"I love you so much I'm putting 'me' first." The reassuring truth about self care.
“Well, all the tests and MRI’s say you’re fine. But you’re clearly not fine.” Seriously, my husband couldn’t have said more validating words. Over six months ago, my leg stopped working. Yeah, scary! and frustrating and did I mention scary?! It was a slow process and one that had everybody baffled. Even though every test the doctors ran showed everything was normal, I was gradually losing more and more ability. From hobbling to using a cane to using a walker… and then, the first signs of my right arm starting to experience the same struggle. With my arm and hand unable to do much of anything, washing my hair, brushing my teeth, even feeding myself became challenging. And using my walker become almost impossible. It was like watching my once-healthy body fall apart right before my eyes. And being a stay-at-home mom of two little ones, I had no idea how to take care of them with only one working leg and one working hand.
I was already getting so much help during the days, but my family couldn’t put their lives on hold forever. Nor could I ask them to. The afternoon I spent home alone with my kids – first time in over a week – the undeniable, devastating realization came. No matter how much I wanted to take care of my kids, I physically couldn’t. That night I reached out for help in the form of text, and with the help of some incredible women, had a babysitter in place within days. She was ready to take the kids the very next week and was willing and prepared to take this on indefinitely while it was needed. The hardest thing I’ve EVER done in my lifetime.
My husband and I had sacrificed so much in order for me to be home with our little ones, and here I was handing over the role I was meant to fill. Sleepless nights and at least a box of tissues later, I’d accepted it was the right thing to do. But it still felt like the end of my world. What finally brought peace? I realized that this decision was genuinely what was best for them… and for me (even though I didn’t want it!). Finding care for them outside our home was the only way I was going to be able to put 100% of my focus and energy into getting better.
Peace came when I accepted that doing this was like saying to my little guy, “You are my whole world. I want to spend every day with you reading books, playing Legos, turning up the music and dancing in the kitchen. I want to fill our precious time together with meaningful moments and lasting memories, talking about whatever you want to talk about and learning together how to be our very best. “Right now, while I’m sick, I love you so much that I’m finding a safe place for you to be during the day. A place that’s carefree and happy where you don’t have to worry about pulling me on my walker to the bathroom and back. And a place where you can play and say things like, ‘I’m a T-Rex!’ and ‘Can we play outside?’ instead of, ‘How’s your pain, Mom?’ and ‘You doing okay, Mom?’ And a place where your energy can be used for running, jumping, and laughing, not getting bottles from downstairs for your baby sister.
“And to my sweet baby, I love you so much I’m letting another mom take care of you for a little while. She can pick you up without struggling, change your diaper, dress you and feed you. She can carry you safely around the house and up and down the stairs. She can do all the things for you I can’t right now. “I’ll miss you both during the day so bad it hurts, but I love you so much that I’m going to do whatever I can to get better and be the mama I used to be (maybe even better!).
“I love you so much I’m putting me first right now.”
It took longer than expected and it’s a constant effort now to stay healthy and strong. But I’m back home and so are my two kids, and I’m doing my very best to savor this time together – every single imperfect moment :)
Today, “putting me first” isn’t always as drastic as finding someone else to care for my kids but in order to keep my health and my body at its best – for me and for them – this is a lesson I’m needing to keep at the forefront:
– when bathrooms need to be cleaned but I’m physically drained, I take a quick nap. – when making dinner is going push me over the edge, I order out.
– when I feel myself sliding to the end of my rope, I cancel my plans and stay home in my jammies.
– when my to-do list is on the verge of completely overwhelming me, I take some deep breaths and simplify.
– when I’m emotionally unsettled, I stop what I’m doing and get on the floor and play with my cute kids, usually getting some good laughs in too.
– when it’s 9:00 and I’d rather stay up with my honey, I go to bed so that I’m well enough to be home with my kids tomorrow. Is this self care regret-free?
Sometimes, but not always. Is it realistic and feasible? More often now that I’ve made it a priority. Is there a balance when it comes to setting things aside to instead take care of myself? Of course! But I’ve realized that taking time for myself and my health is like the difference between needing help and actually accepting help. There’s not a whole lot I can do to change the need once it’s there. What I can do is figure out how to take care of that need then act. Find the solution, then get it in place. I guess for me, it’s totally come down to accepting self care as a necessity and making it a priority. I used to see taking time for myself as selfish, but now I realize that “me first” can actually be the hardest and most selfless thing to do.
More encouragement for moms:
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