Last week, I told myself before I went to bed that I’d rise early and get my run out of the way before it got too hot. We’ve been having a rare heatwave where I live and if you don’t get out and get it done, it’s hard (not to mention unsafe) to exercise in 90-degree temperatures with high humidity.
When I woke up, my kids were still sleeping soundly and would be for a few hours according to their teenage sleep schedules. I’d promised my daughter we’d go get a slushie later in the afternoon when I was done with work, before she went to her father’s house for the night.
I lay in bed and tried to think of all the reasons why I shouldn’t go for a run. I wasn’t really feeling it although I was awake at the perfect time.
I tried to talk myself out of a goal I’d set for myself even though I’ve never, ever regretted a workout.
As I reached for my phone to scroll instead, I realized if I didn’t get my butt in action and get out there soon, time would run out. Sure, I’d have the day to get my work done so I could still take my daughter to get her treat before she left for the night.
I always make good on my promises to everyone else — my kids, my editors, my friends and other family members. If I say I’m going to do something, I come through, except for those rare times when circumstances are out of my control.
Why, then, is it so easy to blow myself off? Why do I find it acceptable to give up my time so I can fulfill commitments to others, only to put the ones I make to myself last? And why do I do this when I know full well it leaves me angry and resentful every damn time?
It’s no one else’s fault when we break appointments with ourselves. There wouldn’t be anyone to blame but me had I put myself on the back burner, skipped something I really did want to do because the reward goes a long way, and carried on with my day fulfilling all other responsibilities.
It’s all part of being a mom — I get it. We feel like we have to sacrifice ourselves first so we can be this or that for everyone else.
Whether we admit it or not, we don’t want to appear selfish by telling a friend “no” when we know we don’t have the energy for them.
We dig back into the depths of our childhood and want to make up for all the wrongs our parents doled out, and we hate saying “no” to our children or letting them know we’ve changed our mind about making their favorite dinner.
We buy them new things before we replace our own ten-year-old underwear.
We make sure their appointments are up to date, all while neglecting our own because we think, “I can wait. I can do it later.”
When we have kids, we go from being on our own schedules — able to come and go as we please, and prioritize ourselves — to learning how to do that with little human beings being dependent on us. And damn, it’s hard to do both.
We say we don’t have time for self-care. We claim we are too busy to read any more, even though we desperately miss it.
We make excuses and break promises to ourselves without even thinking about it. Then, we suffer for it.
I’ve learned this the hard way. Since becoming a mom seventeen years ago, this is what I thought a good mother did. I figured I’d put everyone first — and if there was something that had to go or give, well, it would be me and my plans and my hobbies.
It’s taken me a long time to learn that you can be a great mom and not break your promises to yourself. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
I spent years being resentful, throwing up my arms and saying, Fine, I just won’t do it, so everyone could have a piece of me. I got really good at it and was a bitter martyr.
Then, I realized all I had to do was stay true to most of the commitments I made to myself that were important: Getting to bed early if I needed more sleep, even if it meant canceling sexy time or a prior commitment. Staying true to my goals with work and my health. Trying to recognize when I was forgetting about me, even if I felt selfish for speaking up about it.
The truth is, no one is going to advocate for us but us. No one is going to stand on the sidelines and watch to make sure we keep the silent promises we’ve made to ourselves, whether they were made last year, last week, or last night.
So, the next time you think about giving something up, or telling yourself “no” when you really want to say yes, think about the hoops you would go through to meet these commitments to your kids, your partner, your work, or your loved ones.
Then ask yourself why you feel it’s okay to blow yourself off if you wouldn’t do it to others.
When you ask yourself that question, you’ll find it harder and harder to make excuses. Once you do this, you’ll never go back — because you’ll discover exactly how much better you feel when you honor yourself just as much as you would honor your family.