When was the last time you looked out of the window, watched the breeze hit the trees and long to be out there? For me, it was probably when I was a kid. This crazy pandemic is creating too many stressful moments. But what if a sprinkling of self-love could change that?
Today, parents are realizing the important role educators play and how valuable they are to our everyday success as a family, a community, a nation. Single parents are probably getting hit the hardest, but who’s to say. We are all trying to find our way in the dark until we emerge from our self-quarantined cocoons into the new normal.
A world is on hold and we the people are stuck in the middle trying to juggle kids, parents, neighbors, relatives, friends and coworkers. Work-life balance has a whole new meaning as we try working from home while being mom & dad, teacher, cook, housekeeper, financial magician, pet sitter and more.
That’s why self-care is more important than ever before. As moms, we often feel guilt for the simplest things like going to the stylist, taking time out to read a book just for the fun of it, or spending time pursuing our passions. I mean, we justify it when the kids need new clothes or shoes or money for a field trip. There’s no time when we are working all day, parenting around the clock and trying to keep our treasured relationships strong.
One of the first things I learned about self-care is that it’s a lot like saving money. First you pay yourself and then, you pay your debtors. Otherwise, you won’t save anything. Self-care is the same. If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of others.
Think about it. It’s like the flight attendant tells you in the safety briefing. “If we lose altitude, be sure to put your mask on first, before assisting others.”
After all, we cannot help someone put on their mask if we are struggling to breathe ourselves. Without proper oxygen, our minds get cloudy and energy levels drop. Then we lose consciousness and we all go down.
When we stop trying to be all things to all people and lessen the self-sacrificing, we can start properly caring and maintaining our own psyches and bodies. It took me until my children were in their teens and early 20s to discover this.
I vividly remember one of my very first sessions with my therapist. I explained to him I was done with trying to be the good one, the one who always does the right thing. I was exhausted. Within the span of three weeks, I found out I had skin cancer; I had caught my husband cheating (on Valentine’s Day); and my mother, on her 69th birthday, lost her battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I tried to be strong for the kids, for my family, even for my friends. I’m the resilient one who’s unwilling to let any hardship get the best of me, but that was the one side of 40, the part I’d like to erase.
After answering my therapist’s question, “Doing what is always right for who?”
“For who?” I honestly never asked myself that. Whatever was right for the kids, my ex, my mom, and my friends, that’s what I did. It never occurred to me that what was right for them might not be what was right for me.
Believe it or not, everything falling apart was the best thing that could have happened. It’s what convinced me therapy could help. And therapy brought me to yoga, which changed my life for the best.
And as if I hadn’t learned enough from that one simple question, it came full circle in a discussion this past weekend with my adult niece. I was explaining to her the guilt I carry around in regard to her mother (my sister) and my brother. I turned 18, graduated high school and left for college. I went to pursue my life and get the heck away from my small town life.
I wanted to be a young adult with a future, not a parent of two younger siblings. I was selfish. I left my brother and sister with a broken, resentful mother. I told my niece, “I should have stayed and I didn’t. I just left and never looked back. It took away what was left of their childhood and I felt like I could have made things easier for them had I stayed home and gotten a job.”
My niece in all her wisdom told me, “You weren’t being selfish, you were doing you. You were young, smart and driven. You deserved to pursue a life of your own.”
I know she’s right, because it correlates back to my therapist’s question. I’m so grateful to have her support in my life. She thinks I’m the one who’s always there for her, but the truth is I’m getting my share from her, as well. We have coined a phrase that helps us remember to practice self-love, even in a time when so many are giving so much for one another. Life is never going to be easy or fair, but if we remember to love ourselves first, there’s so much more to spread around.