I hated to be the one to burst her bubble, but I knew she needed to hear the truth. Her text was so grossly misinformed, “I need to meet to pick your brain about your time management skills! I need serious help! How are you so self-disciplined and getting it all done?!”
What she knew — via Facebook and Instagram — was that I was getting to the gym regularly and had been consistently writing. What she didn’t know was what had been going on behind the scenes. As her friend and fellow mom, she needed to know the ugly truth behind radical self-care.
This year I proclaimed my goal word as ELEVATE. I was ready to improve my life and take it to the next level. It was “sort of” the right season for me. My kids are 3, 9, and 11. That means they’re not babies anymore but there are still three of them who require parenting. I consider myself a good mom who is dedicated to their well-being. There’s probably never a perfect season while raising children to work on yourself so this was as good a time as any.
The two areas I focused on changing were finding time to write and going to the gym. This would look like five days a week waking at 5 to write and hitting the gym during the after-school-dinner-homework-sports rush.
As my friend saw online, I am doing it! And I’m damn proud of that. But there is also the ugly truth that needs to be shared:
1. Your family meals will deteriorate.
Or perhaps even disappear. When I announced to my family that I was no longer cooking, it was quite a shock. This might not a big deal to some. But our family prioritizes health. And still, I selfishly gave that up. No cooking means no cleaning. It means frozen pizza, a lot of it. And I am okay with this, for now. Because this means I get to do more for myself. I have learned to stock up on the things that my kids can make themselves. It’s not homemade, it’s not even home cooking. But it has made our home run a lot smoother.
2. There will be mountains of dirty laundry.
Five people who all require clothing equals approximately 30 items of clothing per day. This does not take into account workout clothes, sports uniforms or the eight wardrobe changes my 3 year old insists on each night. That means in a typical work week you will accumulate 150 items that will theoretically need to be cleaned. So you need to know that will not happen.
Here’s how you handle it: you wear things dirty. I have shown up to the gym in clothes that have been soaked with sweat — three other times. Each time I couldn’t believe I was doing it. But I did. Because that meant I was at the gym sweating my ass off again! It took me some time to deal with continually reaching into the dirty laundry basket, but it got easier.
3. Your children will guilt trip you.
They will cry that you’re spending too much time on yourself. This is a tactic all kids know because it works. I hear things like, “You’re always at the gym,” and “Why do you have to leave again?” My gym is 6 minutes from my house. I take a one hour class and drive home immediately. That’s 1 hr and 12 minutes that I’m not with them. I don’t think one hour is too much to ask for. When they throw out these guilt techniques you just go. Don’t linger. Don’t give in. Go. Go quickly. They’ll forget you’re gone the minute you walk out the door.
4. Your hair will not get washed.
Unless your proclaimed self care is hair washing, you can just give that up. Get a good shower cap and an awesome headband. You will need both.
5. Your sex life will suffer.
In order to get up at 5am to write and get through an intense workout 12 hours later, you need sleep. And sleep is awesome self-care. This gets a bit tricky when it comes to time for your significant other. Once the kids hit the sack, I’m pretty much ready to head to bed myself. Many days I wake up excited to enjoy coffee and time to write when my husband wants to “snuggle.” It’s a choice at that moment on what you need. If you need coffee and computer, then you have to say it. It usually sounds something like this, “I love you, but if I stay in bed I will miss out on the only time I have to work on things for me.” Trying to balance a relationship with self-care has been one of the most difficult parts of this process.
6. You will no longer serve on any committees.
You will learn that self-care means paring down the places you give of yourself. I was on both our town’s garden committee and the social action committee at our synagogue. Neither receive my attention anymore because I have given that attention to me.
7. The chaos and mess you left at your house will still be there when you return.
You can try to drag out your self-care moments by sitting in the driveway. But eventually you have to go inside. And that tornado that came through before you left — no one cleaned up its aftermath.
8. You will speed more times than you’d like to admit.
I wish this weren’t true. Years ago I was stopped for speeding and the officer noticed the car seats in the rear. Realizing I was a mom, he gave me a heartfelt speech about driving safely for my babies. It brought me to tears. It is my job to be their mom and protect myself doing so. But when I am headed to a class at the gym that is starting in 6 minutes, I feel myself putting the pedal to the medal. I hate this truth.
9. There will be moments you are not proud of.
Just yesterday, I was running late to the gym, couldn’t find my heart rate monitor, my husband’s car was blocking mine, my oldest son was begging for a sleepover, and my middle son had invited two of our neighbors to our house. I’m not even totally sure where my youngest was. That’s when the yelling and blaming began. This honestly makes me feel awful. I cringe at the things I hear coming out of my mouth. Most often it’s me blaming my husband that somehow it’s his fault I can’t find my keys. He is so supportive and deserves none of the blame. But 6 minutes later, I was kicking some ass at the gym. And although I’m not proud of my behavior in those moments, I’m proud that I’m showing up for myself over and over again.
Here’s the thing. Something’s gotta give (unless you’re a millionaire with a chef, nanny, and housekeeper). Once you accept that, you’ll be fine. My friend was right, I am disciplined in my self-care. This makes me SO happy. The sweating, the endorphins, the cathartic writing, it is all working out beautifully. And although there is an ugly side, I have never felt better.
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