When Self-Care Feels Selfish

If you’ve ever watched any amount of Oprah or Dr. Phil, and come on, we all have at some point, you’re familiar with the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I get it. It totally makes sense, that it’s going to be really hard to do all of the things I need to do to take care of everyone else, if I’m run down and exhausted. Nevertheless, there are still days, almost two years into my weight loss journey, when taking care of myself feels selfish.

This has been on my mind a lot more lately with the arrival of summer break. During the school year, life falls into a routine. The older boys go to school during the day, and Tyson is fine doing whatever, as long as he’s with Mommy, or Grandma, or Nana.img_1911 He’s just happy to be around one of his favorite ladies. Everyone knows we get up, we go to school, and then we go to the gym.

However, now the carefree, unscheduled days of summer have arrived, and everybody is making adjustments. One adjustment Levi is making this summer, is trudging his way to the gym with Mom in the morning. If I don’t go to the gym first thing, the day always seems to get away from me. I get tired, and I’m afraid I’ll talk myself out of going. This shouldn’t be an issue, because my boys have been early risers from the moments they entered this world. A startling adjustment that I had to make, I might add. I don’t think either one of them has ever slept past 9 a.m. However, this summer, I’ve quickly realized that just because Levi is awake, it doesn’t mean he’s ready to do things.

The Struggle

So every morning that he’s at my house and not with his Dad, we have the same conversation:

Levi: “I hate going there, the three year olds jump on me!

Me: “It’s only for an hour, you’ll be fine.”

Levi: “Why can’t I just go to Grandma’s house while you go!”

Me: “I don’t know what Grandma is doing right now and it’s only for an hour. You’ll be fine.”

Levi: “I’m tired! It’s boring!”

On and on, until even though he’s the one complaining and being a turd, I start to feel bad, like I’m being selfish making him go. I start saying things in my head like, “It is his summer break, maybe I should just let him lay around and watch TV for a few hours instead of dragging him out of the house. Maybe he could just go to my mom’s house for an hour while I workout.” I start convincing myself he’s right, and that I’m the one being selfish.

Let Me Explain

I finally had to decide to stop arguing with him about it and explain why I do what I do. I had to remind us both why it’s so important that I spend a little bit of time taking care of me too. The last time this came up, I explained to him, that going to the gym is a very big priority of mine. Exercising keeps me healthy, so that I’m better able to take care of him.img_0822 I had to explain, that adults don’t usually get to go outside and play and run around, so going to places like the gym help us move our bodies and keep us healthy. And I had to point out, that the whole rest of my day revolves around what he and Tyson need or want to do, but that going to the gym is one hour out of the day, when I get to do something by myself that’s good for me and fun.

Does he get it at eight years old? Absolutely not. He doesn’t understand why it’s so important to me. He just wants to watch kids open toys on YouTube or some crap, swim, and jump on the trampoline. He doesn’t get how hard I’ve worked to change my lifestyle, so that I can be the kind of mom that I want him to have. He can’t comprehend how much time I’ve invested to make this stick, and how I’m sometimes still afraid to loosen the reigns for fear that I’ll fall back into my old habits. He doesn’t get it now, but I hope one day he will appreciate how much I’ve worked to be the happy, healthy, active mom that I want him to have. I don’t want him to look back and remember that his mom was always too tired to take him to do fun things or participate in activities.

Squeezing In Me Time

As moms, so much of our lives center around other people. Even the most minute decisions revolve around our children and family. We schedule almost everything we do around nap times, meal times, cranky times, baseball practice, music lessons, you name it. We do it without question, because of course we love them so much, and they are our number one priority. I know someday it will happen, but right now I can’t imagine a time, when my life won’t revolve around my children’s day to day activities. But as I get further into my weight loss journey, img_2089I’m also realizing that squeezing little bits of time out of the day to do things by myself, that make me happy, are vital to my health and my mood. It’s important to me mentally, physically, and emotionally, to have that time to recharge so that I can be more present for them, for the rest of the day. It’s not only important to me that I find those moments, it’s also important to me that my boys know about them.

I want them to know that I value my personal time. I want them to know me as their mom, but also know that I’m a real person, with interests and hobbies. I don’t want to just tell them it’s important to take care of their bodies, I want to show them, by taking care of mine. I want to show them what a strong, happy woman is, so that they will hopefully one day, a super long time from now, they’ll be able to spot one for themselves!

Putting It Into Practice

So far this summer, I’m making a conscious effort to get out and do fun things with my boys, instead of just getting stuck in another routine. I tend to be a creature of habit if I’m not actively planning different activities. This summer, I’ve decided that we’re going to have a blast, and we can get back to routines in August. Right now we have memories to make!

So far, we’ve gone rock-climbing, trampoline jumping, hiking, swimming, we’ve gone to the zoo, and strawberry-picking, and mom has a whole list of other ideas to fill our time together. I want to help my boys experience life and do fun things that they’ll always remember, even if it’s just in pictures. I want to give them the green light to try new things, and to find places and hobbies they love, and it starts with giving myself permission to do the same.

Finding Balance: Being a Mom While Still Being Me

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a moment. I really wanted to express to my sons how much they mean to me, and I needed to write them a sort of love letter. img_7960I hope they always will know how much I am truly obsessed with them. With that said, today I wanted to address a different side of motherhood. Something that I’ve learned in my eight years of motherhood that I feel is extremely important and adds value to their lives, as well as mine.

As moms, it’s crazy how much of our days and our minds are constantly consumed by our babies. Even now, I’m scribbling away, trying to wrangle my thoughts, in between trying to feed my toddler macaroni and cheese that I’ve already had to reheat twice. If I seem like I’m a little all over the place, I probably am. Everyday, from the moment they open their little eyes, my brain is a never-ending, and never completed to do list. Change the baby, get Levi in the shower, take him to school, feed the baby breakfast, start a load of laundry, remember to put it in the dryer. What bills did I need to pay today? What did I need at the store? When was his dentist appointment? When was it I was supposed to send marshmallows to school? Do we have baseball practice tonight?img_7961 I’ll spare you more, but these are just some of the daily checklists that I go through before 9 a.m. Our mom brains are always going in a million directions, and we manage to control the overwhelm to the best of our ability, because of the massive amount of love we have for our kids.

I’ve been managing the mom chaos for over eight years now, and most days I still can’t believe I’m legally allowed to be in charge of other human beings. I’m absolutely positive that there are many, many things I still have yet to learn. I’m sure at this point, I’ve not seen the best or the worst of motherhood. But one thing I’m trying to remind myself of everyday, is that while it’s natural for my life to mostly revolve around my kids, it’s still important to remember that I’m a person, not just a mom.

Before those precious little boys came into this world, bloody and screaming, I was a real person. I had friends, and hobbies, and things that made me, me. I don’t know how it happened, but I suspect like most things, it was a slow erosion over time. At some point, I became so wrapped up in my new role, that I eventually just pushed the things that I liked to the side, because I just “didn’t have time.” Or I, “didn’t have the energy.” Or I felt guilty for not spending every possible second with my boys. Curse you mom guilt. The first time I realized that I was losing sight of who I was, was after my divorce. My days had been filled with Levi and work for the past 3 years.img_7959 During the week, Levi would go to be with his dad on the days I was working, since I worked twelve hour shifts, and then every other weekend. It was those weekends that were the worst! I had no idea what to do with myself. I would sit at home, by myself, in my quiet little apartment. For a while I would catch up on movies or scroll through Facebook, but after a few months, I was completely lost. I had forgotten in those short three years what I used to do for fun, and I was bored to tears.

I remember when I first started going to the gym, a few months after my almost 2 year old, Tyson, was born. I was going to Planet Fitness, which was the perfect price, but also meant no child care. That wasn’t a problem with Levi, because he was in school, but I had to find somebody to watch the little guy. Thank God for my mom during this time, or I don’t know how I ever would’ve made it. Even though my mom was happy to help, the inevitable mom guilt would still creep in from time to time. I would tell myself, “You’ve been at work for the past two days, you should really be home with him,” or, “you really don’t have time for this, you’ve got so much laundry to do when you get home.” Even though every other second of my day would revolve around someone needing their butt wiped, or someone screaming for milk, or someone chucking a ball at the side of my head, I still felt like taking this one hour out of my day for myself was somehow selfish.

I really had to train myself to look at things objectively and realistically. I had to remind myself over and over that I needed to have that time for myself, not only because I was obese and physically hurting my body, but also because I needed that mental reset to be a happier, less stressed out me for them. And really one hour out of twenty four is still pretty heavily in their favor.

I want my boys to grow up knowing that their mom as a real person, that I’m not just their mom. I want them to know that although they and their dad make me extremely happy, so do other things. I want them to know that I like watching funny movies, and movies based on true stories. I love writing, reading the classics and random personal development books. I love spending my free time going to the gym, img_7875and learning how to make things. I want them to see me accomplish things and set new goals, so that they can take that as permission to do the same when they grow up.

The further I get into motherhood, the busier life gets, and the more I have to make an actual conscious effort to make those things that make me happy a priority. If I don’t find a few minutes to go to the gym or learn about something I’m interested in, the day can so easily get away from me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about going out clubbing every weekend or getting plastered at a bar somewhere. I’m talking about making time for the things that you do by yourself, for yourself.

If you’ve found yourself just kind of slogging through the day, moving from one task to the next, until you throw your unwashed greasy head into bed at night, I totally get it. It amazes me how we can be so busy, stressed, devoted, and bored all at the same time. But I think it happens a lot. I really encourage you to figure out how to steal little bits of time for yourself. Whatever it is that makes you lose track of time, or forget to check your phone, do that! If it’s been so long you can’t even remember, maybe think about the things you enjoyed doing when you were a kid. For me it’s reading and writing. I loved reading when I was a little girl, and used to write little stories with illustrations for my mom to read. If I can remember correctly, mysteries were a favorite of mine to write. I also, like many other little girls, loved to color. Why do you think adult coloring books are so popular now? Even if you can only find twenty minutes to read a book while you’re sitting in the school pickup line, kudos to you for making time for being you!

Going to the gym has also become one of those things that helps me feel like myself. I go in with greasy hair, covered in someone else’s snot and slobber. But I put in my headphones, blast my non kid-friendly playlist,img_7962 and walk out feeling like Wonder Woman. Even though I’m still covered in oil and saliva, I convince myself it’s sweat and walk out of there like I’m The Rock. That is, if The Rock had a baby on his hip. Details.

So please by all means keep being the awesome mom and caregiver you are, but really try to find small moments to remember that you’re also a person, a woman, a friend, a writer, a reader, a painter, a poet, a knitter, a lifter, a yogi, a hiker, a photographer, a gardener, a baker, or a candlestick maker.

A Love Letter to My Sons

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not an extremely emotional person. After years of working in Labor and Delivery, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to pushing my feelings to the side, so that I can focus on the task at hand. But I think when a young person tragically loses their life, especially a young mother, you can’t help but feel the weight of it. It’s only been a few short days since this tragedy hit my community again. We were only acquaintances in high school, but I know she was very loved by those that knew her best. I think when something so devastating happens to someone your age, with children the same age as your children, it’s only a matter of time until you think about how easily it could’ve been you.

Becoming a mother is scary. I think from the moment you see those two pink lines, along with the joy and excitement, comes this terrifying fear about every minuscule thing that could go wrong. From ultrasounds, to the fear of birth defects, to obliterating your most tender areas during childbirth, the list goes on and on. You make it through pregnancy and BAM! A whole new list! What if they see something on TV that scars them for life? What if he grows up and blames me for every one of his shortcomings and neurosis? What if I’m remembered as the tyrant mother, who never let them do anything fun?

For some reason when I became a mom, from time to time (usually when I would hear of the passing of another young mom), another fear would pop in my head. What if something happens to me, and they’re too young to really remember me? What if they don’t remember how it feels for me to cuddle with them before bed? What if they don’t remember how I sing in the car, or how I smell when I first wake up in the morning? I’m so sorry this isn’t my typical post about weight loss or diet mindset, I just really felt like I needed to express to my beautiful sons what they mean to me. And I didn’t want it to get lost in a notebook, or tucked away in a drawer where they may never find it.

Tonight as I was driving home from baseball practice, I looked in my rearview mirror that is permanently positioned on my son’s face instead of the road.img_7582 I saw his big blue eyes staring back at me. Even though we’ve looked at each other like this a million times, tonight when I saw those long eyelashes, and those two middle fingers glued in his mouth, I immediately thought, “The hope of you changed my life.”

Like I said before, I’m not a very emotional person, so this really came out of nowhere and smacked me right in the face. I thought about how blessed I am to have two healthy little boys that call me Mommy, and felt that I needed to find a way to tell them how special they are to me, because I may not always be here to tell them.

Phew, get the tissues ready.

To Levi

You changed my whole world from the moment I even realized I needed you. I ached for you to be mine. img_6221Before you were ever conceived, you were the only thing my mind could focus on for months. You came into my life and completely changed it forever. You turned me into a completely new creature, you made me a mother.

I love your fearlessness, your strongwill, and your huge imagination. I love how you’re growing into a big boy, but still sometimes want to be my baby. I love how you know all the words to every Michael Jackson song ever written, and I love when you still want me to snuggle you before bed. I love my life because you’re in it. You impact every day, every thought, and every decision of my life.img_6704 There will be times when you’re mad at me, and I’m frustrated with you, but I want you to know that I love you with every part of me. I’m so proud to be your mom, and I can’t wait to see what you become.

To Tyson

I haven’t known you for as long, but you’re revealing more of your wonderful personality to me everyday. img_6742You were the baby I wasn’t sure I would ever have, but the dream of you changed my whole life. I ached for you, just like I did for Levi. When I was told I couldn’t have you, it flipped my whole world upside down. I became a single mom, and the possibility of you seemed like it was getting dimmer everyday. And then like magic, I met your Daddy. We fell in love, and he wanted you just as much as I did.

I love your big blue eyes, and your sweet little toes. I love the sound of you running through the house yelling, “SHOOT!” I love the way you can’t fall asleep without holding your belly button, and I love how you say, “Ah Boo,” (“Love You”) when I lay you down at night. img_6041I love how you make silly faces and how you whisper to make people laugh. Even when you’re screaming in the car like a lunatic, I want you to know that I still see an angel looking at me in the rearview mirror. I’m blessed to be your Mommy, and I’m so happy you’re finally here.

My love for these little boys is beyond description. I grew them inside of me, and I’m forever connected to them. And then God blessed me with a bonus, Carson.

To Carson

You came into my life as a five year old, well beyond your years. You have your own Mom, that is forever bonded to you and loves you like I love Levi and Tyson. But God saw fit to let me create a life with your Dad and with you and now your little brother. I love that I’m able to be a witness to your life, your Mom and Dad are doing a remarkable job with you.img_5318-e1520996614630.jpg I love how smart and curious you are. I love how you can name every player, in every position, on every NBA team, that ever graced the court. I love how you talk in your sleep and hum in the shower. I love how you always try to do your absolute best at everything you do. And I love how much you love your Dad and your baby brother. I love that I get to be a part of your life, and I know you’re going to do great things.

I know this post had nothing really to do with weight loss, but these little boys are why I get up in the morning. They’re why i’m always striving to do better, and to be better. Everything I am is because of them, including being a swollen faced, sobbing mess right now. I just want them to not have to rely on their memories to know how I feel about each one of them, but to read my words, from my heart, and know how much they are loved.