Burnt Out? Forget “Self-Care” and Learn Your Own Love Language
by Alexandra Frost
From the minute a baby is born, articles, grandmothers, and strangers in the cereal aisle ask, “Are you finding time to take care of yourself?” Why, yes of course. I’ve been resting in a bubble bath drinking champagne, watching my overqualified nanny feed my baby and change his diaper simultaneously, and my husband is downstairs cooking a brisket while my toddlers clean their playroom. [end rant]
I mumble something like “Oh yeah, I got a few hours of sleep last night,” and spend the last aisles wondering what it is I’m supposed to be doing to care for myself. The truth is, we all learned the five love languages in some book, article, or premarital class at some point, but never realized the power they could have towards loving ourselves.
If you don’t know your love language, meaning the way you are loved the best by others, you can take the quiz here. Once you do, the concept of self-care might change completely from an annoying “one more thing on the list to do,” to a true, essential necessity of your life as a mother. It can transport you back into yourself, into your own life as a woman again.
If your language is physical touch…
Then okay, the bubble baths are for you. And the massages, pedicures, and anything else you stereotypically think of when “self-care” comes to mind. But what other types of touch can be life changing? Investing in clothes fabrics that are mega soft, silky, or otherwise luxurious to you can make a “physical touch” fan feel less like a sleep-deprived zombie. Don’t underestimate your personal need to touch, as well: pet your dog if you don’t want to hug your husband, or hug your husband when you can’t stand your dog.
If your language is gifts…
Say it with me mama…Subscription. Boxes. Stop waiting for your partner to realize that you need a pick me up here and there in the form of makeup, clothes, jewelry, hiking sandals, or a fun planner, and take control. There are subscription boxes for everything you can imagine and a mom who is waiting for gifts will, on the date you decide, feel as if she’s been given one without paying for it (even though you totally paid for it and don’t remember it).
If your language is acts of service…
You are the best candidate for outsourcing things you can’t keep up with, which doesn’t necessarily have to cost as much as you think. You know that retired aunt you have, who is always asking how she can help? What if every Thursday she cleaned your kitchen for $20 and a hug from a kid? Maybe Doordash Mondays are the best item you can add to your calendar. A recent study concluded that spending money to buy free time increases happiness. Decide the jobs you can’t keep up with, or just don’t want to, and match them up with someone who does. You never know, maybe your husband has secretly been wishing for the last decade that someone would take out the trash, and that he actually doesn’t mind loading a dishwasher instead.
Another act of service you can do for yourself is exercise. We all have heard over and over the immense benefits of moving for about a half hour daily, but only 20% of us do it enough. If you were an exerciser before babies, or want to be one now, consider this an act of service to yourself.
If your language is quality time…
So you’ve made quality time with your partner a priority every Saturday, and you take the 10 minutes to hear about your kid’s day even if the dinner is burning. But have you turned the finger around? What would you do with two free hours if you had them? Meaning ALONE hours. It’s time to find out. Pick a day, tell your partner (or babysitter) and set the clock. Try this four weeks in a row, once a week, and see how you feel. Give yourself permission to do nothing (stay in bed) or to go on an unexpected adventure; What would a walk in the park be like without kids? Sounds like a walk in the park (pun intended).
If your language is words of affirmation…
This one is harder because you could walk around telling yourself how amazing you are, but that may not be what you were going for. Expressing your need for positive words to your close friends, partner, or spouse matters. However positive self-talk, whether said in your head or actually out loud, has the benefits of an “internal remodel,” according to a recent NPR article. University of Michigan Psychologist Ethan Kross tells NPR that the trick is not calling yourself I, but rather your own name. In this way we are able to distance ourselves a bit to be able to see ourselves as someone other than, I: a real person deserving of love and positivity. Experts also recommend eliminating negative, mean words and descriptions, and switching to facts. So next time you want to say, “My stomach looks hideous. I’m never going to lose this baby weight,” switch it to “[Your name] you do have a big belly right now, because a sweet mushy baby grew in it. You will have a smaller belly when your body is ready.”
So the next time someone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps in an attempt to help you practice self-care, employ one of the above strategies for a self-care plan tailored to your actual love language.