A few years ago I began my journey of learning more about the menstrual cycle and my own cycle in particular. One of the most interesting and useful things that I learned was that we have different needs throughout our cycles in terms of how we treat our bodies. Of course you always want to treat your body well, but on your bleeding days in particular your body will benefit from slowing things down, eating nourishing foods, and getting plenty of rest.
So that all sounds great but at the time I was learning all of this I had a child just starting to toddle who was getting into everything. Parenting still felt pretty new, a good night’s sleep was elusive, and I was the parent who was at home most of the time. How was I supposed to take it easy on my bleeding days? I figured that this was something I could try to do once I no longer had young children, but that it was impossible for me to do now.
As I discovered fertility awareness and began to track my cycle, I realized that despite never having 28 day cycles I could still know with a fair amount of accuracy when my period was coming (based on when I ovulated and my average luteal phase). For the first time I had the ability to make some preparations for my period (beyond always keeping pads in my purse just in case). I knew on what days I would probably not want to be as social or busy with work, and I was able to start planning for that accordingly. But one thing I still struggled with for a long time was how to balance parenting with “menstrual me time.”
I’m not saying that now I’ve found a perfect balance or that what I do will work for everyone, but what I’ve discovered is that a big part of “taking it easy” is really taking it easy on yourself. For me this means not getting caught up in ideas about what I think I’m supposed to be doing in terms of self-care or parenting.
When I first learned about taking care of yourself during your period I thought it meant I should get a massage or take a herbal bath or light a bunch of candles-basically that there was some kind of template for self-care that I had to follow or I wasn’t doing it right. I realized after a while that self-care looks different to different people. Check out this Cycledork article all about self-care during menstruation to get ideas on what might feel right for you.
The same goes for parenting. There are a lot of “shoulds” when it comes to parenting: how much sleep kids should get, what they should eat, how you should play with them… the list goes on and on. I’m like most parents in that I’ve often got caught up in the “shoulds” of parenting, especially when I start comparing my parenting style to other parents. But the older my son gets and the more time I spend as a parent, the more I realize how different things can be right for different families.
So how do I do parenting on my period? Well it varies from cycle to cycle and it will definitely shift as my son gets older, but an important aspect for me is putting less pressure on myself to plan activities. We do a lot of sitting and reading books together. We also try out activities that he enjoys and will be content to do for a bit while I sit down next to him and read books for myself. Right now he’s into coloring and that’s something we can also do together as I find coloring books relaxing. We tend to watch a little more TV than usual when I’m on my period, but we always watch it together. I may not feel up to being fun in an active way when I’m menstruating, but we can still have fun watching his favorite TV characters have adventures that we can tell his dad about later.
My partner and I talk about my cycle pretty often, so he’s very familiar with what I need when I’m on my period. He knows that day 1 and 2 are the days that his help is needed the most, so he makes sure to get home from work as soon as possible without running any extra errands on his way home. As a stay-at-home parent my idea of self-care actually involves getting out of my house, especially for date nights with my partner. My day 3 is a day we often have a family member or friend stay with our son while we go out for dinner or a movie.
I know things will change as my son gets older (and of course if/when other children are added to our family), so I see my “parenting on my period” routines as necessarily flexible. For those of you who are parents, have you found any good ways to balance parenting with meeting your own needs during your period? Sharing what works for us with others is a great way to support each other!
[Beautiful header image: “Mothers Love” by Amrit Bhojwani]
Brigid Taylor is a women’s healing arts teacher, childbirth educator, and the creator of Taweret’s Wisdom, a business dedicated to helping women reclaim their power and live their best lives. Read her full bio here.