By Kimberly, Provincial Parent Liaison
Two years ago, my husband and I adopted a sibling group of two under four years old age. Going from no kids to two kids at similar developmental stages–it felt like I had just adopted twins. What had I done!? I had left a full-time job in health care to on mat leave within 2.5 weeks. From pant suits to yoga pants and mom bun with limited adult conversation. Although I loved new motherhood, it was really challenging on so many levels.
I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you in your initials days, weeks and months as you have formed your families through adoption. As adoptive parents, we deal with challenging times, behaviours and needs. Adoption can trigger us emotionally and drain us in a variety of ways. We need to find ways of recharging and ‘refilling our bucket’.
During calls, emails and meetings, I have asked many of you–what have you done for yourselves this week.
Then, I use the dreaded 'S' word–self care!
Some of you may be shifting uncomfortably in your chair, others may be laughing and thinking self care–who has time for that? If you felt this way–don’t worry, I have been there as well. After we adopted, I remember hearing about self care and the need to recharge. Mostly we talked about how everyone has a bucket and we need to fill it in so many ways. I remember laughing at our social worker thinking I just adopted two kids under 4, I don’t have time for myself. I barely have time to go to the bathroom on my own, let alone get time for date nights and yoga classes. They must be joking.
I tried to keep going, running on fumes. There were weeks where I had totally forgot about myself. I was on auto pilot, survival mode. Then I started to get sick and I realized that I needed a break. I had stopped doing the things that I really loved and I felt as if I lost myself.
Recently I finished reading “Not What I Expected” by Dr. Rita Eichenstein, PhD which is a book offering hope and help for parents of atypical children. Amazing read for those of us parenting children with special needs. In her book, Dr. Eichenstein introduces the idea of the Self Care Menu which has 3 courses: an appetizer for when you have only a few minutes to dedicate to self care, a main course for when you need a larger dose of relief and relaxation and dessert for a particularly challenging day when you need a reward or boost.
I am proposing this menu become a new way of life for adoptive parents. I am talking about a new way of life and commitment to ourselves and our families.
We need to develop a toolkit of self care strategies to grab from like a pantry in our house. We need to ensure that we are getting a daily dose of “appetizers” and then a main course when we have a little more time and a dessert on those tough days. For the best effect, you need to do something at least twice a week to feel and maintain the benefit.
Here are some ideas to get your toolkit started:
Connect with nature – go for a walk by yourself or with your pet or with family member or friend
Exercise – exercise is important for overall physical health and strength. As well, it releases positive, feel good endorphins which can help relieve pain, stress and improve overall mood
Meditation – Try for 10 minutes of mindfulness through meditation
Get 15 minutes of sun – the Vitamin D will do you good
Have a good laugh – Read some comics, funny posts or watch a comedy
Take a nap – 10-20 minute naps are good to reduce fatigue and refocus the mind
Take deep breaths – Breathe into your abdomen and let the air puff out your stomach and chest. Repeat
Help someone – doing something for someone else can be an amazing way to give back to yourself and invigorate you to keep going. Open a door, carry a bag, bake something special for your neighbour
Stroke a pet – whether you have one or someone close does, spend time petting an animal
Learn – take a course, read a book, go to a workshop
Date nights – book regular date nights with your partner, your friends or yourself. Book them in advance and pencil them into your calendar so you can stick to it.
Go for a massage, acupuncture or reiki treatment – these therapies have been shown to be effective in generating mood change, restore emotional regulation and ease feelings of loneliness
Smile – I know this must sound a little silly but smiling releases endorphins. If you need five minutes to relax or calm down, stand in from of the mirror and smile. It will change your face and the biochemistry in your body
Do something that makes you happy and is just for you – for me its baking, writing, going for walks or photography. What could that be for you?
Take a bath or hot shower
Join a support group – whether it is through Adopt4Life or for other needs, join a support group where you can find common connection
Watch your favourite TV show or movie
Trust me, I am not a self care guru but I have seen the benefit for my family and myself.
I will leave you with a quote from William Shakespeare’s. In Hamlet, Polonius offers this quote which rings true when we think about the need for self care:
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night and the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”
The meaning can be perceived as we need to be truthful to ourselves and that we must think of our own benefit first. These words are taken pearls of wisdom by Shakespeare on living a good, noble and balanced life.
When will you make a commitment to yourself?
If you need support with self care, please contact our Parent Liaisons who can support you to find ideas or strategies, possibly including attending one of our support groups or linking you with a buddy or mentor locally who can offer social support and normalize the journey.
What is your menu going to look like? Share your self care journey with Adopt4Life. Email Kimberly at firstname.lastname@example.org