I Have 4 Kids, and I Desperately Need to Make Self-Care a Priority in 2020

As a mom of four young kids, if I'm being honest, sometimes I don't have time to shower for more than two days (thank goodness for hats!). I ate dinner last night while breastfeeding, folding laundry, and catching up with my mom. At least once a day, I'll have to pee for so long that I start doing the potty dance like my 6-year-old until I can barely make it the bathroom. Given how jam-packed my schedule is, you may think it would be impossible to make time for self-care. But after a decade of mommying, I've learned that if I don't take care of myself, everyone suffers. So I'm determined to do one thing for myself every day in 2020, even if it's just for a few minutes. My happiness and sanity depend on it.

"A little goes a long way," is my motto about self-care, but I didn't always feel that way. It used to be that if I didn't fit a 4-mile run into the day, I got cranky and resentful toward my family. As we've added to our brood over the years, however, I have accepted that there won't always be an extra hour to devote to my personal fitness goals. There may only be 10 minutes when the baby is napping, the kids are playing independently, and before I need to start dinner or run someone to Girl Scouts or swim practice. But that 10 minutes is better than nothing. Maybe I'll roll out my yoga mat and do ten sun salutations. Maybe I'll stretch and focus on breathing deeply. Moving my body is always the best medicine for parenting angst. I feel my stress melt away and my patience recharge.

Moving my body is always the best medicine for parenting angst. I feel my stress melt away and my patience recharge.

Still, it took my husband to point out that I am a better mom when I take time to exercise and feel good about myself. He continues to remind his control-freak wife there's no reason to feel guilty when I leave the kids with my him on a Saturday morning so I can take a walk with a friend or try a new yoga class. My hubby jokes that "everyone wins" when mom is in a good head space. And the truth is, if I don't get that break to pay attention to my needs, I'll find myself snapping at one of the kids when they ask where their clean socks are or starting to cry as I'm nursing my son, feeling trapped and smothered.

To any parent out there who thinks they shouldn't take time away from the kids to do something for themselves, whether that's getting a manicure once a week or reading a book that isn't Goodnight Moon, I'd say you need to ask yourself who you're serving by neglecting you. I've been there, when it feels impossible to find even a few seconds in the day without a child hanging off of you. I can't tell you how many times I've showered with all four of my kids complaining and crying outside the shower door. I feel like I want to scream, and sometimes, I do. Then, I'll mentally berate myself for letting the kids down if I want to exercise instead of play My Little Pony or hide-and-seek after. Those are the moments when self-care is the most important — when I need to put myself first. Then, when I feel refreshed, I can play with a smile on my face rather than holding back tears while wondering what happened to my life.

Next year will only bring more parenting chaos and stress, especially since we are considering having another baby (yep, we're crazy!). Still, no matter what's happening in our family, I will not let one day go by when I don't take a time out for self-care. Some days I may get an hour, and other days it might be 5 minutes. It's about remembering, each day, that my needs are important, too.