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February 2, 2011

The Need to Take Care of Me

I don't think I am unlike too many other moms in the fact that the things I want are often put on the back-burner.  I don't think I am unlike too many other moms in the fact that some of the things I need are often pushed to the back of the line, too.

Today, I was reading Young Mom's post and it really resonated deep inside of me.  As life has become hectic, I have stopped doing the things I used to do "for myself".

I have always been a "busy bee".  Never a dull moment for me.  Even before kids, I stayed pretty busy.  Then when we began having kids, I just added them and their needs and slowly things "for me" dropped off my plate.

But I can't really blame it on having kids.  It's just that I have screwed up my priorities.  The kids' needs are going to be met...it's just the way it works.  The trick is to make myself prioritize the things I need to stay healthy and cared for.  When we had Sarah and Dani, I still played volleyball, worked out (besides the volleyball) several times a week, and went to daily Mass.  I usually spent time in prayer while running or swimming.  I had a low-stress job that I enjoyed. 

A job change (which I now regret) to another low-stress, yet lower paying job began to change things.  And then we added Helen to our family.  In the midst of that, I changed jobs into a higher stress, lower-paying job, but we were making it.  Craig was now working full-time which added to the duties that needed to be cared for at home by me.  With both of us working full-time, we both needed to work in grocery shopping, laundry, bill paying, child bathing, etc.  But I still got workouts in.  Daily mass had fallen out, but I began to notice things about my appearance that needed work that hadn't needed it before (my facial hair, particularly my eyebrows and my upper lip, had begun to affect how I felt about my appearance, so I decided to start waxing on occasion).

Even after Helen, I remember that I resolved to run a marathon.  I told Craig I needed to do this.  I'd been thinking of it as a goal for a long time, and I had determined it was one of those goals that I simply had to say, "Okay...now's the time.  I'm doing it."  And, I trained from January through April 2007 and when Helen was 15 months old, I ran the Lincoln Marathon.  I continued running and that October, I ran the Kansas City Half Marathon.  In January 2008, I began a much higher stress, higher paying job, but I was still running then...I ran the 2008 Houston Half Marathon.

My grandfather passed away on January 1, 2008.  My grandfather's death followed by my grandmother's frail health ushered in depression.  I remember listening to my Uncle give Grandad's eulogy after the Funeral Mass and I just started crying.  I cried because I felt gypped out of knowing my grandfather better due to the divorce.  I cried because I was sad about my broken relationship with my father.  I became physically ill early in February 2008 (turned out I had Strep and a really harsh strain of the Flu - I remember wondering if I was dying, I felt so horrible!) and the days I spent in bed recovering gave me an opportunity to assess how I felt and while I didn't recognize my depression at that time, I did realize that something wasn't quite right and I was ready to get in for some counseling.  So, I began that in March 2008.  

Since that time, I have been in and out of caring for myself.  The counseling was a good thing to do for myself.  For awhile, I paid to go every single week.  I learned new words to describe what happened in my relationship with my father (I had never wanted to identify it as abandonment, but I learned that was what it was) and I worked through those issues to the point I was ready for some one-on-one time with my father in June 2008.  The only unfortunate part of working through my "daddy issues" so quickly was that meant I began to hit the "mommy issues" next and that process has been so much more painful and is continuing for so long at this point that it can be discouraging.  

I have also been in and out of mild depression.  I have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder the past few years as our winters have been colder and harsher.  When I had SAD at the end of my pregnancy with Dominic, it moved on in the form of PPD and I really felt like I came out of that about the time Dominic turned 14 months.  And, of course, time and money have caused me to go to counseling far less often than I had been going during most of 2008.  I haven't ever felt the need for medication, but without counseling on a regular basis, I feel the effects much more keenly.
Counseling isn't the only casualty to my life, either, lately.  I haven't swum laps since October.  First, I was exhausted from early pregnancy.  Next, I was stressed out with work (boss issues, ugh).  Then we went on vacation over Thanksgiving.  Then, in December we made the decision to move.  Now, we're moved, but it's winter, we have lots of activities, but we've had lots of snow.  And the high school swim teams monopolize the pool anyway at this time of year.  You see?  There are lots of excuses not to get out for a swim.  I have not gone to a counseling session since early December.  I haven't run in ages, it seems.  I started re-reading Harry Potter books again late last year, but haven't picked up the book I am on for four weeks now.  I need new maternity clothes (the ones I have are too big and some so old, they really are worn) but I haven't been able to set aside the time or the money to go and get some things.  I need an eyebrow and upper lip wax...haven't done that since September.  

These are really little things in the grand scheme of things.  An eyebrow wax is around $15 (with tip), add in the lip and you're getting closer to $30.  Although, now that we've moved, I need to find out where a good place to go for that is in my new town.  We already pay for our community center membership, so money isn't the obstacle (just wasted right now) for the swim or workout time.  In that case it's getting there.  Craig's schedule has changed now so that he doesn't get home from work on the weekdays until 6:30 a.m. so I can't head in for a 5:00 a.m. workout anymore.  And after work, there's basketball practices, or meetings for things at church or school, or just plain coming home and hanging out with the kids. We're still getting settled in our new home and I'm exhausted to the point that I don't stay awake long once in my bed.

But somehow, I realized reading Young Mom's posts on the importance of caring for yourself when you're a mom, I have got to get back to doing these things.  When I'm not getting a regular workout, not feeling good about my appearance (i.e., need an eyebrow/lip wax), not getting the prayer time I need (running/swimming...activities that lend to the combination of exercise and prayer), I yell at the kids much easier.  I get frustrated, snarky and impatient with my husband.  

What's the best way to get my needs met?  The way I accomplish everything else in my life:  I need to have a plan!  Here goes:
  1. Start looking at workout class schedules and lap lane schedules and figure out how to get to the community center at least three times a week.  Maybe we will just have to use a couple evenings during the week and Saturday morning.  
  2. I would like to make it to daily Mass just once a week.  I need to figure out what day that will work best.  
  3. I need to be disciplined to pray my Morning Offering every morning upon waking. 
  4. Find out where a good esthetician works in this area and get in for (at least) eyebrow wax.
As with any good plan, I need to have a deadline.  I think I'll follow up on March 2. 

How do you make sure you are taking care of you?

5 comments:

  1. One thing that I have done since Joe was born is take time to shower. I know that sounds silly. But I remember hearing new-mom stories about never showering, but I made sure I got one in as much as I could. It's my own little vacation! Hopefully soon this weather will lighten up so I can go walking. Exercising to the TV is getting boring.

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  2. So glad to hear you are taking care of you :) - you do deserve it!

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  3. Oh Michelle, this sounds so incredibly wearing. I am so glad that you are taking steps to start taking care of yourself again!

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  4. Good for you making a plan of attack! Even after I wrote my last post, My husband had to make me promise that I would not post it until after I called the counsellor, because it's so easy for me to start making excuses again. It is so hard to feel like it's worth it to fit in self-care, but I can feel the difference! Like you said, I can be there for my husband, I don't yell at the kids, life is easier to face.

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  5. Michelle, I sympathize with you, although I can only partly empathize. You have so much more to deal with than I do, really.

    I have just two thoughts. First, and most importantly--what about finding someone to do spiritual direction with you? I don't know what fees those sorts of things may or may not carry, but it seems to me that all of your concerns about self-care are bound up in faith and parenting, and as such spiritual direction might be a holistic way to draw it all together.

    Second, and very prosaic: I use a Sally Hanson wax "kit" from Target for chin and lip. Much less expensive than going to someone. Supposedly you can use them for eyebrow too, although I don't do eyebrows, so I have no idea how that would work. FWIW.

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Thank you for reading. I enjoy reading other perspectives, please feel free to share yours. :)