Several months ago I would have asked what “self care” was too. But the tide’s a shiftin’ over here. In a very good way. I have managed to make three major changes that have majorly turned things around. I:
…joined a gym again (& I go!).
…hired my first babysitter. (so I could…)
…go to counseling.
Life. Changing. Choices.
Turns out, I am terrible at taking care of me. I have this guilt–my major issue. I don’t let people help me. I don’t take time for myself. I don’t put myself before much of anything or anyone. & that (I found out the hard way) is not a recipe for success.
I had a little light bulb moment in therapy one day. [Side note–I have always been a firm believer in therapy. Even happy people can work on self improvement, so I applaud the decision for anyone to attend therapy. I think it is a very important part of a balanced life. AND…military mamas…Tricare covers it 100%.] My therapist said this:
We have this antiquated way of thinking about the family. [he laced his fingers together] We think it looks like this. Mom and Dad as this intertwined unit of two which becomes four or five as the children come into the picture. Tangled. Everyone relying on everyone for everything. & that just doesn’t work. What we really have, is you [he held up one fist] and all of the others that you have in your life [he wrapped his other hand around the fist] and they add to your joy, but they do not create it.
I can get on board with that idea. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right? & if no one can make mama happy, then how does she make herself happy?
Well, she focuses on self care. According to my therapist. (Who specializes in military families with lifestyles a lot like mine.)
What that self care looks like for each person is different. But for me, a big part of that was figuring out how to exercise again. The #1 thing I can do to help me in every aspect of my life is exercise. It makes be feel better mentally (break from children! reminders to breathe!) and it makes me stronger, in so many more ways than one. You all know that I parent alone about 90% of the time, so finding time for me is always a challenge. But that time at the gym is great for all of us. The kids love it. I need it. It really is the best possible situation for everyone.
But he hardest part of this change was setting a new routine. I think that is all that it takes (once you find a place that inspires your desire to exercise). It took a good three weeks for it to feel normal. But I shifted the way I look at the gym, too.
I used to make my own workouts and lift and do cardio & I went through my crossfit phase. But right now, I have no time for that. I need the classes. I want to show up, see familiar faces and have a teacher plan everything about my kick-ass workout. I tried a bunch of the classes that fit my schedule and chose three that I love and don’t want to miss each week. I treat them just like my kids’ activities that I pay for. I’d never miss those, so why would I miss my own classes that I am paying for too? They are on my iCal and the time is blocked off. Nothing gets in the way. No playdates, appointments, nada. That is my time. I have my iphone alarm set to go off with scheduled reminders for each of the classes so I never miss them. They are now a significant part of my life. At a minimum, I go to my two yoga classes and my weights class, weekly. If I can do more, (yay!!) I do more. But never less. Those three days are for me. & we run our errands or go the pool at the gym afterwards. (During the school year, my gym time happens on the days that caroline is at school; she does come with me on the weekend.) Each of my babes have a scheduled activity on one of the other days of the week. I leave one day open for socializing (I am an introvert by nature, so that is all I need!) and then we have Church Sundays. So if you do the math, I keep pretty busy. Just the way I like it.
Like anything in life, it’s all about priorities. I’m learning it is okay to put myself first. I’ve had plenty of eyebrows raised at my busy schedule, but you know, not many people live the kind of life I do. I have to get out of the house within two hours of getting up or my kids LOSE it! (or I lose it, seeing as though there is no one around to give me a little help or break up my day!) We’re just busy bodies. :)
So while my Losing the Baby Weight article is far & away the most visited page on my site, the role exercise plays in my life is far more significant than for vanity’s sake. Yes, I think muscles are hot. But I love being strong. & even more than that, I love being happier for the sake of my family. & for me. Exercise makes me a HAPPIER mom. a BETTER mom. & I can only hope that modeling it as a priority will help shape my children’s values for a lifetime of healthy living.
& if not, well. At least I was a lot less grumpy during their childhood. ;)