One trait I find most women have is to take care of others, to always put everyone first. History includes many examples of how women are second; with careers, decisions and basic rights. I wouldn’t say I thought like this before, because as a child I always thought about myself and that was it. Everything changed once I became a mother.
I never thought about myself and was always taking care of the kids first. Suddenly, shopping for myself was last on my mind. I would even forget to do basic things, like taking a shower. I’m sure some would find that disgusting, but when you have toddlers and a screaming baby, you throw on your leggings (or as I say “suit up”) and head out the door or take on whatever task was at hand. Knowing when to put ourselves first can be hard.
After my having my second child, I really put myself on the back burner. I was always chasing my toddler and caring for my very needy baby. One day I just kind of snapped. I was tired. I was mean. I was not me. But who am I? Did I lose myself? I knew I needed help, and I wasn’t going to just accept that this was the new me. I went to counseling and I poured it all out.
I had tried counseling before, after my first child, and sadly it didn’t help me. I felt that when I went to the visit, I had to pour out my feelings and tell them all the problems I could think of. I didn’t feel like I was healing, I felt like I was opening old wounds and then reliving the trauma. I would come home wounded, not feeling like a better mom.
I didn’t want that to happen this time. I knew saying you needed help was not a bad thing. This time, counseling was different. She didn’t feel sorry for me, but she did say what I felt was normal. When I told her that I yelled and was mean she said, “Well how are you releasing your tension?” “What is your self care?” And then it finally dawned on me, I don’t do self care. I don’t do anything for myself. It’s not that I couldn’t but it’s that I wouldn’t. I made myself feel guilty. Because I was a stay at home mom and not working, I felt I wasn’t allowed to have a break. I felt like I was supposed to stick to the kids only. Anything I needed was not allowed and that it would be selfish to enjoy activities that only included me.
How wrong was I. How horrible was it that I stopped caring for myself? That left me at home; sad and unhappy. And although you’re not working a job that pays in money, you’re working a job that pays in love and in growing a healthy person. My children needed to grow up seeing that mom and dad help out and that it’s ok if mom is doing something she likes. If I don’t put myself first, they won’t either. That’s the last thing I wanted to show my daughters.
Thankfully this happened to me, because it created a new me. Finally, I felt worthy to workout. I was excited to try new things and that led me to ask for help from my friends and family. I felt ok asking them for help so I could go get my hair cut, go for a jog or try out a class. I spent money and bought a new stroller so I could run while the baby naps. Yes, ideally the baby naps at home, but this mama needs a jog so today she naps in the stroller and I get some me time out in the sunshine.
I’m sad that I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself, but now that I have realized, I can say I feel so much better. There are still dark times when I feel depressed or upset at myself for being stressed or overwhelmed, but then I just have to put myself in check and remember “happy mom happy home.”
My advice, when things get to be too much; stop, listen, and make it right. I can put myself first today and that doesn’t mean that I won’t love or care for my kids less, it just means they will get the best part of me.
Editor’s note: If you feel overwhelmed and need help, please call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), text “HELLO” to 741741 – the Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. or call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.