Nothing like becoming fatally anemic to get a heavy dose of “Mom Time Out.” Spending some time in the hospital hooked up to fluids and a blood transfusion gave me plenty of precious minutes I don’t normally have to think about the other Type-A ladies out there who go, go, go without paying attention to the fact that they are literally and figuratively killing themselves in the process.
The conversation with my doctor was pretty comical. She suggests what they all suggest. The Holy Grail of motherhood, the unicorn of four-leaf clovers: Self Care. I ask, “So, what does self-care look like on a daily basis? Can you give me a schedule of some kind? I’m a pretty good rule follower, just give me the instructions.” She responded smiling (read: trying not to laugh): “You start by doing 30 minutes of something YOU want to do each day. Not something that makes someone else happy or completes a checklist item. Something just for YOU.”
Oh boy. Sounds about as intuitive easy as napping while the baby naps.
As a community of women, we do not spend a lot of time talking about care in a gentle way. We aggressively talk and compare fad diets and exercise programs. We cheer each other on and resent one another through our insane obligations, exhaustive successes and heartbreaking failures. But, we aren’t gentle with ourselves or one another.
Here are some ideas about self-care I am trying to implement in my own life. My hope is to practice and fake it until good habits replace the bad. Who is with me?
Stress and Suffering Are Relative
Yes, someone always has it harder than you. Always. But when we start to inventory our lives next to someone else (in a positive or negative way), we ignore how we are doing in this moment. We all have much to be grateful for and we all have those things in our lives we wish were better or easier. It’s OK to admit to ourselves that life is really hard sometimes and at the same time it is pretty amazing and awe-inspiring.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
We all have people in our lives who love us and would hate to know we are internally suffering or are stressed. But, we don’t know what we don’t know. Lean on your trusted advisors and friends. Life in community is so much fuller than life in isolation. Reach out, be honest and others will help. (But get right with your boundaries first; Energy Sucks need not apply).
Waiting for a Sign or a Mack Truck
The truth is I knew something was officially wrong long before I ended up in the ER. But there were always logical reasons for how I felt. I made a million excuses: of being busy, being out of the country, and focusing on the family, etc. I would go to the doctor, but would downplay how awful I really felt. Heaven forbid I become a burden or a chronic complainer. Apparently, my search for answers was slower than my body was willing to wait, and the wheels came off completely.
Luckily, for me and my family, my health stuff was simply a wakeup call and nothing terminal or serious. But it was the swift kick to the @#* I needed. So, for the love, please don’t wait for the Mack truck and listen to the more subtle signs.
Fill the Hole With Cement
We all have black holes in our lives. People and obligations that slow bleed us. They drain you emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically. And, newsflash, what you offer will never be enough. You will give more, sacrifice more, care more than anything that will ever be reciprocated. It’s time to fill that black hole with cement and be done.
Just Because You CAN, Doesn’t Mean You SHOULD
Girls, Ladies, Women: listen to me. No one has to play the hero. We know you are amazing and can take on the world and all of its problems. Please don’t. Just because you have 15 minutes to spare in any given day, doesn’t mean it should be filled with nonsense.
Pass the Muster
Set a list of criteria and make sure how you spend your time passes the criteria test, and is in alignment with your personal values.
Currently, my criteria questions look something like this:
“Will this make me happy and peaceful?”
“Will this enrich my family in some way?”
“If I have to sacrifice something, is this obligation worth the sacrifice?”
My personal values, but please make your own:
Time with my family and
Staying connected to the rest of my tribe spread across the country.
And, the latest edition to the values list (wah wah) SELF-CARE.
So, my sisters in this joyous and chaotic journey of motherhood and life: listen to yourself, ask for help, get rid of the toxicity and make sure your choices are really in alignment with what is important. Let’s start acknowledging honesty as courage and confession of weakness as strength. Easy, right? I know you can do it.
Jessica Nazario lives in the Chicagoland area with her super husband, two bigs (teens), two littles (elementary-age) and her ultimate doodle. They have a loud, loving, chaotic, life of moving back and forth across the country. Jessica tripped, fumbled and fell into the SAHM life after working in corporate America. She now blogs about the joys and chaos of motherhood at TheMomReality.com. You can follow her on Facebook or on Instagram.