In our culture of mommy martyrdom, moms are constantly told to put our children's needs first and that our needs don't matter. I'll tell you a secret: good moms put themselves first. They know they need to take care of themselves first if they want to take good care of their kids, but it's hard to believe that message when the majority of voices, outside and inside our heads, drown it out. On several occasions, it has taken my kids to remind me that I need to take care of myself first.
I've learned that parenthood is often like riding on an airplane and having the cabin lose pressure over and over again. When the oxygen masks fall from panel on the ceiling, if you don't put your own mask on first you'll likely lose consciousness before you've helped everyone else. Then, of course, no one will survive. You need to take care of yourself before you can adequately take care of your kids, which sometimes means putting yourself first, even if it feels weird and selfish.
It's not easy. It took me completely burning out at my intense job, where I coincidentally worked with trauma survivors and preached the importance of self-care to clients and my staff on a daily basis, to realize that self-care was not just a good idea; it's necessary for survival. Once I got past the idea that self-care is not selfish, I became a way better mom.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes it feels wrong and other times people totally judge me (both silently and to my face), and my kids don't always understand why mommy needs a break. However, if you can get past the first tearful daycare drop off or night sleeping in your own bed, it's so worth it.
When I Fell Asleep While Feeding Her
Get plenty of rest. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Sure. Right. F*ck that advice. It took falling asleep with my newborn in my arms and waking up with a start to force me to realize that I had to find a way to get rest, even if it meant letting someone else hold her or buying a bedside bassinet. On night one home from the hospital, she was already trying to teach me a thing or two about self-care.
When I Had Postpartum Depression
It takes bravery to admit to yourself that, despite having the baby you always wanted, you are not OK. Looking down at my sleeping baby, I recognized that I needed help and needed to take care of myself if I was going to be the mom she deserved. That's not a weakness at all.
When She Shared Her Dinner With Me
There were so many days when the only food I ate was what was left on my kids' plates. I member the first time my daughter asked me if I was hungry and if I wanted one of her coveted french fries. Moms need to eat, too, I guess.
When She Saw Me Throw Up
I will never forget the moment when I was pregnant with my son and my then 2-year-old daughter came into the bathroom, while I was throwing up, and asked if I was OK. That was coincidentally also the moment when I decided that letting her watch cartoons on Netflix didn't make me a terrible mother. I needed time and space to care for myself.
When I Overheard Her Ask My Husband If I Was OK
Even the best of us have moments when we totally lose our sh*t. Last summer, I had one of those moments. I had hyperemesis gravidarum. I was tired, scared, in pain, and had vomited for the tenth time that day. I was sobbing on the couch and overheard my 10-year-old stepdaughter ask my husband if I was going to be OK. I realized that I needed to get my sh*t together, at least in front of the kids.
When He Bought Me A Present
My son is constantly trying to take care of others, especially me. Some days, I think that making me smile is his only goal. This makes me simultaneously feel good and guilty. I am supposed to take care of him, not the other way around. I will never forget the first time he bought me a present with his own money. A bag of candy. Just to make me smile. #Feels
When She Put Herself To Bed
Bedtime has always been a stressful time in our family. I remember the first time, a few days before her fifth birthday, that my daughter offered to put herself to bed so I could put her baby brother to bed and "not have to worry about her." It was magical.
When She Told Me That Everything Would Be OK
I remember a night a few weeks after I left my ex-husband. I was crying in my room and feeling totally hopeless and helpless. My daughter, who was a 4-year-old toddler at the time, crawled in bed with me and told me not to worry and that everything would be OK.
When I Saw Them At The Finish Line
A few years ago after my son was born, I decided to train for my first half marathon. It took a lot of early mornings, lunchtimes and late evenings, and sacrificing time with my kids and husband to meet my goal. One half marathon turned into more half marathons, and in the first four months of 2016, I ran over 600 miles training for a full marathon. I remember feeling super guilty about taking time to train. Then, I saw them cheering me on. I will never forget that moment, or the looks of excitement and pride on their faces. Yep, it was all worth it.
When I Was Too Sick To Care For Them
There have been so many times where life has caught up with me, rendering me too sick, tired, or conscious enough to care for my family. I have learned that when I take care of myself first, these times are fewer and further between.
When He Asked Me If I Needed A Hug
I must sheepishly admit that I haven't been so good at self-care lately. I'm pregnant and the last month has been so busy with holidays, school break, and house guests. I haven't taken enough time for myself and have seriously overdid it. Not surprisingly, I am sick.
Just this morning, my 4-year-old son came into my room and asked me if I needed snuggles and if he could help me feel better. Always, my love.
I deserve for me to put myself first, as does every single mother (and person, for that matter) on the planet. So, thanks for the reminder and for handing me my oxygen mask, kids. You really and truly are amazing.