out fun “me time”? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear how you take care of yourself!