What My Second-Grader Taught Me About Self-Care
“Don’t you have to love yourself first?”
This is how my soon to be eight-year-old responded to hearing me say that I think of him first, always.
“You always tell me that it is most important to love yourself first,” my son said. “So, you should put yourself first, right?”
I love being schooled by my kid, especially after a week where I had, in fact, not put myself even in the top five.
“Well, yes. You should always love yourself first and you should always make sure that you are a priority. Because not everyone will always be looking out for what is best for you….but it changes when you become a parent. I have to think of you first. I want to!”
“But then who puts you first?”
Lord. He is like the Oprah of second grade. He also has a gift for repeating back my random life lessons at the most inopportune times and when I am not even sure he is listening. He is, apparently, always listening.
These are the moments I am glad I take the time to reiterate these messages to him and that they stick. These are also the times I wish I had answers to his follow-up questions.
I have worked hard the past few months to make my health, happiness and well-being a priority. I owe it to my family but, most importantly, to myself. I take more time to prep and prepare healthier foods. I take more time to schedule a workout or run daily, and not feel the guilt of grabbing those thirty to forty-five minutes of me time. I have worked hard to listen to myself and my body about when I need a break both mentally and physically. And because of that I think the past couple of months I have been a much better mother, wife…person.
But I still don’t make myself a priority. In the day-to-day shuffle, that workout often happens at 10 p.m. Sleep will sometimes get sacrificed. I will often cancel a plan or something “extra” I was hoping to do.
But how do I explain to my kid that I am OK with that? It is all part of being a mom, a parent. And that someday, he too may feel the need to put his partner or children first.
I want my son to see that it is OK to take care of yourself. For a black boy in this country, I don’t think I can stress to him enough that he needs to put himself first. Not doing that, in some cases, can be dangerous. He needs to know that loving himself first is the key to being happy. And when you are happy, you have the ability to give to others without sacrificing your own needs. But it is a constant balance. And loving someone more than you love yourself is unexplainable to a kid who is primarily focused on his buddies and being drafted into the NBA.
I hope that I set a good example for my son. I hope he sees that I do, in fact, love myself and understand the importance of making myself a priority. I hope he also sees that there is nothing I wouldn’t happily sacrifice or nothing I wouldn’t do to ensure that he lives the fullest, happiest life he deserves.
“Mom? You can go back to book club.”
“What? Book club? I stopped going years ago!”
“I know. I was sad about you leaving at night. But I heard Ama say they would like you back. I am good now with you going.”
Those workouts will happen. Even if they start at 10:30 p.m. And those nights out come back — even if it is two years later.
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