What about me?
To all the mothers out there who have been sold the lie that everyone comes before you, please wake up! This is so untrue and damaging. We have all been on airplanes and heard the hostess’ message, “in case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before assisting your infant.” I pray none of us goes through such an emergency because watching our infants gasp for breath brings chills to my spine. But there is wisdom behind that instruction; if we’re gasping for air, we can’t help anyone else. This metaphor applies to parenting and life in general. Unfortunately, many define self-love as selfishness.
I fell into the trap of going into extremes in both selfishness and selflessness when my first son was born with special needs. Initially, I rejected that reality and consequently focused on my own plight. I actually felt victimized by my own circumstances, denying the reality of my son’s needs and wallowing in my own extreme selfish “why me” attitude.
Then, guilt set in. I felt like the worst mom ever! Something had to give.
Predictably, I swung to the other extreme, negating my own needs and pouring myself into service to my now two sons. I couldn’t do enough for them! Both extremes of selfishness and selflessness were not healthy for the whole family.
I sought professional help for personal growth and slowly began to understand what self-love and self-care are. I learned to balance giving and taking. The question that stopped me in my tracks was, “what would it be like to love my children as little as I love myself?” Then the follow-up self-evaluation question surfaced; before doing anything, “is this activity going to benefit me as well as those I love?”
This self-evaluation presented me with a major dilemma. I was so intent on learning to love myself that I confused the self-help concepts of escape and retreat. I admit that I was quite a professional in taking all the wrong escapes! I would shut down and run away from my children, either by leaving them with their father or by not being in the moment with them even though they were right in front of me! Such escapes from their presence included reading romance novels or staying on social media for hours. As I shared with you in my first blog about “Screaming,” I realized that this escapist behavior was another form of “screaming” because it was an impulsive, unhealthy, and damaging behavior driven by anxiety.
I am so grateful that I continue to learn how to take intentional retreats in order to focus on self-care. In this way, I can refill my own love-tank to better serve my family. My retreats include: exercise, a manicure or a massage, mediational nature walks, taking personal growth courses, and building fruitful friendships.
“I make it a point to practice self-care. I make an appointment with myself.” Manisha Singal
We must take time for self-care by choosing to put on our own oxygen masks first in order to take care of others.
Have you taken time for self-care this week?