Self Care Happens on the Fringes

03/13/2015 04:07 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2015
Raising Humans

I unroll my mat across the floor of my office, the green rubbery material unfurling in front of me with a satisfying swoosh. The sun streams through the windows on my right. On my left, small faces peek through the French doors that separate me from my family. But they don't wander in. After a steady two and a half months of this, we're all getting good at respecting the unfurled yoga mat. We're getting better at remembering that there was time for those little faces before I walked in here and there will be more time later. They're getting better at saving their questions and needs until my doors open again and I'm getting better at protecting these 15 minutes as my time.

Yes, just 15 minutes. I get 15 minutes of me time almost every day, practicing yoga in my office, squeezed between my desk, the bookshelf that houses my work and the piano that takes up a full wall of my small space. Finding dried PlayDoh or Cheerios that made an impressive journey from the dining table into the crevices of my mat is not an unusual occurrence. But this is it. I've woven time for me into the fringes of my family life.

To be honest, I've grown a little weary of the constant conversation around self care for mothers, the constant pressure to carve out time for us. Not because self care isn't important. I believe it is extremely important. But the way we often talk about it makes it unattainable. We talk of girl's nights out and regular alone time, getting out of the house without the weight of a diaper bag and yes, regular exercise. When we talk about self care, it looks like big blocks of time set aside for us and our passions or relaxation or betterment. But those blocks don't fit nicely into our calendars. We've aimed too high and created a vision that is impossible to attain amidst a life where small people rely on us. A life where we want to be with those small people just as much as we need a break from them most of the time. Inevitably, the grand self care gestures fall apart under their own weight.

Of course, I'd love to toss my mat over my shoulder and jet out for a proper yoga class in a room free of Play-Doh and Cheerios, without little faces pressed up against the windows. The break would be lovely and the classes would undoubtedly push me further in my practice. But as a working mom of two small children, I can't begin to think about carving out and protecting the two hours I'd need to do it. It's not that it couldn't be done. Everyday people do more difficult things than carve out two hours to get to a yoga class. Every day, I do more difficult things than that. But the truth is, I just can't imagine doing it right now. Lining up the childcare, adding one more thing to our schedule that already bursts at the seams, inevitably feeling awful about myself for missing more classes than I make because I'd wind up sacrificing my class in favor of a play date at the park or a lazy dinner with the family. Sometimes, as a mom, it's best to not intentionally put yourself in the position of having to choose between yourself and your family on a weekly basis.

And yet, I still need this time. I need exercise. I need moments to breathe and breaths to nourish my body. So, at the end of last year, I sought out the best yoga apps and downloaded a handful onto my phone. I dug my yoga mat out of it's home in the back of my closet and gave it a new one in the corner of my office. And now, when the baby is napping or the kids are off with the nanny or playing a game with daddy before dinner, I set my phone on my desk, unroll my mat, and close my eyes. I find a spot in the day, 15 minutes here and there is far easier to secure. And then I make the most of those minutes. I push myself. I breathe deeply and intentionally. I stretch and I fold and I engage muscles that used to ache at the end of a day of carrying babies. And when my 15 minutes is up, I walk back into the fray.