How Does Self-Care Really Work?

Everywhere you look there is a reminder about why self-care is important and needed. As a mother… as a woman… there’s no way you could miss the reoccurring message. It pops up as if it is God sending you a message on how to ease some of your struggles. I follow several women and mom blogs, podcasts, and friends, and it’s beautiful to see everyone making self-care a priority. Everyone has their own idea of what self-care looks like because well… SELF-care! I have searched, researched, and tried many routines, and I’ve finally learned what works for me.

For years, I thought I was inconsistent and lazy when it came to my self-care. So I began to read more on how I could change that. Through my research, I never saw “Do Self-Care.” Most articles and professionals say “Practice Self-Care.” The dictionary defines practice in the verb form as “performing (an activity) or exercising (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.” My issue is that I would focus more on doing self-care rather than practicing it. Doing it just because rather than practicing it to create a habit. I learned that participating in self-care consists of first choosing the types of self-care that you will practice (Whew! and that list goes on and on) and being consistent (the routine). When I pondered upon that, I realized that I’m not truly inconsistent, self-care is just seasonal for me.

I, like so many of you, have gone through many seasons in my life. Each time I need a different self-care routine to get me through. When I was breastfeeding my youngest daughter, self-care was me eating freely while binge-watching shows on Netflix. It then turned into adding some candles with peaceful tunes playing in the background while reading a book. Once my breastfeeding journey ended, I needed to be outdoors! I began to practice self-care by hanging out with my friends more and attending events that fed my soul. When I fell into a season of postpartum depression and needing my husband home from the road, self-care was quality time with him. When my hair was falling out from stress, my routine turned into taking care of the physical part of me by working out, taking care of my hair (includes frequent visits to the hair salon), and working on my skin.

Currently, I am in a season of healing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Wholly and fully. I’ve had to choose my forms of self-care carefully and strategically. I need something that will tend to each area that I’m struggling in. I’ve had to remain open to them changing based on my need at any given time. I am leaning heavily onto journaling when I can’t voice how I’m feeling and my thoughts are running rampant. I sit outside on my balcony or in my car in total silence when I’m overwhelmed or I need peace (because…kids). I’ve gotten back into art (drawing, painting, crafting) in order to add to my therapeutic healing and release. I also FINALLY made the big step of reaching out to a therapist. In addition to those mentioned earlier, I’ve been trying to remain connected to God. I’ve been doing my best to pray and talk with Him, read devotionals, stay consistent with online church services and bible studies (due to social distancing), listen to uplifting music, download meditation apps, and more. On the physical end of things, it’s a work in progress. I’m getting back into working out, interested in yoga, and the urge to purchase a bike came out of nowhere today before I wrote this post.

I now see self-care as a way of healing. Healing your mind, body, and soul. Some choose the spa, vacation, massages, new hobbies, and more. It’s important to remember the root word “self” in self-care. You can be inspired by others and try their routines out for yourself, but it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Self-care is customizable. Maybe you can’t afford to go to a spa (especially now that Covid-19 has changed our way of living), but you can create a spa-like experience at home. The scope of self-care is endless. It can be as small as (which is actually huge) taking a social media break, going for a daily walk, watering your plants, taking a moment to sit in silence for 1-minute, and practicing breathing techniques.

If I’m being honest, self-care can be difficult and often feel like hard work. I tend to have to force myself to do things for myself, and it’s another task to do them consistently. However, considering my current needs, I can’t imagine not making a little time for myself. My children nor my husband would get the best version of me. Hence, my reason for seeking therapy. I’ve found myself irritable, sad, mad, shutdown, overwhelmed, not sleeping, hair falling out, and more when not caring for myself. This journey is still taking a lot of practice, effort, and intentionality, but I’m pushing daily to remember my importance and make myself a priority. I AM IMPORTANT. I AM NEEDED. I AM LOVED. I AM STRONG. I AM POWERFUL. I AM RESILIENT… I AM WORTHY! And so are YOU!  I’ve accepted that as I grow and as the seasons of my life change, so will my self-care routine. I talk a lot about not comparing myself or my journey to others, but I really failed myself in the past by comparing my self-care to others.

That stops now.

 

Homeschool 101: Issa Global Pandemic!

It’s no mystery that the world is facing a global pandemic. People all over are being heavily impacted by these conditions. People are losing their jobs, being sent home with no pay, teleworking, schools and programs are closed, and the list goes on. Originally, schools that were closed in the United States were closed for two weeks. Those closings have now been extended for most of or the remainder of the school year. Working moms and dads are now experiencing what it’s like to be work-from-home and stay-at-home parents, in addition to being homeschool parents. So many lives were changed overnight.  Many families are scared because they have elderly, sickly, or essential loved ones, suffering a financial loss, and most of all nostalgic about how things used to be. How do I homeschool?  This was never my plan? Heres my take.

Now that you have a few more weeks added to your new (kind of forced) homeschool journey, RELAX! It’s not as bad as it seems. There are a few steps you should take in order to make the most out of this time with your beautiful child(ren). First of all, yes you are homeschooling/distance schooling, but please understand this is not the same as normal homeschooling. This is pandemic-schooling. Those of us who were homeschooling before COVID-19 aren’t even schooling the same! No co-ops, no playgrounds, no library visits, and more. So take a step back, breathe deeply, and take this new journey on day-by-day.

Unschooling/deschooling is one of the most important steps you can take during this time. It is the process in which both you and your child(ren) release your ideas and/or learned ways of schooling. It encourages exploration, student-led, and life learning. I stress that unschooling is not just for your child, but it is also for you. Teaching in a home environment is completely different than in a school building. While you may keep some of the public school methods that work for your child, it’s important that you do not force those things that to take place at home. Your child views you differently than he/she does their school teachers.

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn with homeschooling is to become flexible and to remain flexible. I’ve tried to stick to a schedule hundreds of times. It never works! Some days I’m up at 7am with a solid plan for my daughters, others I’m up at the same time, but not moving until 9:45-10am. I used to stress over having a strict schedule, but the flexibility works for my family. The days that I find myself moving slower, I actually notice my oldest daughter needed the extra time as well. However, I realize that many reading this blog will be running to the car or bus stop to get their children back in school once it’s open. So keeping a schedule similar to what it’ll be like once school begins again may work best. I also know that you may have to work! If your child has a zoom class meeting, set them up and work. If they can work independently, set them up and work! But if you are required or needed to help finish schoolwork, give your baby some simple tasks like journaling, cleaning, watering the plants, and more to hold them over until you have a break or you’re logged off for the day. Working, cooking, cleaning, and teaching is not easy, so don’t put that much pressure on yourself.

In addition to those two steps, be sure to incorporate a lot of fun and playing in your day. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, pandemic-schooling is not the same as homeschooling. Your child loves you and enjoys being home, but they are missing their friends, teachers, recess, extracurricular activities, festivals, dances, graduations, and more. Most importantly, those old enough to understand are under a lot of pressure and possibly scared. Try incorporating some of their interests into their learning experience. For example, if they are into music have them write a rap or song about one of their lessons or a topic. Let them put on a show and perform it. It combines music and creative writing all in one. You can discuss, proofread, and edit it together. You also never know what your child finds interesting. Bring them into the kitchen to cook with you. If it’s ok, let them see how you do your job, give them some assignments based on your work. They need real-life experiences still! I intentionally let my daughter watch me work on our family budget sheet, pay bills, and put money into our savings. I also let her work with me when I completed our taxes. You can really do anything and make it a learning experience!

Lastly, remain confident. Be confident that you are an excellent parent, employee, and person. You are doing your best with something that was just thrown into your lap. If your child only worked with workbooks, printouts, YouTube, and online lessons for the day, that was a productive day. If you were able to interact and actively teach for the day, that was a productive day. Every day doesn’t look the same, and that is OKAY! You have been raising and teaching your child since the day they were born. You are more than capable of teaching your child during this crisis. I understand that some of us are parents to younger children as well. I have a very active 2-year-old daughter. Some days we’re working together, others she’s learning through play. I am a parent who uses YouTube all the time for learning. We use puzzles, she plays with her dolls, blocks, and more. I recently purchased an Elevated Learning binder from Momi Swap. If you have a preschooler thru 1st-grade child, it is one of the best investments. The owner is Majidah Muhammad, a beautiful mother of two, who is an educator, but also homeschools and owns a homeschooling co-op. You can learn more about her and what she does through her website Momi Swap.

Be sure to subscribe and turn on your notifications. I will be posting a follow-up video where I speak a little more on what’s mentioned here and show a little bit of the changes that have taken place in our household.

Happy teaching!

When Should You Teach Your Child About A Good Touch vs. A Bad Touch?

When I became pregnant at 20 years old, my biggest concerns were graduating from college on time, the fear of birthing her and being able to get a great job after her first year of life. Even though I was young, I knew I didn’t want to send her to daycare before the age of 1. I wanted her to be capable of pointing and communicating hurt if it had ever been done to her. The fear of someone abusing my child mentally, verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually did not come late in the game for me. It was immediate. My goal was to protect her as best as I could and to educate her on her body parts as early as possible.

Many people have a problem with teaching children nicknames for their private areas, but I am an advocate for it. I believe your child should learn and hear the name of the private areas early on, however, you should teach them a word that they can pronounce. I knew that saying the word “vagina” would be difficult for a child who was still learning English, so I chose a different one that she would be comfortable with. I vowed that once her language grew more advanced, I would teach her the correct saying, and I did. I remember seeing a post that talked about a child continuously telling her teacher about her uncle eating her cookie. The teacher thought it was harmless. The child’s mother learned about it at the parent-teacher conference and knew exactly what her child meant. The message of the post was to teach your child the appropriate name so that an adult or law enforcement will know to understand them. I think that is extremely important. But what about the kid that knows how to speak, but not well enough to say the word correctly? That’s why I teach my children by age or maturity.

Since the age of one, we’ve repeatedly gone over the names of her body parts and which ones were considered private parts. My husband and I always stressed the importance of telling either one of us if she ever felt uncomfortable or was touched inappropriately by anyone, including US. Still to this day, I tell my oldest daughter that if her father or I ever make her feel uncomfortable with our touch, please let us know, or tell the other parent if you’re scared to express your feelings.

The thing about little girls is you have to teach them how to wipe themselves correctly and how to properly clean themselves for a while. They may know the process, but you have to spend a lot of time checking behind them to make sure they are doing a good job. This is a job that I’ve taken on with my daughters, but I’ve educated my husband on what to do just in case anything ever happened to me. For a mother, it is routine to just check and wipe our children, but I don’t want my children to feel muted just because it’s mommy touching down there. I openly ask my oldest daughter to tell me if and when I make her feel uncomfortable. I continue to teach her that her private areas are not toys or playgrounds and should not be played with. So if anything ever tickled, she knew that it was an accident and that I never intended to make her feel played with or “good” down there.

As my daughter grew older and more aware of her body, I explained to her that her entire body is considered her private parts. If she doesn’t like the way someone touched her arm, say something. Someone made you feel uncomfortable with a touch to your back, say something. “It’s your body, and it is completely private. It is not a public object that anyone can touch without your permission.”

Good touch vs. bad touch is a continuous conversation in my household. My husband and I upgrade the conversation the older our oldest daughter gets. We’ve explained that a man or a woman could be inappropriate, and a child or teenager. We’ve taken the conversation from just a touch but to someone showing her their private parts, asking her to get into inappropriate positions or taking pictures of her. Also, it’s not just a touch, but putting their face, hands, and genitalia in places they don’t belong. We’ve shared with her that the person who could hurt her isn’t always a stranger, but someone that is close to our family or is family. When she was younger, I gave her soft examples of the evil things someone could say to make her afraid of telling us. For example, “No one will believe you,” “This was your fault,” “If you tell, I’ll kill you, and ” If you tell, I’ll kill your parents.”

When we were younger, my husband was a lot more aggressive with the conversation as expected. “Let daddy know, and I’ll take care of it.” Our daughter knew what that meant. However, I learned that was an issue and told him he had to change the tone of that comment. I learned that some children don’t tell because they are afraid the people they love will get in trouble. Whether it be the person that hurt them, or the person trying to protect them. He then changed his response to, “Please let mommy and daddy know so that we can have the opportunity to help you and make sure that the person doesn’t hurt you again.”

In addition, I continue to teach my daughter to respect other people’s space and bodies as well. I would never want my daughter to be the person who makes someone else feel uncomfortable. She knows that no means no, stop means stop, and don’t means don’t. Those words are complete sentences when it comes to someone’s needs, including hers. The answer is no unless she chooses to change it. Not by the influence or force of someone else.

Most importantly, we’ve taught our daughter that no matter what, we will believe her and do what is necessary to protect her. So many children tell their parents that something has happened to them, and the parent fails them by not believing or do nothing about it. There are some who also allow the abuser to still be around the child. I hate to say it, but I learned so much from a Facebook group filled with mothers. A member asked survivors if they had ever been molested or raped, please share why they did or didn’t tell in order to help us be better mothers to our children. It was so painful to read these women’s stories. There were hundreds of women with completely different stories. It was super eye-opening and educational. I appreciate those strong women.

There is no age too young to teach your children about their bodies, the names of the body parts, and good touch vs. bad touch. You don’t have to have a sexually based conversation. Speak to them in the way they understand and communicate. As the child grows older and mature, the conversation should as well. It’s not something you only talk about once, it’s continuous. It’s also vital that you create an environment where your child isn’t afraid to come to you. I’ve created a space with my daughter where I share personal thoughts and feelings with her so that she feels comfortable with having detailed conversations. She feels like it is a two-way street. Of course, I keep it age-appropriate.

Now that I have another daughter, I’ve begun the process with her. She just turned two and is already trying to say “vagina.” If I’m blessed to have a son in the future, the conversation will continue with him as well. I feel like our boys are forgotten in the conversation about molestation, but that’s a conversation for another day…

As usual, I’m no expert and what works for me and mine may not work for you and yours. The main point of this post is to get us parents and/or guardians in the habit of educating our children on their bodies and self-awareness in addition to their ABC’s. I hate the subject, but try to stay educated on it. I’ve seen articles where the abuser(s) were convicted, and others where the families were failed by the system. If you have any additional, helpful tips, please share them in the comments for others to learn from as well. If you have personal experience with this topic and are open to sharing, please feel free to send an email. It allows for anonymity and will help myself and others.