I think we sometimes neglect ourselves, especially after the arrival of our kids. Raising children takes time, it takes energy, and sometimes it's hard to find time for self-care, especially when you have more than two kids.
It was the case for me. I've always been quite a low-maintenance kind of person. I tend to skimp on skincare, I don't really shop for clothes or bags or accessories, I don't bother with make-up, and I didn't sleep as much as I should. It was even more the case after I stopped working and stayed home to care for the kids: I found it hard to find the time to do anything more than grab quick showers, let alone follow any beauty regime, and there wasn't much reason to shop for clothes when all you wear are shorts and tees the entire day.
Exercise also went out of the window when the kids came along. In general, staying home with littles does force you to be moderately active, since you have to bring them out to the park, and you get a lot of arm strength carrying toddlers. Housework also requires a certain amount of physical activity. However, I found it hard to schedule in any exercise, since I was already feeling so tired from all the interrupted nights, and busy days.
I think my body started protesting after awhile. I suffered bad backaches from the second pregnancy onwards, and they got really bad when I was pregnant with baby J. (I think having mild scoliosis compounded the problem.) The backaches persisted post-birth, since I was carrying him a lot in the carrier while I did chores, attended to the older two, or brought them out for co-ops.
Then my knees started giving way, from all the squatting I was doing while carrying baby J. I used to enjoy running, and would do 5 km runs, but in recent years had to stop because of an old knee injury that would always flare up after running. It got so bad, that some days I would be limping while doing chores, because it was too painful to bend the knees.
When we found out we were expecting number 4, I decided I really had to take care of myself, otherwise I wouldn't be in a good enough shape to take care of the family. The oxygen mask analogy may sound cliche, but it made sense: if I was in pain, that meant I wouldn't be able to do the chores and care for the kids effectively. Being in pain also made my temper shorter, and I was more likely to flare up at the kids.
So I tried getting more sleep. These days, I turn in with the kids at around 10, and try to wake up early. It seems more effective, compared to if I stay up late to do stuff, since I find I tend to get distracted by social media and the phone at night, when everyone is up and on FB. It's been helpful, though these days I've been waking up at unearthly hours and finding it hard to get back to sleep, thanks to all the usual pregnancy symptoms. It does mean that I am unable to blog so much, but well, you really can't have it all! I've also been trying to be more diligent with skincare, since my skin has been drying out with age.
What has really helped, I think, has been getting exercise into my schedule. Junior J attends swim class, and I've been trying to swim when he's at class, while my dad helps to watch the younger two boys as they play in the water. That has been beneficial, however, we've stopped swim classes for more than a month because of the haze.
Swimming aside, I decided to sign up for pilates classes, mainly to strengthen my back and leg muscles, in the hopes that that would help to alleviate, or even prevent any back pain or knee problems during this pregnancy. I've really enjoyed the classes (more about that in an upcoming post!), and I must say the time having dinner alone or with hubby before classes is equally enjoyable! I'm so thankful for my parents, who have been willing to babysit the kids on evenings when I have class, for the in-laws who have taken over for the past two weeks since they are visiting, and for the hubs, who takes over if my parents are not able. I've not been diligent in practising some of the exercises regularly at home, but even those once-a-week sessions have helped. Thus far, though I'm 25 weeks along, and still have to carry Lil J sometimes (you know those strong-willed kids and their tantrums?), my back and knee problems have not been back to haunt me. Yet. We'll see how it goes!
It's taken me four pregnancies to learn this, but I guess it's always better late than never: we as parents really need to take care of ourselves. We must still remember that taking care of littles is demanding, and me-time in many cases is a luxury, but we do have to care for ourselves, in order that we may be in the best possible condition to care for our family.