Last year at this time, I was going to my 6-week postpartum check-up. I was fed up with how things were going–with my energy, my nutrition, my fitness, my prayer life, my rest, and my lack of me-time. I decided my 6-week check-up would mark my second new year and kick off what I called “The Year of Me.” As a wise mama mentor told me, “You have to fill yourself up so that you can pour yourself out.” With that, I decided it was time for this tired, out of shape, junk food eating, resentful mama with a spotty prayer life to fill herself up.
I thought long and hard about the areas I wanted to improve upon, and I set goals in the areas of:
- prayer/spiritual life
- me time
Changing My Mindset
I’ve never stuck with something for myself for a solid year. Honestly, it took a long time for me to stop viewing The Year of Me as self-indulgent. After all, as a stay-at-home mom, aren’t I supposed to be putting myself last? Isn’t my life all about pouring myself out for my husband and children? Well, party people, I tried that. Turns out it doesn’t work to serve people when you’re constantly running on fumes. And you know what? It’s not what they want anyway. They don’t want a bitter, impatient, fed-up martyr’s sacrifice. They want a healthy, rested, and happy wife and mother. They need someone who gives out of abundant grace instead of scarcity and scorekeeping. And you know what else? I need all of that for myself. That is why I did The Year of Me.
Aside from changing my mindset and getting rid of the self-doubt, the hardest part of the Year of Me was creating the habits. I felt most in over my head with my goals in the areas of exercise and nutrition. Prior to the Year of Me, I never exercised on a regular basis. I couldn’t run for a minute without stopping. I started using the Couch to 5K app and plugged away at that 3 days a week while the kids played in the gym nursery.
A year later, I’m working out 6 days a week before the kids wake up. I run 3 days a week for at least half an hour, and I’m training toward a 10K using the free Couch to 10K app from Zen Labs. Lately, the training days are 53ish minutes. The other 3 days, I do strength training workout videos from 21-Day Fix. I’m resuming physical therapy next week with a physical therapist trained in pelvic floor strengthening. We’re going to work to completely repair my diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and other injuries I’ve written about before. Ladies, do yourselves a favor, and find out about postpartum physical therapy exercises to repair and strengthen your body!
When it came to nutrition, I had developed a disordered relationship with food during my last pregnancy. As a result of my severe “morning” sickness, I viewed food as a necessary evil that sounded horrible but helped me to not vomit for an hour or so. I had to constantly have something in my stomach, and it was horrible. Once Dorothy was born, I was able to regain my enjoyment of food, but I had to change my habits back to a normal caloric intake while taking into account my needs for breastfeeding. I found some good food options that I wouldn’t get sick of, and I’ve more or less been eating the same things for breakfast and lunch for the past year. For breakfast, I have an egg sandwich on a whole grain English muffin and a banana with a cup of coffee. For lunch, I have grilled chicken on top of a variety of prepared salad packs. I have 4 or 5 favorite kinds of salad in rotation. Every now and then, I’ll add some leftover steak into the mix. For dinner, Philip and I work together on our weekly menu as part of our Sunday evening family meeting once we’ve dismissed the kids to watch a movie. This helps us to be committed to our menu together, and we share the meal preparation load. We plan our weekly menu together based around what’s going on that week. Swimming lessons on Wednesday? Leftovers! Philip has a late night at work on Friday? Crockpot!
A year later, our house is in a much better place with nutrition. We have lighter items on our menu that everyone seems to enjoy. Gone are the days of cream of something based casseroles. In are the days of lean meats with lots of produce. My once a week trip to the grocery store keeps our budget in control and makes us invested in clearing out the fridge instead of picking up takeout.
Building Upon Good Habits
God knows how much I need my rest, so He has mercifully blessed us with 4 good sleepers. In those early postpartum months I took guilt-free afternoon naps, and I’ll still take one from time to time if I’m especially exhausted. Philip has been our bedtime enforcer, and we’re generally going to bed around 9:30. Unfortunately, my desire to read ALL THE BOOKS keeps me up too, too late. I need to learn a little self-control in that area. If not for all of my evening reading, I’d feel well rested.
Have you heard of Gretchen Rubin and read any of her books or listened to her podcast, Happier? Well, she has this thing called the 4 tendencies. If you want to know yours, take her quiz. (Her book, The Four Tendencies, is coming out in September 2017). ANYWAY, I say all of that to say that I’m an Obliger. As an Obliger, I easily meet outer expectations and struggle to meet inner expectations. (No wonder I needed a Year of Me!) On her Happier podcast, I learned this trick that’s helped me to stick to some good habits: be kind to my future self. I’m not good at doing things for myself unless I think, “Future me is going to be glad I did this.” It’s not a struggle to do things for myself when I tell myself that it’s for Future Catherine. So, for example, when I’m reading a really good book at 10:30 p.m. tonight and am tempted to read until the end, I’m going to tell myself, “Future Catherine will be glad if I put the book down now and go to bed.” I know. All of the self talk sounds kind of crazy. But it works, folks.
Fortunately, my prayer life was in a good place before delivery, and it didn’t take me long to get back on track. I’m still working on just being in God’s presence and listening instead of talking at Him all the time. I have a feeling that’ll be a life’s work for me. I’m making a lot of progress with the help of monthly meetings with my wonderful spiritual director. There’s something really, really special about having a confessor that knows your heart with all of its faults but knows your bigger story. He sees the setbacks, acknowledges the growth, and gives me wise counsel to move forward in trust in God’s neverending mercy. I can look him in the eyes now and give him an unapologetic “thank you” now when he tells me that I’m a great wife and mother and that I’m doing a great job.
With Philip’s insistence, I’ve had regular me time at least once a week this past year. One day a week, a sitter comes over to play with the kids after school, and I take time away until dinner. I used to feel the need to fill the time with running errands or doing something that felt like checking an item off my to-do list. That was dumb. Now, I’ll treat myself without guilt or the constant compulsion to be doing something productive. I’ll get my nails done, read, blog, or whatever sounds like it will fill my tank. I used to think that I was an extrovert, but I’m slowly accepting that I’m a serious introvert. I love people, but, man, I need some major recovery time after being with a lot of people. This 2-hour break to myself revitalizes me and helps me to get back to life and all of its obligations.
I’ve been thinking about what’s next since the Year of Me is over. I’ve taken it to God, and I think He’s telling me that my next challenge should be the Year of Surrender. It’s time for this control freak to finally let go, tell God that He’s in control, actually believe it, and then let Him do His thing. Want to know how I feel about that? Well, honestly, I’m terrified. I’ll be praying about all of this in the days and weeks to come and share about my “plan” another time soon. And you know what God’s gonna do, right? He’s gonna laugh.