Ah, school vacation week in western MA. This historically for me is the most overwhelming time. On all day with my kids and totally wishing I wasn't. The exhaustion, the resistance, the guilt for even feeling that way (isn't being a mother "supposed" to be glorious and fun?), trying to fill the space and time without loosing my mind, the irritation etc.
As someone who lives with chronic illness and pain, who is hypersensitive and easily over stimulated by noise and activity, it is hard to be with a very active 5 year old for an entire week AND try to manage my business AND get what I need in the process. This is where I loose myself again and again. Every vacation presents itself similarly to me and I dread it. I don't want to dread it, but there it is, that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach of feeling, truly sensing that I am trapped.
When I feel this way I am more irritated, feel miserable and can't wait until it is over or for that time in the evening after the kids are asleep. When I am in that kind of energy, my kids can feel it and it makes the week feel longer and WAY more difficult for ALL of us. I am working on how to shift this dynamic in my family and I wanted to share with you some of my practices this week.
This week I have set an intention to be in the vacation differently, more consciously and with more enjoyment. In the past I would eat through it and have my kids hooked up to screens for an embarrassing amount of time, so I could get stuff done or even just make it through.
While I know there is nothing wrong with that, we all have our coping skills that serve a purpose in the moment, I am feeling like I have more capacity right now to make different choices!
As I prepare for hosting a workshop coming up in March called Embodied Self: Radical Self Care, I have been in deep exploration of a new orientation of being in every moment. How can I take care of myself given the situation that is here? Truly asking again and again: How can I make this work for me?
In the past I have asked myself "What do I need right now?" and that is also an important question. It is important to understand what we need in every moment and when we live as mothers we often override our own needs, or have trouble even identifying what they are. I find when I am under specific conditions that I do not have control over, like school vacation week or Christmas at the in-laws, I am definitely not able to get what I need.
So instead, per something that my good friend Susan McNamara said to me recently, I have begun to ask myself the question: "How can I make this work for me?"
This is going to look differently for each of us. We all need different things in order to keep our sanity and actually have capacity to enjoy the time with our kids. What I have uncovered for myself is that there are certain things I DO have control over during the week that will help me feel better and more connected:
1. Hydration and food nourishment.
This is HUGE for me and always my hook when I am overwhelmed or unhappy. I have control over what I put in my mouth. I know that I feel better when I drink water and tea consistently through the day and when I am making mindful eating choices. My old pattern is to just eat ALL DAY, which, as you can imagine, does not make me physically feel good. I feel heavy, slow, irritable and disappointed in myself. When I catch myself starting to fall into this old pattern, it is a sign for me to pause, slow down and take a minute to come back into the moment and really check in with what is going on for me.
2. Getting outside.
This is something I do regularly on my own. Today I made sure that we got outside and while my little one played I took breaths myself in the fresh air, sensed into the land and the trees and connected to the wildlife in the way I do on my own time. Together we looked for animal tracks, built a snow pile and went on an adventure to explore secret places in the yard.
Putting on music and moving throughout the day helps move the stagnant energy of being home or feeling trapped. As a dancer and a movement practitioner, this is my go-to way that I can make the week work for myself. We put the music as we are hanging out and it usually turns into a dance party! It will at least get me to move my body and shake through some of the emotions that might be present from being home.
4. Creating containers of moments alone.
This is HUGE. My shower, getting dressed and going to the bathroom are all sacred spaces I create for myself to decompress. Even if it is only 2 minutes or 10 minutes of time, it is MY time to cleanse myself of any irritation, stagnation in my body and to take some breaths simply for myself. My kids know that this is a boundary I have for myself. I set them up with something to do and then I lock the door every time. I also claim time at night after they go to sleep. Usually after the kids go to bed I "try to get stuff done", but I have made a commitment to myself this week to take this time for myself and what I need.
5. Finding activities that I enjoy too.
This is super important. I really like to draw and paint, be outside, move my body, and do puzzles. I created a list that we are still adding to this week of all the things that we each want to do. I have my ideas and my kids write their ideas on the list as well. When I actually enjoy the activities we are doing together, I find that I can feel more connected and engaged.
6. Putting my electronics and work down and setting specific times that I give myself permission to be with work.
This is HARD for me. My pattern is to be checking Facebook, Instagram and my work email incessantly. Today I put my phone down in a different room and set a time when I was going to check my work email after my husband returned home this evening and I began to see clients.
7. Creating some time in the week just for me.
I am SO lucky that I have the luxury of a partner who understands my need for space and time alone. We have set up the week so I have some pockets of time for work, so I am not having to juggle both being on with the kids and trying to get stuff done, which historically causes a great deal of pressure and stress for me. Setting this up ahead of time, allows me to not worry or stress that I am not going to be able to do what I need to get done.
8. Setting up playdates with other conscious moms.
This is my saving grace this week. I am so looking forward to the two playdates I have scheduled. This is an opportunity for my kids to play AND also to have some time with other adults who may be feeling similarly to me. This connection is KEY to feeling present, seen and heard.
These are just a few things I have thought about for the week and have made a commitment to put into practice. I am excited to continue to hold the question of "How can I make this work for me?" throughout the week and see what else surfaces.
What are the ways that you make school vacation week work for you? Send me an email, I would love to know!