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.

Pardon Me, Your Self-Love is Showing

Body acceptance has always been a concept that eluded and confused me. I understand the need to love yourself as a person no matter what size you are, and I always felt like I did. I loved the person that I was, but I wouldn’t say that I loved the body that I was in. The idea that I would one day be able to stand in the mirror at 100 lbs overweight making googly eyes at myself and saying that I loved my body, was a bit ridiculous to me. I’m sure there are thousands of women that truly love their bodies,

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July 2016

and I think it’s great that there’s this movement, telling women that they can learn to love their body, no matter what size they are. But I honestly didn’t see how it was possible that I would ever truly love my overweight body. I seriously doubted there would ever be a day when I made some viral Instagram post bearing my stretch marks like trophies and being confident enough to display them for the whole world to see. It wasn’t just that I didn’t liked the way my body looked, I was frustrated with how my body was making me physically feel. The idea of loving my body no matter what size I was, just seemed like another thing to add to the list of ways I should be feeling but definitely wasn’t.

Let’s Think About This

What was my body doing for me at that size? I was exhausted, I didn’t really want to leave the house unless it was for food, and it was hard to move. I had to brace myself and rock to get off of the couch. Clothes that hid my body were bought, over clothes that I actually liked, and I felt like I’d hiked 4 miles every time I walked in and out of work. I wouldn’t say that I absolutely hated my body, but I definitely didn’t have a good relationship with it either.

And Here’s Where Things Get Weird

Bear with me, because this might sound a little whoo-whoo. I wouldn’t consider myself especially touchy-feely, or emotional normally, but somewhere along the way, I started to feel differently about my relationship with my body. I’m not really sure now, what prompted my views on my body to change, but one day I realized that I needed to start viewing my relationship with my body, as a relationship. Sure, maybe my body wasn’t exactly helping me live my life the way that I wanted to, but like any relationship, I had to start realizing, it’s a two-way street.

If I looked at my relationship with my body as a relationship, I would’ve kicked my butt to the curb years ago! I was an abuser,

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July 2016

and the taker in this relationship for sure! I have put my body through a lot. I’ve starved it, neglected it, put it through two pregnancies, surgery, and the list could go on. There were times where my body couldn’t deal with what I was doing to it, leaving it with scars, and minus an organ. (I’m speaking of my gallbladder, which I’m almost certain had to be removed because of my rapid weight gain.) But all in all, she’s a tough old gal, who only wants me to love her with my actions and not just my words.

Taking Care of Me

I had to start holding up my end of the bargain. I had to start learning how to take care of this body, because it’s the only one I’m ever going to have. That’s the thing that is a bit confusing to me about the “love yourself at any size” movement. I think it’s so important that we love ourselves for who we are, whatever size we are. However, I don’t feel like that should give us a free pass to make lifestyle choices that leave our body unhealthy, although I’ve been guilty of this the majority of my life. I feel like at some point, we should really evaluate how we’re showing love to the body we say we love. I’m in no way saying that every single woman needs to be the same size, and we are all at different stages in our weight loss journeys, both mentally and physically. We were also all created with unique frames and proportions. What I am saying, is that loving and respecting your body, regardless if you have weight to lose or not, may also mean trying your best to keep your body healthy.

So when I began taking steps to take care of my body, initially, it was just because I wanted to have more energy for my day to day life.

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October 2016 (size 20) to June 2018 (size 4)

I started paying attention to the things I was putting into my body, and the nutrients that helped me feel my best. I practiced how to stop using food to deal with my stress, and learned how to use it to fuel and to nourish my body instead. My body had been treated like crap for years, but started responding almost immediately to the new kind of attention I was giving it. My body responded to my effort by dropping over 100 pounds of extra weight, and giving me the energy to feel like I could do more with my day than just get it over with.

In My Humble Opinion

So almost two years later, I still feel like my opinion of the body that I’ve worked so hard for should be 100% positive. I should be so proud of all of my hard work, and not be able to see anything negative about my body at all.

After my weight loss, I definitely have more energy, I can buy clothes in any store, and I can do active things with my family with confidence.

 

My relationship with my body is definitely vastly different than it was two years ago. However, here’s how I honestly feel at this point of my weight loss journey: I love the person I have become through this process and who I am still becoming. I have proved to myself that I can set a goal, and that I have to mental toughness and determination to achieve it. Even after losing 112 pounds, there are still things about my body that I would change if I could snap my fingers. But I also have a deep appreciation and respect for the things that my body is capable of. My body has been a trooper for these 30 years, through all of the abuse that I’ve done to it, and it has given me two healthy, handsome children.

I Said All That to Say

Weight loss can definitely help you feel so much better in your body physically and mentally, but weight loss is never going to be a cure-all for your self-image. Changing your body, can greatly impact your health and day to day life,camerarolltempimage but if you don’t love the person that you fundamentally are at 300 pounds, you’re probably still not going to like the person you are at 150 pounds. Maybe you’re where I was, and couldn’t see how any plus-size person could honestly say they loved their body. That’s okay. You feel how you feel. There may never come a day, when you wake up and are in awe of your mom-bod, and that’s okay too. But when you start treating yourself the way that you would treat a friend, you can work toward being proud of the person that you are, and showing yourself love through the way you treat yourself and how you treat your body. The rest will fall into place. It’s amazing how our bodies can bounce back and respond, when we hold up our end of the relationship.

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.