Every year, I tell myself I won't get swept away by holiday stress. Every year, I say I'm going to take it easy, cut back, do less. And every year, the monumental pressure of my darling family's holiday expectations hits me square in the chest. I cave, because caving to the people I love most in the world is as easy as falling asleep. I cave because I want them to be happy, and because society has hardwired me as a mom to believe their happiness is more important than mine. Which is why this mom's post about choosing self-care over her daughter's event felt like a must-read for me on a cold December morning. A much-needed, much-appreciated reminder that it's OK for me to want things for myself. Even if it means not being there for someone I love sometimes.
Kristen Hewitt, a blogger and freelance TV reporter based in Florida, took to Facebook on Monday to confess to something many moms might find shocking. She admitted that she skipped out on her daughter's honor roll assembly to hit the gym. I know... as a mom of four I'll admit my first instinct was to picture her daughter looking for her. Feeling alone, neglected. Instead of picturing Hewitt and her needs.
While Hewitt wrote in her post that she felt the "guilt creep" up on her when she made the decision, she also wrote that the past few weeks had been hard on her as a mom.
How hard it was to deal with the tantrums that were never-ending. How hard it was to feel 100’s of hot flashes as I am transitioning to a new healing protocol. How hard it was to manage my anxiety, the house, the kids, the pets, and work. And how hard it’s been to not have one single minute to myself.
So she made a choice; she chose self-care. She spoke to her daughter (who had her father and grandmother in attendance) about it, explaining that she was proud of her. And was happy to discover:
She understood, gave me a hug, and thanked me for all I do for her. She also learned by example today that SELF-CARE matters.
Amen to that.
According to a 2014 study by Care.com, one-quarter of working mothers cry at least once a week from the pressure of being all things to all people (perfect mom/spouse/employee/friend/housekeeper). And that stress of holding on to your family's expectations can manifest itself physically as well: according to WebMD, all of that pressure to be perfect can leave moms with upset stomachs, headaches, chest pain, tense muscles... the list goes on.
Sadly, Hewitt tells Romper that she has received a fair share of negative feedback for making the choice to take care of herself. She explained in an email:
I knew when I chose to share this message that people would call me selfish. And that's exactly why I shared it. Because this is my truth, and it was what was best for me and my family. I don't regret posting it, and and stand by my decision. What many who have commented and haven't taken the time to read the articles would have learned is, I did have to work that day. And after a trying month of health issues, I decided before a long day at work I would run and meditate, and clear my head. This was the best choice for me, and the first event I've missed in eight years. I hope that women that read this will be inspired to maybe choose themselves every once in a while.
Hewitt also noted in her brilliant Facebook post — which I personally think needs to be read by every mom out there who is grappling with unrealistic expectations over the holiday season, especially — showing up for yourself can be the best thing you do for your family sometimes.
Sometimes as parents we have to make hard decisions and show up for ourselves instead of showing up for our kids. And you know what? It’s not selfish - it’s called self-love.
So this year, perhaps all moms should take a page out of Hewitt's book. Let yourself off the hook. Give yourself space to breathe. It's a message I know I needed to hear for myself right now, as my family continues to (lovingly) pile holiday plans in my lap. I needed to remember that self-care isn't selfish. That the people who need me, much like Hewitt's daughter, will understand if I need a moment for myself. I feel like I can breathe again.
I hope you can too.
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