Self-Care Questionnaire: Meagan Francis, The Happiest Mom

Whenever I get overwhelmed or flummoxed by some aspect of parenting, I check in with Meagan and she always helps me remember that I am the ultimate expert on my kids and that when I follow my instincts, whatever I’m doing is enough. So I wanted to know–how exactly does Meagan handle motherhood and writerhood and personhood so seemingly effortlessly? Her answers to the MsMindbody Self-Care Questionnaire reveal all.

To win a copy of her book, sign up for my Weekly Vegimental newsletter (at the top of the column on the right-hand side of your screen, or here) and leave a comment telling me that you did.

How do you take care of yourself?
I have several calming rituals and routines that I try to stick to during the day. My just-out-of-bed morning cup of tea is a big one, as is a daily walk and getting to bed at a reasonable time. I take a hot bath a few times a week and enjoy a nightly (or so) glass of wine after dinner. These rituals help give my day structure, which I’ve actually found is one of the most important things for keeping a positive frame of mind.

happiestmombookWhat made you realize that you needed to learn how to take better care of yourself?
When I became a mother, I spent a lot of time so wrapped up in my kids’ world that I forgot about my own needs. I tried to take care of myself by letting go of all expectations, eating junk food, staying up late for “me time” and sleeping in…and found that those things hurt more than they helped. What I needed instead was to give my days gentle shape and add in healthy rituals that helped give me more energy and also helped calm me. Pre-kids, I never would have said I was a creature of habit, but it turns out, I was—they were just all unhealthy habits!

What was your first exposure to the world of mindfulness?
In college, I took a yoga class that incorporated visualization and meditation. That led to reading a lot of books on mindfulness in my 20s. It was pretty life-changing. Before that, I’d just sort of run through life without paying attention to what was going on, and made a lot of really poor snap decisions because I didn’t know how to tune into what my body and spirit were telling me.

How do you integrate your wellness endeavors into a typical day (or week)?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I try to integrate wellness rituals into a typical day so much as I try to get to the point where they are my typical day, as routine as brushing my teeth. That’s my goal, at least. I find that when I try to think of self-care as “fitting in” to my life, it’s the first thing that gets dropped when my life feels too full. But if it’s just “my life”, I stick with it.

The force of habit runs strong in me. There are little rituals I’ve developed, like my tea in the morning, or taking a few minutes in the shower to meditate (why do I meditate better in the shower?) that are so reflexive now that I have done them every single day, almost without fail, for years. I’m not doing them mindlessly, but they are such a natural part of my day that I would feel strange if I didn’t do them.

How do you invest in your own, personal wellbeing?
Financially, I invest in yoga classes and good food. I also invest time that I could potentially be spending doing something fun or profitable. For instance, I used to work late into the night after my kids went to bed. But I have realized that I really need that sleep, and gave up my late-night work sessions. That means I have to fit my work into fewer hours and probably don’t get as much done, but it was a worthwhile tradeoff.

What do you do to take care of yourself on days you don’t feel like doing anything at all?
On those days, I try not to do anything at all! Sometimes that feeling of “I’m done” feels like a giant yellow light from my body and brain, telling me “Slow down, sucka!”

If I felt like not doing anything at all for several days or weeks, I’d probably consider whether I was in a bit of a funk and maybe try an opposite approach—do something energetic to try to give myself a reboot.

What do you do on insanely busy days?
Just try to keep on breathing. I will also often take a look at the stuff I’m trying to cram into one day and see what can get bumped to the next day or next week—or maybe not get done at all.

How has your wellness practice changed since you first started?
I think it’s just become more habitual, and more woven into my everyday life. I find myself making choices based on whether they are good for my wellbeing and whether they feel right to me, instead of what other people will think or what I “should” do.

What have your forays into the world of wellness taught you about yourself?
One thing I learned is that the different components of my life are all interwoven. The state of my home, the state of my body, the state of my finances, the state of my work, the state of my mind…they all affect the way I feel overall. So, say, cleaning out a closet or balancing my checkbook can be forms of self-care. They help me feel good about the holistic picture that is me, and my life.

Have you had any major breakthroughs? What were they?
I would say my breakthroughs have been more of the minor, gradual sort. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that wellness and mindfulness aren’t something that you schedule two hours a week. It’s a matter of getting to know yourself, understand your motives, and to try to operate—all the time—from a place of compassion for others and yourself.

What books have helped you learn how to take better care of yourself?
During a particularly dark time in my life, I found Marianne Williamson’s books really comforting. I love practical books, too, that show me how to look at topics in a new way, like Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, for example. Another practical example: Suze Orman’s books on financial management have taught me about taking better care of myself in that realm of my life.

Who have been your role models or teachers?
I have learned a lot from the various yoga instructors I’ve studied with over the years. I’m an active person, and it’s hard for me to listen while sitting still or even absorb a lot when reading something casually. My yoga instructors always had a great way of putting the idea of mindfulness in motion, which is the way that spoke most to me.

What are you working on in your practice these days?
A constant challenge for me is letting “this” (whatever this is) be enough, and not always trying to solve for every factor or know where I’m going ahead of time. I am a dreamer, a planner, a big-picture thinker. It’s hard for me to let go and accept that I can’t always know what the big picture is going to look like until I get there.

What’s your favorite vice?
Wine, cheese, and HGTV. Something about real estate and decorating shows put me in a sort of relaxed trance. ☺

16 thoughts on “Self-Care Questionnaire: Meagan Francis, The Happiest Mom

  1. I sure need your book. I need to leave to relieve all the stress im having. Just found out i have gastritis from stress. Its really hard when your spouse doesnt help with things. I have to do EVERYTHING around here. I sure need help.

  2. I signed up for the email newsletter. Can’t wait to get tips on how to feel better. Lately it has been hard to get time for myself between my four year old and our next baby due this summer.

  3. I signed up. Adding the 2nd child added way more than 2x the stress and frustration and derailed what sanity-keeping routines I had built after baby #1 – I’d love a chance to win the Happiest Mom … and eventually become her (every day. I am her on many days!)

  4. I have signed for the newsletter. I am a follower of Meagan’s blog and I love the way she has pursued her dreams about living with her growing family, writing and taking care of herself, too. It seems she has reached a “flowing balance” between all these aspects of being a woman. And it’s such amazing that she has choosen to share her journey with other moms.
    And she’s absolutely right: conscious motherhood is the way through we moms, with some organization skills and tons of sense of humour, can really be happiest moms!!!!
    For that and many other reasons, I would love to win a copy of her book!
    Thanks Meagan!

  5. I signed up for the newsletter.
    Fingers crossed!! I’ve had it on my Paperback swap wishlist, but I don’t think anyone is wanting to part with it. 😉 Looks fabulous. Thanks for doing the interview!

  6. Thanks for this post. I enjoyed the interview. I signed up and look forward to the newsletter as much as I would look forward to winning Meagan’s book. I am still stuck in the stage of staying up late for “my time” and then dragging the next day. I never quite feel that I’m being the mom that I want to be.

    Meagan’s mention of yoga (and the larger topic of mind/body connection) reminded me of a great book I recently read. Claire Dederer’s Poser: My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses is witty and insightful memoir of marriage and motherhood. I’ve never tried yoga myself, but I still loved this book, plenty of wisdom in it.

  7. I have signed up! Dying to read this book, just have not been able to find a few extra bucks in the budget to pick it up!

  8. thank you kate, for all you offer in your vegimentals!! i’ve been loving those and look forward to your newsletters.

    and, thanks for the opportunity to win the book! i’m sure reading it would help me add some lovely moments of self care to my days~

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