I have withdrawn from social life this summer, which has given me a little fear of missing out, but it has been necessary. I held it together at work this spring, teaching 6 or 7 classes a day, coming home to traverse parks and paths of Jersey until my young defiant hearts could go to sleep with relatively little pushback (haha, as if). Tears came abundantly, at inopportune times, but I showed up everyday, for my dad, for my students, for my kids, for my husband. The only person I didn't show up for was myself.
Self-care is bullshit as a mom of young kids. I wish I could mince these words and put it eloquently, but when I am home alone with them, I sacrifice sleep to buy time to read, write, practice yoga, meditation, breathing. I have spent three weeks trying to sleep, getting enough water, trying to eat fresh fruits and healthy options, but allowing myself to honor my whims. Most days, I still cry, and scream and swear. They say, "mom, don't say bad words" and I say "fuck that". The only thing I could give up was the desire to see my own friends, so I fell asleep when they did and tried to devise new ways to have fun the next day. Establishing a routine of playing, eating and resting was what I needed to do first.
What I have come to begin thinking about now is how self-care is not really pampering, or yoga and breathing, but doing the mundane, the things you don't want to do sometimes. In an idyllic version of my life in which I could pay someone to watch my children for hours of my day so that I could care for myself, I would chant, meditate, read, work-out, garden, write with abandon. Sometimes I am bitter than I do not have a life where that is possible, but I envision that for myself -- and I try to include my kids in these activities as often as they will join me.
So, I have come to realize how doing the dishes can be meditative. How singing with my kids can be its own form of incantation, like nam myoho renge kyo. I may not sit in front of my Gohonzon and chant the Lotus Sutra, but I am repeating, "I love you, you're worth it" to and about my children more than a hundred times a day. Cleaning a corner, or a bathroom floor, or doing a load of laundry is not the self-care I want, but it's what I need. Structure, order and a routine of life is somehow helpful to pushing the abyss to its relegated time and place of midnight. I have come to accept self-care in the 15 minute intervals when both kids are magically tuned into the same show without fighting, for the first time in a week. A beer on the deck while they're splashing in the pool.