I am newly in love with spring. Watching my neighbors shoveling the dung out of their barns and folding it into the fields in preparation for planting has surely been part of the fine tuning of my appreciation for the natural order and cycles of life. I have been a city folk most of my life and the advent of spring, to me, was hallmarked by things like St. Patrick’s Day decorations and the availability of Peeps- are they making them halal yet?!? I have always appreciated as much nature as I could get, but living in the countryside has really ahmazed me all anew. I used to be a fall kind of gal, you know plenty of layers to show off my vintage finds, especially retro leather and suede jackets. And colors that make my green eyes really pop. But nowadays it’s all about spring for me- promising dew, delicate sprouts, surprise findings of wild bulbs, blossoms, early strawberries, dirty-footed sockless children… oh right, these posts are supposed to be about mothering, so let me get to tying it all together: Breaking Bad Cycles and Motherhood or How I Am Learning To Do Self-Care.
I don’t know why self-care is so hard for many/most of us Mamas. For me I think it’s a combination of not having learned how to take care of myself (raised in a culture of reliance of medical authorities) and also conflating self-care with luxury. My mother had never outright said that spending on oneself was frivolous or similar, but as a single mom she definitely wasn’t able to take care of herself as well as one wants their mama to.*
I grew up regularly, like 3-4 times a year having respiratory and sinus infections. I didn’t learned how to manage these issues, other than to treat them or suffer through the sick periods, including having walking pneumonia. After my second child was born I was finally diagnosed as having bronchitis (a relief because I just thought I was a mess!) and learned how to better handle the flare ups, but I was really nowhere near to taking care of myself.
Self-care has been something I have been hearing about since my first pregnancy. And recently I realised that it is only when I am pregnant that I truly take great care of myself, of course for the baby’s sake. After the baby is out… ‘self-care’ was like a buzz word I ignored like holiday hype. I do think ‘self-care’ is on a sort of cusp of being marketed, but it wasn’t being sold to me then. I heard about the importance of being a well-rounded, healthy mother in parenting and homeschooling resources, I heard about it in nursing circles, among Muslims I heard about the obligation to care about my vessel as it is on loan from Allah, I heard about it in various recovery and self-help circles… but really the concept was unattainable to me until this year, this passing winter actually.
I think I can attribute the breakthrough to two things: one being fed up with suffering with a chronic condition that I had a vague idea that I could manage a little better if I invested a little time and money into it, and two having good friends with similar problems and ideals (I blame Sumayyah, Aaminah, Mai’a and Chasity . I remember last year a couple of friends swore on this tonic/remedy, so I tried it and found it effective for curtailing onsets. That was a good start for me. Then just before this winter my friends and I were discussing herbs, vitamins and similar, and I realized how I only take vitamins when I am pregnant even though I know I could use them regularly and similarly I drink oodles of beneficial teas during pregnancy, but not beyond… while we were discussing various things we would individually like to do to take care of ourselves, I decided to try to fight back this winter, the season I am always sick for at least 3-6 weeks, often twice. Let me see, I told myself, if I can avoid weeks of hacking, pain, and misery with just a little pre-emptive self-love.
I began by having a cup of herbal tea every day, infused with various beneficial herbs and spices, sweetened with honey (my medicinal honey that I do not readily share with greedy children!), often with wedges of lemon and fresh ginger in the bottom (lemons and ginger are not always locally available, but I have made an effort to get them up here to me), and with a fun-filled, fizzy vitamin-C dropped in for extra loving self-care. And it worked.
I have big plans to keep going with this self-care stuff and am beginning to understand how devaluing myself affects my life in a multitude of ways. For instance. I am really blessed to do a few different kinds of work (paid and not) that I love doing, however, I think that because I enjoy my work I devalue it- as if work should be pure drudgery and so my enjoyment should be as little as possible or something. In some ways (such as carving out work specific time or investing) this blocks me from advancing in my work.
For one of my many jobs over the decades, I worked in a bakery (several actually) while putting myself through college (the first time, sort of) and in that first bakery there was a handwritten sign posted over my manager’s desk. It said “We pay for the things we need to run this business.” My manager was a man who also enjoyed his work and taught me so much (thanks Scot!). I never asked what that sign was about and I can see several interpretations of it, but some sort of essence of it has stuck with me through the years, even if I didn’t always take the advice.
While I am in a me-me-me-forgetabout-the-children kind of mode, it is impossible not to recognize the trickledown/cyclical effects of self-care. Of course I strive to take optimal care of my kids, but I see now how I send a mixed-message to them, as well as having difficulties discerning luxury and necessity (therein is another post about materialism ;). But as persistent and cute as they may be, I’m still not sharing my tea with healthy little beans.
* When I was a teen I used to spend my money on fairly expensive shoes, over a hundred dollars a pair was like gold way back then, and ironically matched them with cheap Goodwill finds. My mom, in her discounted work pumps, did little more than roll her eyes at this extravagance. Well, this last fall my mom visited me up here in the hills, bringing with her some shoes I had ordered online and sent to her house. And amazingly, she was actually wearing shoes that cost more than mine! She even acknowledged that she will never go back to cheap shoes, and alhumdulillah she doesn’t have to nowadays. And I stole the green felted clogs she rode in on… what? I have issues.