Home managers often neglect the most important thing in home management. It has nothing to do with laundry or dishes. It’s not organizing your house or finances.
The single most important, and often hardest, thing for a home manager is to take care of the home manager. How can you do your job if you are exhausted, burned out, and unhealthy?
What is “self care?”
Bath bombs and mimosas? No. Me time? Maybe, if you need that to be a good person and home manager.
Self care is meeting your own basic needs first so you can tend to your home and family. Basic needs vary a bit for everyone based on personality and priorities. For example, everyone needs to eat, but someone who takes a walk every morning needs different food that someone who does powerlifting every afternoon.
Some women feel haggard if they don’t do their makeup and hair every day, while others only need to change out of pajamas to be ready to face the world.
Your first task as a home manager is to define what self care looks like for you.
Elements of self care
I find these things most important for my own self care. Take them as a starting point and add or subtract as needed.
Note that I do not claim to be an expert in this. I’m talking to myself at least as much as anyone when I define self care and emphasize its importance. I am guilty often of ignoring my own self care in pursuit of homeschool, homestead, or personal goals. Usually Jeff is the first to call me out on it. Knowing and doing don’t always coincide.
Exercise is one of the most important parts of self care for me. It improves my mood, self control, and energy levels.
By exercising at least 2-3 times per week, I reduce the chance that I’ll injure myself working on the homestead or around the house. My exercise of choice right now is density training, a type of interval training using a circuit and a set amount of time. It fits really well into my days because I know almost exactly how long an entire workout will take from warm-up through shower.
Sleep is so critical to functioning well, and yet it is often given the short end of the stick because it seems like the most expendable part of the day.
I’m admittedly terrible at getting enough sleep. Days seem to get harder without explanation. I can’t figure out what’s I’m doing wrong until Jeff says, “why don’t you just relax for a bit while the kids nap?” I should realize by now that when I get short tempered and overwhelmed, I’m probably short on sleep. When I have a migraine (or a string of migraines) I often forget that I need more sleep, too, because my migraines are exhausting.
Keep some quick and easy meal options on hand for when you’re short on time and free hands.
Between homeschooling, homesteading, and home management I have a hard time finding time to eat. It’s easy to wolf down the kids’ leftovers or a couple of cheese sticks and a handful of crackers. When I eat crap, though, I feel like crap. (Garbage in, garbage out.) To address this problem, I have an easy plan for breakfast and lunch that doesn’t require me to stop what I’m doing.
For breakfast, I make a shake with Greek yogurt, peanut butter or cream for fat, and cocoa, cinnamon, or whatever other spices I feel like using. Usually I add a little sweetener of some sort. I have a different shake option for lunch–Jeff’s shake mix made with toasted oat flower, powdered egg whites, milk powder, and ground up nuts. Sometimes he includes ground up dried fruit, too. If I rely on having a warm lunch made of solid food, I might not eat until 3pm.
Time with Jeff
If you don’t prioritize your marriage, no one else will. You and your spouse are the center of the family. That relationship has to work well in order for the house to function well. (This neglects the cases of abuse, obviously. Don’t stay in a harmful relationship.) You also want to show your kids what a relationship should look like. They will eventually follow your example.
I’m lucky that I married a very steady person who is known for his calming influence. If I’m having a hard time, he provides an anchor and sometimes the five minutes of solitude I need. Time with him is important to taking care of myself as a person, mother, and wife. I hope I do the same for him when he needs it.
Projects that fulfill me beyond motherhood
I need to do something in addition to being a wife and mom. At this point in my life, it’s writing here and making videos for YouTube. I also have some back burner projects like making seasonal pillow covers for our family room and repainting the old dining room.
The kids don’t care about either of these. Jeff supports me because he knows these things make me happy, not because these things benefit him personally (even though he might). These projects give me a concrete sense of accomplishment that is hard to find in parenting or home management, both of which can be repetitive and sometimes show little obvious progress. Let’s face it: a good day of parenting might be keeping anyone from going to the emergency room.
When I write, sew, or paint, I can see that I created something that didn’t used to exist, something that is nice to look at or adds value to my experiences by passing what I’ve learned to other people.
Seeing home management as a profession
Home management can be a profession if you treat it that way. Look for ways to improve, do your best given your circumstances, and provide yourself with some sort of accountability and self evaluation. I don’t mean be critical of yourself and focus on what you could have done better. That’s just asking to make yourself miserable. Take note of those things, for sure, but also celebrate what worked and the little joys.
Set goals for yourself as a home manager. The SMART goals framework from the corporate world is actually a good place to start. Do you want to keep up better with laundry? Make a plan to do one load every morning (for example) and put it away every afternoon. If you’re stumped about how to meal plan and shop efficiently, watch some videos on YouTube or read some blog posts from people who seem to have a similar lifestyle to yours. You don’t have to adopt what they do wholesale. Watch for a few tips that you can assemble into your own routine.
Cultivating self care as a skill
As a home manager, you are a master of lists, routines, and habits to take care of the house, the kids, the husband, and the yard. Maybe you keep the social calendar too. You record the contact information for your favorite electrician, HVAC guy, and plumber in case one of the major systems of the house goes on the fritz.
I challenge you (and myself) to move self care to the top of your priorities. Without it, you will be unable to do your best with anything else. Treat it like any other home management task or routine that you adjust until it works. Alternatively, have faith that your newborn will soon sleep through the night and you will one day sleep more than two hours at a time.
Let me know in the comments: Do you want to hear more about any of these elements? What is important for your self care?