My mother sent me the above meme a few weeks ago via text, followed by the question “Did you get what you needed today?” I didn’t answer. I didn’t answer because the only response running through my brain was snarky. And quite frankly, that wouldn’t have been fair. She was trying to be kind and thought provoking. She was checking on me. My initial reaction was to throw it back, to be a jerk. So instead, I chose to respond with “That’s a nice thought”. A bit cagey, and not what she was expecting I’m sure, but nicer that what I wanted to say.
The problem is, I don’t always know what I want. I have to take care of the household; the crazy, curly haired hurricane that is my child; my blind dog with congestive heart failure (it sounds much worse than it is); my job that I love; and somewhere in there I have to shower and sleep. So I don’t get what I need every day. I don’t always have a moment to think about what I need.
Some days there is no time for a run, because my training is getting too tough to do with Moose on my back and I don’t have a jogging stroller. Some days I go without dinner because I slapped together leftovers for the kiddo while I multi-tasked and took care of the kitchen, or daycare needs, or any other manner of household requirement and by the time I get him to bed and the dog taken care of- I have nothing left. So I think “screw dinner, I’ll have a bit of cookie dough in bed and fall asleep to something on my iPad” because let’s be honest, I rarely get through the entire episode before I drift off to La La Land. Some days the need for grocery shopping wins. Or Moose is snuggly, and that will always win. So more often than not, the three things that get the short end of the stick are picking the toys up, sleep, and me. I am not a martyr, nor am I looking for sympathy. I wouldn’t have my life any other way, especially when said hurricane slows down enough to want to read a book in my lap or feed me berries. That is the essence of joy right there. But as a parent, especially one without a partner, you can’t always make sure that your needs are met. I mean, let’s be honest about my needs. I need a maid. I need a personal chef. I need a seriously good back rub. I need time for my run- which the maid and chef would really help with. I need 36 hours of energy in a 24 hour time period. I just plain need more time in the day. I need a really good hug. The kind you get from your partner at the end of a super stressful day, week, or year. The kind that allows you to melt a little and finally relax because you feel safe, like you aren’t alone in all of this mayhem.
But I don’t have those things. I cannot give myself those things or make them happen. So I have to try my best. Sometimes that means not judging myself for having cookie dough for dinner. Sometimes it means staying up way too late to talk to a friend on the phone. Sometimes it means going to bed at 8:30 pm. Sometimes it means making sure the kitchen is cleaned before going to sleep because it is causing me anxiety. Sometimes it means writing. I rarely get all of what I need in a day. Honestly, parent or not- I bet most people don’t get everything they need every day. So I can’t agree that self-care means making sure you get what you need that day. That’s a whole new level of pressure we don’t need. For me, I think it means cutting myself some slack. Realizing that not everything will get done. That I won’t have great abs, due to my cookie dough habit, but that’s ok. I am mostly healthy and pretty happy and all of my pants currently button. Self-care is recognizing that I am not super woman and I may have to give up my run today, but I can strive to get it tomorrow. My self care is enjoying how my son points at the sky (even when we are inside) when a plane flies overhead. My self care is going places with my kiddo in tow, even when I know it will tire both of us out, because the memories are worth the fatigue.
I am not always good at self-care. And the definition seems to change daily sometimes. But I know I love my life. I love my job. I love my tribe. I love my kid. And I am starting -just maybe- to love myself.
So I am sorry to my mom for not answering her question. I’m sorry that my exhausted brain, body, and heart could only think of sarcastic “I’m a single mother” remarks. But I am glad that it got me thinking. I’m glad it stuck with me. And mostly, I’m glad that my knee-jerk reaction to my life is joy. Joy in the journey. Joy in thwarted evening plans because giggles won. Joy in being a mother, even if I am more tired than words can convey and I may smell a little. Maybe the fact that I am learning to lose the self judgement for being human is the ultimate practice of self care. I am so very glad that my self care involves a tiny human with the cutest thigh rolls and infectious giggle. And maybe one day I will have a partner that will give me stress relieving hugs or mind blowing back rubs. Until then, I will keep practicing self acceptance, self forgiveness, and joy. Those are my self care.