Parenting who? When you need to focus on self care

Taking Your Own Advice

As a busy mom of two sons with the youngest heading to college, I am amazed at how time has flown by. I look back and realize we have done many fun things over the years and I have spent a lot of the time trying to be the perfect Super Mom.  I know most moms can relate, including those who are pet moms, step moms or moms to many (any teachers out there?). From driving back and forth to soccer, baseball, chess tournaments, music lessons and band practice (to name a few) to helping in classrooms, being the homeroom “party mom”, serving on district committees, all while working, getting a master’s degree and handling the single mom gig for going on 10 years now, I tried to do it all.  I cooked, cleaned, shopped, cheered them on, helped with homework, made sure they ate healthy, got their yearly check-ups and made sure they had counseling and support through divorce.  I was good at giving advice on how to manage a packed schedule, how to get enough rest, how to balance a tough academic load with some balanced outside activities and how to stay organized to get it all done.  But when it came to self care, I seriously dropped the ball. Who had time for self care?  That was an indulgence, wasn’t it?  Yes, I had consistently made time for exercising, but the end goal was always weight management.  Same with healthy eating.  I was setting a good example in these areas but maybe not with the attitude of stress management and self care that I should have.

Putting Yourself on the Back Burner? Why Self Care is Important

The downside to these choices (yes, putting yourself on the back burner is a choice) was that my sleep became intermittent, always waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. In a vicious cycle, I would make it through the day with caffeine, low fat empty calories and a long task oriented list which left me depleted by the end of the day.  I was at times short tempered, impatient and anxious. And in order to relax, a glass of wine at night became my go-to.  I packed on 20 pounds that didn’t correlate with an increase of calories or lack of exercise.  Unsure with what was going on, I began searching for other women who were having the same issues and hoping to hear some advice on how to overcome this cycle.  During this time, something clicked as I found myself giving advice to my sons on how to handle their stress and how to refresh their batteries.  I offered such gems as, “Go to bed early”, “Stay away from caffeine, sugar and too many processed foods”, “Move your body and get outside for some fresh air – it will help you feel better and clear your head”, and “Ask for help when you need it, don’t try to figure it all out on your own”.  And you know what?  They are so good about incorporating these things into their days. They put on their headphones and listen to music when they need to relax.  My youngest bounces on the rebounder for a few minutes to release some energy which helps him focus when he needs it.  My oldest played classical music during his work commute this summer.  They get outside with a variety of exercises nearly every day and my oldest has found playing soccer with his friends to be much more fun than running.  They both know when they need recharging time and relax on their own.  Neither drinks caffeine, soft drinks or alcohol (yet!).  They both have hobbies they enjoy that are outside of work and school.  Huh??? What clicked was that I came to realize that they had better coping skills than me.  I was so busy parenting them that I forgot about parenting myself.  Self care began to be a priority for me.

Exciting Changes Ahead

Compassion and change was in order. In the past year, I have taken a step back from my normal role and began to take my own advice.  “Get some fresh air, it will feel great!”; “Get to bed early if you are tired”; “Move your body, it will energize you”; “Be careful of too much caffeine, it can be an energy waster”; “Don’t rely on alcohol to be a social stimulator”.  And on this journey, although a work in progress, I have managed to learn more about myself, to be reminded of activities that make me happy, to enjoy the outdoors, to shake off 20+ pounds, to get better sleep and to find some helpers of my own along the way. Now it’s my turn to help others in sharing that journey with you while I continue to help myself.  Check out How I lost 20 pounds by eating more and exercising Less for more trips and tips. And all you other parents out there, don’t forget how amazing you are and be serious about your own self care; treat yourself with the compassion, caring and “parenting” that you give to those around you.

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