I’ve never been a big fan of people reminding me to “take time for yourself.” As a writer, I’ve done my share of articles urging mothers to find time for relaxation and self-care. It’s good advice, sure, but personally it’s rubbed me the wrong way, mostly because it always felt like another item on the to-do list. “Really?” I wanted to say. “I should be taking care of myself? As if I didn’t know that. And if I had time to take time for me, then I would be doing it!”
Yeah. My attitude has not always been the best.
But something happened this year that forced me to change my thinking.
Rewind to last Christmas. I’d had a tough year. Work was demanding, my husband’s career took him away a lot so I was basically a single parent much of the time, and I had a toddler and a grade schooler to keep up with. We took a massive road trip for the holidays to visit our families, and I remember loading up the rented SUV feeling run-down mentally and ill physically. I had literally run myself ragged. But I kept on going. The entire holiday was a mind-buzzing blur. Looking back I swear I had the flu, but I never once let myself slow down.
In January, I went in for an annual exam. A few days later my doctor called and said the tests had come back abnormal. (I’m going to be vague here, but most female readers will know what I’m talking about.) This is something I dealt with in my 20s, then things cleared up and I hadn’t had any problems for years and years. The abnormalities are caused by a virus that sits dormant, waiting for your immune system to go down so it can move in and start messing things up. And if ever there was a time when my immune system was down, it was the months leading up to that test.
I don’t want to be too melodramatic, because nobody told me my life was in imminent danger, but this is the kind of problem that can turn deadly if you don’t catch it in time. In fact, one of my high school friends has been told she is terminal with the same thing. And when you’re a mom, the slightest risk that something could take you away from your kids is absolutely terrifying. I’d been so busy taking care of them that I hadn’t considered there might come a time when I *couldn’t* be there for them. One way to fight this thing (in addition to a couple of unpleasant medical procedures) was to slow down and stop running myself into the ground.
That’s what I did – I didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t about pampering myself or indulging in things like spa treatments, it was about getting to bed at a decent time, eating better, recognizing when my stress levels are getting too high, taking time to exercise when I can–basically making sure I stay as healthy as possible. All of my follow-up tests have come back normal, and I’m hopeful I can keep it that way. Like it or not, taking time for myself *has* to be an item on my to-do list. It’s not an empty luxury, it’s an absolute necessity.