“Self” is often missing from “Working Moms.” Whether working inside or outside the home is irrelevant. It’s work, it’s exhausting, and it’s relentless. Yes, I hear you saying “cheers” and lifting your glass of 6 hour old coffee in the last clean mug you have, which happens to be an Elmo Sippy cup. Am I right?
As much as we talk about the importance of self-care, we feel selfish when we contemplate actually doing it. Since we’re being honest with ourselves, let’s admit that sometimes we don’t even know what we would do, if somehow the time magically appeared. In the midst of parenting, we’ve forgotten what we once enjoyed. We’ve given up trying new things (after all, parenting IS a new thing, every day).
For me, I also held up my fatigue and overwork as a status symbol. I didn’t know I was doing it, but somehow, working 50+ hours a week allowed me to feel dedicated. Being further fatigued by my son’s lack of sleep allowed me to feel I’d joined the club. When people asked “How are you,” I’d answer, “Good. Tired.”
For me, denying myself and my own needs started long before becoming a mother. My worth and belonging was defined, largely, by my self-sacrifice. If I was honest, I’d also admit that I just didn’t know myself. For me, defining myself through what I gave to the world was easier. Denying myself, however, had its cost. My health suffered, and I spent my 30th birthday having emergency surgery. That wasn’t the wake up call it could have been, however. I went on to endure 7 total surgeries in less than 5 years. The cumulative tool on my body shocked me when I needed to take a break on a leisurely walk with my spouse on vacation, only 1/2 mile in. Then, I was diagnosed with Diabetes.
This isn’t about morality. Shaming folks about a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes is not only scientifically inaccurate, but also just not helpful. However, while that may not have been my “fault,” I do take responsibility for ignoring 5 years of warnings.
For me, self-care was also about learning how to live in my skin; to be cool hanging out with my own mind, body and spirit. Self-care, it turns out, is tough!
I get the guilt of taking some time. This past weekend, it took Aunties Donna, Nanci and Grammy to allow my spouse and I the gift of self-time. My spouse took a well-needed day to herself. I ran my first ever 10k. It took a village: weeks of planning, a “sleep-over” and a great deal of permission from my loved ones for this to happen. Thank You!
My accomplishments: I RAN.EVERY.STEP. When the hill I heard about was even worse than description could convey, I ran on, screamed at the top, and still had nearly 4 miles to go. I came in 580 of 588. My Aunt, one of my heroes, and great support, rocked the finish too.
I admit, I cried. I hadn’t yet finished, but once I knew I would, I cried. I saw a sign, “It’s all downhill from here.” I cried, ran, and cried.
In November 2012, I started Couch 2 5K and thought it would kill me. 6 years ago I needed a break after walking 1/2 mile and was 78 pounds heavier. 6.2 miles is far beyond what I would have ever dared believe in; and for me, that’s what’s so sad about giving up a commitment to yourself. Being able to run isn’t only about running, it’s about completely redefining what I’m capable of. And believing in possibilities is one thing I do want to pass on to my children.
So tonight, when you think, “I don’t have time for ______ (fill in your blank),” see if you can change your mind. Your future self, your future family, might learn to dream a little more if you keep yours alive. Then, come back, invigorated and full of wonder, and help them “catch the clouds.”