I think I’m a devoted mom. I work hard. I take care of my husband. I take care of my house. I freely give time, energy, effort, and love. I’m the one to fix what’s broken, get up in the night, pack the snacks, hang the blinds, hem the pants, and otherwise try to keep the trains running on schedule. And I like it that way. I want to be working and be mommy and be (in my dreams) both Martha Stewart and Bob Vila.
I don’t mean this as any comment on the people that I’m doing things for. I don’t (and never have) felt taken advantage of. I know every day that these are decisions that I’m making for myself.
Here’s the problem. If something has to give — and you know it does — it’s almost always something of mine. (Again, my decision.) Exercise, hobbies, and free time have fallen by the wayside. I always assumed that I’d get back to those things later.
Recently, I’ve come to realize that “later” may not be the best time. I may not have as much energy then. I may not be as capable. And even right now, while I’m feeling great, less stress and fatigue might actually help me stay well longer (or so they say).
It’s a bit of a catch 22, but in order to keep putting my family first, I need to stop putting myself last.
I need to be healthier. And not just because I love and miss my skinny jeans (which I do), but because it could make my life measurably better. I need to exercise, as close to every day as possible. I need to eat well. I need to make mental health a priority.
All of this will require time, and lots of it. More than I given myself in many years. And that’s what I’m going to have to change.
So begins a year of living selfishly.
Usually I try to make time wherever I can. It involves elaborate juggling, and usually giving up an hour or two of sleep. The time I make feels thin and stretched. Let it go for a minute and it vanishes like frost on a sunny day.
This year, I need to learn to take time, even if it means giving things up. John will not expire if I don’t read him the next chapter of Harry Potter. In fact, he can read it just fine by himself. Matt’s certainly as capable (more capable in some cases) of making dinner. And we’re all able to fold laundry. The wheels will keep turning, even if I’m not the only one turning them. I have to accept that I may not be able to make everybody happy all the time, but that in the long run, they’ll be ok, or even better than ok.
And I will try to remember to take time not only for what I have to do (doctor’s appointments and business trips) but also what I want to do. I’m going to take a day off from work and not do one single thing to organize my house. I’m going to spend all afternoon reading in my hammock. I’m going to make a salad for my dinner and let everyone else either the same thing or eat a grilled cheese. I’m going to use all my frequent flier miles to visit friends who I haven’t seen in too long. I’m going to stop cleaning up messes I didn’t make. I’m going to take a walk instead of making breakfast. When guests say “Can I bring something?” I’m going to say yes.
I’ll be asking for more help. Accepting more help. Setting more boundaries. Capturing hours wherever I need them.
And I’ll be doing this all for me. But also all for them.
Again, I want to point out the fact that MS or not, I think this is a good plan. There’s a certain group of us, usually women in my experience, who have been too quick to put everything we have into everyone but ourselves. We shouldn’t. We should be a little more selfish, even when the kids are little, even when work is crazy. Even when the days and weeks pass so quickly. Or especially then.
It’s taken a jolt to get me to admit this and act on it. Readers, hopefully you will never have a similar jolt, so feel free to use mine.