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Editor's note: This personal opinion column written by a mama of a certain age will appear in the Style section every Monday.

I woke up the morning after the first presidential debate shaking off a mental dust that lingered like democratic fallout. I also woke up to a singular, throbbing thought that mirrored my slight hangover: Watching the debate was entirely not a good thing for my self-care.

Given that a return to anything that resembles normalcy seems like a stretch, what does self-care look like during the pandemic, especially topped off with the icing of political madness? I had a few thoughts, but, if you're looking for advice like sipping orange mint tea under the full moon, turn back, because this article is not for you.

Thought One: Think about how you might miss small irritations when they're not there anymore.

Recently, I've discovered that regardless of where I'm heading in my house, either a child or a dog plops down directly in my path. I usually take a sharp inhale as I do that awkward ballet, the one where they realize they're in my way and we both dodge in the same direction and then another. Or I complete the steps wrong and step on a paw or yank a shirt to one side so I don't tumble over them.

I've continually had to think about mentally transmuting those irritations so I don't lose my mind.

For me, many of the irritations will only be there for a short time. The children may start sequestering themselves more as they grow older and decide their own routines. My dog with belly-filled sighs that glues herself to me will die. Them underfoot is life now, and that life comes with an irritant to peel in order to enjoy its sweetness.

Thought Two: Is it a productive day, or is it a survival day?

I'm going to credit this to a video in the endless scroll of TikTok where a mom gave advice that I felt I had already been following. Decide on your day early. Is it going to be a productive day? Can you feel in your bones that there is enough energy for relationships, work and that unruly stack of laundry? Then use that and get it done.

Or is it a fairly meh day on all counts, where you may need to prioritize work over your kids over your husband or friends or yourself? Or is it a day where you might be throwing snacks at the kids while you despair at the state of the nation and rely on your support network — the one you might actually need to reach out to even via a slightly drunken text?

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Don't think that we can do the same as we did before, and even in the same capacity as before, during a global pandemic and an uncertain economy, or that others can do it either. It's not realistic, and there should be no guilt assigned to that flux of days.

Thought Three: There are only some things within our control.

You kept the kids alive. You kept your boss happy. You checked in with your husband, received and gave a hug that had meaning. Maybe on a survival day, that's all that matters.

I know, federal elections are looming large, but given the Electoral College, or if you live in Washington, D.C., or Puerto Rico (sorry, y'all), you may not feel like change will happen regardless of your vote. But, you can see your power in local elections.

Go check out the last local election numbers. Some of those are decided by what could be a car full of voters. So, take an hour to get as informed as you can in an hour. Just an hour because I know the extra tedium of possibly knowing about your neighbors' thirst for a seat on the city council may be too much on a given day. And while I know that even that hour might sound dreadful, and even irritating, go back to Thought Two: Change that irritant into what it might mean if you no longer had the ability to vote and contribute to change — as you do now.

Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma (sorry, Cassie) and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at

[email protected]

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