I looked at the clock. Seven minutes had passed. It seemed like an hour. Three of my children were in their rooms, hiding from the chaos in the kitchen that occurred almost daily. We long ago abandoned the homeschool lessons for the day when something at lunch triggered a meltdown in the youngest.
I sat on the floor against the cabinets with my arms and legs wrapped around my sweaty, screaming, child, riding out the rage as well as keeping us both safe. My body was weary yet tense—on high alert as I struggled to maintain a hold on my flailing three-year-old son. I swear he had grown appendages and mutated into an octopus in my arms. A stray limb hit my face. He must be exhausted! How can he still have any energy left?, I thought as I checked the clock again. We were going on hour number two.
I heard the garage door, and my husband quietly appeared with a sympathetic look on his face. He took off his work boots, shed his dirty outer sweatshirt, and slid down next to me. Without saying a word, he unfurled my arms and quickly wove his arms and legs around our son. Tag out. He whispered, “Go.”
I crawled to my room, not having enough energy even to stand, laid on the hard floor staring up at the ceiling. Numb. With the scream reverberating from the other room, I decided to drown out the noise with a shower. I could use one after sitting on the floor for two hours, not able to tell where my sweat started, and my son’s ended on my body.
I stood there for a long time, letting the hot water muffle the noise and soothe my aching muscles. Once dressed, I entered the kitchen again glancing at my husband on the floor still. He asked how long. Two hours. It had been another 45 minutes and counting.
While our four older, biological children were young, we managed to steal moments of self-care for ourselves. I wasn’t great at it, but some of it was forced on me when I was diagnosed with Paget’s Disease (a rare form of breast cancer) when two of our children were babes. Life slowed down, and I learned how to tend to my needs in the midst of chaos.
Carving out time for myself before adopting our youngest was a little easier. Self-care looked like a night out with friends or a quiet half hour in between homeschool lessons. A long shower or sleeping in on the weekend were little slices of rejuvenation. We also hired a regular babysitter for a date night out.
I had no idea how much more important self-care would become when our youngest son arrived via adoption. Taking care of my needs now as an adoptive mama looks different. In our family, our stresses are great, the level of care is high, and the attention and needs stretch us thin. Often, our days are still tag team style since our son’s needs soak up a lot of energy. Instead of containing rages, my husband and I take turns managing homework and bedtime.
I am still able to incorporate much of the list above in my routine. For my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health, I have made some shifts in my days. I discovered I need a lot more time alone. Simple living is even more crucial for me. These are the rhythms I’ve found most helpful to keep me fueled as an adoptive mama.
1. Simple Living
After the adoption, we realized some major routines needed to shift. Part of my self-care included transitioning all the children to a different school setting over the past three years. While I truly loved homeschooling them, something had to give, and it coincided with the needs of each child. God’s timing was gracious and good. Simplified living, whatever that looks like for you, may be helpful. Think of things you can eliminate or reduce from your life to make space for the growing needs of your family.
2. Healthy Habits
Physically, I drink plenty of water, exercise, sit in the sauna, take my vitamins, and eat healthy. If you don’t take care of you, it’s exponentially harder to care for others.
Mentally, I see a therapist who helps me work through life in a healthy way. I truly believe this is absolutely essential when navigating the unique needs of parenting a child from a hard place.
4. Intentional Relationships
Emotionally, I carve out more time for healthy relationships. My husband and I have date nights with each other and with our kids individually when we can. I spend time with friends who nourish my soul. I found it also important to befriend other adoptive moms who understand the road I’m walking.
5. Growing Your Faith
Spiritually, I read God’s Word daily and am part of a prayer team which meets regularly to pray together. I believe this is the most foundational piece of caring for myself. God is my ultimate tag team partner. He steps in with His strength and takes over when I feel I simply can’t go on. Life is done all on God’s strength anyway. We simply cannot do it alone. It’s so important to stay connected to God and to others who can encourage us in our faith. I look for opportunities to grow in faith every day.
Unlike those early years after the adoption, my husband and I are better at carving out alone time in order to replenish our energy. We both recognize it is indispensable. I no longer feel the twinge of guilt when I spend time on me. I’m thankful to model these healthier boundaries to our children. Our son is learning how to better self regulate, making the “octopus” a rare sighting. Self-care is a discipline—a practice. It’s an ever-evolving system of finding what works in each season of life. It is not a luxury, but rather a necessity to maintain all aspects of health. May you find what works for you to keep you fueled, balanced, and refreshed, ready to tackle motherhood with a renewed spirit.
Featured image courtesy of Joyful Life Magazine
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Gina LaPapa is a faith warrior and encourager. On her blog, she encourages her readers to grow their faith through everyday brave moments. One of her greatest passions is sharing the hope of Christ for the weary soul. For the past 15 years, as a breast cancer overcomer (Paget’s Disease), she is a speaker, writer, and mentor for women who face their own trials. She is a step, bio, and adoptive mama of five. She and her husband live in Chicagoland with their children. You can also connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.