Motherhood is exhausting. It’s relentless. Once you’re a mom, you’re kind of always ‘on.’ You’re at work, you’re getting groceries, you’re taking a shower, and half your mind is on your baby. “Did he eat? What was it I needed to get for him at the grocery? Crap, do we still have vitamins? Oh God, I hope I pump enough milk.”
As a mom, you have so many things to think about, and that usually means there’s no time or energy left to think about something very important: your own needs.
At least, that’s how it was for me.
Our first few months as parents were tiring and confusing. I was so fixated on what Lucas needed that I didn’t think about what I needed, often ignoring the feelings until the distress mounted and I broke.
When Lucas was two months old, we got a yaya. But of course this didn’t mean I got more me time. It just meant I could work or cook, or do more things around the house. I still didn’t think about what I needed or wanted to do for myself.
Occasionally a thought would flit past me. A massage would be nice. A pedicure–when was the last time I got one of those? A long, hot, unhurried shower. A cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake, accompanied by a nice book or a journal entry. A cocktail and a chat at a bar. How nice to have one of those things sometime, I would think. Oneal would ask what I wanted to do, so we could make it happen. Then Lucas would cry or I would have to pump, or I would fall asleep, and the thought would be forgotten.
Then Yaya Jessica left, and there was no choice but to focus on Lucas.
When we were at home, my days were spent taking care of him, with breaks for laundry and cooking. If the weather was good, we managed a trip to the park so I could attempt some exercise. When I breastfed, I managed to play games or read. On the rare occasions that I got him to nap during the day, I would fold laundry. My nights were spent working and writing, because there was literally no other time for that.
Once a week, I would go to the office, Lucas in tow. Then I would switch between work mode and mom mode, and I was physically exhausted. And so there were simply no hours left in the day to think about what I wanted or needed. And the frustration and fatigue piled up. And I broke down.
Then I read articles about the value of self-care for working moms. At first I felt frustrated. I barely had time to eat or sleep. How could I afford to find alone time? I lashed out in anger and despair, often at Dante and Oneal, often in tears, often finding fault where there was none, often judging myself too harshly.
Slowly, though, I learned to be selfish. Friends and family offered to help take care of Lucas, and we took advantage of their generosity.
I managed to escape for a little bit, to have some quiet. I even managed a yoga class, which turned out to be my saving grace.
That was a turning point, because I realized that it wasn’t just the fatigue that was killing me. I was also hurting myself by neglecting myself.
Soon after that class, we found a new yaya. I made it a point to go to yoga class every week. I made sure to shower every night before Lucas’ bedtime feeding. I started a skincare routine. I bought new clothes. I scheduled dinner with my best friend every week. I tried to write more. I cut my hair. I bought new clothes and shoes.
I overspent quite a bit, especially on skincare, I sheepishly admit. But I also felt better about myself. I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t always feel tired and sad. I slathered on my essences and serums and I felt silly and pretty and vain, and it felt good. At weekly dinners with Dante, I cried and laughed as I ranted and raved about parenthood and work and everything in between. I spent time on my hair and makeup, and I actually liked how I looked in selfies.
So yeah, this self-care stuff kinda matters.
I’ve come to realize that spending time, money and energy on myself doesn’t make me less of a household manager, mother, wife. All that time, money and energy, that’s an investment in the power of me. When I’m happy and energized, when I make time to think about what I want and need, when I exert effort to do things for myself, the time and energy I do spend on the house, my husband and my son feel more precious.
And if I feel better about myself, then I feel better about the world, and that makes things better for everyone around me.