The first year we went, the conference was titled 'Taking Care of Our Children, Taking Care of Ourselves.' They gave us a pen:
I came home all fired up, filled with ideas on how to better mother my child-with-low-vision-and-other-disabilities-who-is-obsessed-with-elevators (because you need to talk about your child as more than having disabilities. I'm told this is very important.) I decided I needed to let him fall down more and made him a rattle out of an old plastic bubble container and whole cloves. I was going to be a great mother. I was going to use our spice rack to help him reach new heights. Yay!
Meanwhile, I was a mess. I hadn't slept in years. I was so bad at sleeping I didn't even want to go to bed, so I stayed up pfaffing around on the internet. I drank too much coffee, I binged on cookies. I still exercised, but I was so tired I didn't enjoy it and I ached. I hadn't been to any doctor (including the dentist) in years, except for the obstetrician. In fact, I didn't even have a doctor.
One day, I looked at the pen. Taking care of our children; taking care of ourselves. I had the first part down. My children were thriving! Growing like weeds! I even taught Darling Son #1 to read at the tender age of 3! The second part? Not so much, and as a result, I was long on tasks and short on patience. Yes, they were fully-immunized, hale and hearty, and one was even literate, but I was snippy with them. For all the tasks, I was falling short with the most important things. I felt bitter and resentful and put-upon. I was self-care deficient, and in the end, it trickled down to them.
I realized I needed to take care of myself as well as I took care of them. And so I made a list of things I didn't hesitate to do for them:
- I feed them reasonable portions of whole, healthy food.
- I don't let them binge on cookies.
- I put them to bed at a reasonable hour.
- I make sure they get outside and run around everyday. Which, by the way, was *play,* not a forced march.
- I take them to the doctor for regular check-ups, and I make sure they're up-to-date on immunizations.
- I make sure they have social time with their little friends.
- I read to them everyday, including Bible stories.
Why didn't I do these things for myself? Partly because I was lazy. Partly because I had bought into the idea that mother = martyr. But taking care of ourselves is not selfish. I've talked about this before. We can't give from an empty cup. A friend of mine, a mother of three young boys, celebrated her birthday recently. Her husband wrote on her Facebook page, 'Happy birthday to my lovely wife. You hold this whole thing together.' How true--that's what we do, isn't it? We hold it together, but we can't do that if we fall apart in the process.
Little by little, I started implementing these disciplines into my own life. I also listed intangibles, like wanting to be more patient, modeling appropriate reactions, keeping my temper in check, and the like. Those became significantly easier once I tended to my own physical, social and spiritual needs.
Are you a person-who-is-self-care-deficient? Whether or not you're a woman, whether or not you have children, would you mother yourself? Would you like to borrow my pen as a reminder?