We recently welcomed a new puppy into our home. A primer for baby Ava, if you will. In case you’ve never had a puppy, let me reassure you, they are a lot. of. work -- lots of prep, extra planning and attention. I pack a big bag for him most days, either because he’s coming on the road with me for deliveries or to the shop while I’m there for the afternoon. The days of get-up-and-go are gone.
There’s a definite inclination to do for puppy before I do for myself. He pees before I do in the morning (that’s saying a lot for a pregnant lady). He gets breakfast before I make food for myself. He gets a walk before I go for my own, and a lot of days that means I don’t actually get to my exercise.
It’s easy to see how this could become a pattern, something carried forward when we have an actual human child. And often times it’s something we’re told we must do, if we want to be good parents. “You can’t be selfish anymore,” people say. “You won’t have a life after your baby is born.” They’re innocent comments, words people hear and say again without much consideration.
But as someone who greatly values my freedom and lack of routine, these conversations (mostly with strangers) have resulted in mini panic attacks. Who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the thought of it all? My every move dictated by its potential impact on a tiny human being? It’s a lot of pressure.
Thankfully, I’m surrounded by women who have the strength to question common societal views and remind me to do the same. Aside from friends, recent sources of inspiration include DC native, Allie Dawson, of In My Bowl, as well as other social media mavens like birth douala, Lori Bregman, athlete and trainer, Angi Fletcher, and yoga girl, Rachel Brathen. Watching these women tend to their own needs has been a reminder that self-care is essential before you can fully give care to someone else.
Lori Bregman writes in her book The Mindful Mom-to-Be, “How many of you actually parent yourself? When you parent yourself, you are doing more than you might think. You are setting an example for your children that you care for yourself and, in turn, teach them to care for themselves. How can you be fully present and there for another if you can’t be there for yourself?”
A simple concept, but not always our first instinct.
Self-care means something different to all of us. For some, it may mean taking time for morning meditation or journaling, for others a run through the park. For me, sometimes it’s those and sometimes it’s sipping a hot cappuccino or baking in the afternoon. My most recent indulgence -- Allie Dawson’s Superhuman Banana Bread.
After a week of intense emotions and sole responsibility for Alfie (with a little help from Diana), I took an afternoon to make the nourishing, yet decadent treat specifically formulated with nutrition for mama birds to be. With puppy at my feet, and frequent breaks to play fetch with his stuffed chicken, I measured and combined ingredients and enjoyed the aromatic hour of oven-time that followed. Afterward, I took him for a walk, unhurried.
I can’t say it will be as easy with a newborn. Puppies and babies are not the same. But I do know that for us to give quality love and attention to anyone or anything (sans resentment) -- a puppy, a baby, a spouse or partner, a friend or a career -- we need to fill ourselves up, too.
If baking is your thing, you can find the recipe for this banana bread and other plant-based recipes over at In My Bowl.
In the meantime, I hope you take care of you, too.
H E A R T + T A B L E