By Zoë Coles
As many mothers experience—throughout time but particularly during a pandemic—there is often very little room for "me-time." Early in the pandemic, I found that with a newborn baby, a job, a household, and limited part-time help, the never-ending tasks of cooking meals, cleaning, laundry, breastfeeding, and the all-consuming job of caring for a little one left my plate completely and utterly full. By the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was lift another finger, even if that finger were to spoon out a mask to slather on my face or make a cup of tea.
Particularly due to the pandemic, I found that days would go by where I wouldn’t even leave the house. I would yearn for the romantic idea of what being a mom pre-pandemic must have been like. Taking my baby to the grocery store, sitting in a cafe with her, even going to the bookstore were all activities that were off the table. Every night, I would usually collapse on the couch and scroll Instagram or mindlessly stare at the TV. I found that after the emotional and physical exhaustion, I needed to do absolutely nothing. But in turn, I kept finding that the "nothing" was never replenishing me. I felt cooped up day after day and completely lost touch with any semblance of identity.
Finally, one evening I was scrolling Instagram, and a video came up on my Discovery page. The post was by a mom who shared her struggles entering motherhood and her difficulty getting through the day with young kids. She told a story about how, after months of struggling, she finally discovered that getting outside gave her hope during those early childhood years—it struck a chord.
The next morning, I felt invigorated. I strapped my baby to my chest, and out we went into the fresh, cold winter air. Our walk that morning changed something in me. Slowly, we began to start each morning by going out. Even if we couldn’t get it together to change out of pajamas, out we went. It was our routine, our time to be together, our time to see the world before everyone woke up. Walking the same Brooklyn streets never seemed to get old for us—especially as we began seeing the seasons change together.
Winter became spring, and spring became summer, and soon my tiny baby was growing, crawling, seeing. We’d marvel at the trees, the leaves, the birds. She’d stick her little finger out and point at everything she saw. We’d pause and examine flower petals, walk along the Brooklyn waterfront and spot the seagulls, stop to greet every dog we encountered. People began stopping us in the street to remark on how cute she was, they’d giggle as we’d walk by, and one woman even stopped to tell me what a beautiful sight we were.
This simple act of getting outside became my self-care. I found that, after starting our mornings this way, I had more energy to do the things I loved. During this time together, I felt more engaged, and as a result, I felt able to be more present in other facets of my life. No longer feeling split between a million places at once, but moving from one thing to the next with intention—from making breakfast to working to cooking to spending time with my husband. It began to reframe what self-care meant for me. Pre-pandemic, self-care was centered around working out, a massage, a bath, dinner with friends. Now, self-care was about the basics. The fundamentals which would allow me to show up and be the best version of myself through one of the most challenging periods of our lives.
Today, my daughter is nearly two, and we still go out most mornings—although now she likes to walk on the sidewalk next to me. She’s fiercely independent and spirited and thrives outdoors. Our walks outside each morning serve as a reminder of how important the little things are. Even though it’s time together, it has become my personal way of recharging, of setting the tone for the day, of reminding me to stop and smell the roses.
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