“If, as a mother, I always put my needs last, I am teaching my daughter
that one day [hers] won’t matter either.”@vanessacornell
I don’t want to teach my daughter this, yet I live way fast and put my needs last (or ignore them completely) on the daily. It’s true. And it is one of the reasons why I am resting now, seeking perspective, and letting my heart heal. What am I teaching her?
I have realized, while I’ve been in hermit mode, that I work really, super hard for other people who don’t live in my house. I make all kinds of magic, hustle to deliver a stellar work product, overextend myself to meet people’s needs. I sit at my desk and come up with schedules, activities, and programming that delight children and families, and I spend long hours hashing out policies that provide for integrity in business and smooth operations. I leave my house to go hug kids, motivate teenagers, and comfort mamas in distress. I carry the weight of students who share their suicidal thoughts with me, who have been victimized by a bully, who are failing in school, whose parents are divorcing. I choreograph dance pieces, research music, and plan performances for hours. It’s the nature of dance studio ownership.
In addition to all that, I occasionally manage to buy groceries, wash socks, and pay bills. No sooner than I am able to sink into a chair, it’s time to run my girl to the horse barn, take her for supplies, or prepare for a rodeo. Our service company requires my attention occasionally, then a new crisis arises back at the dance studio. I run in a mouse wheel. I keep a dozen plates spinning in the air on tall sticks. That’s what she sees.
Is it all necessary? Mostly, yes. Anytime you run a business, in our case two, you’ve committed to ensuring the business(es) runs, particularly when you write paychecks that support other families. When you work to create a reputation of professionalism and polish, it must be maintained, and that takes effort. And when you have kids, they come with demands (and kids keep you hoppin’).
I fail her, though, when I don’t take time for myself. Not only does the old “you can’t pour from an empty cup” principle apply, but also, she needs to see that I care about ME. She will one day be a woman, and possibly a mother, who will be called upon to meet people’s needs, contribute to a community, perform well at work. She will have relationships that require her attention, which is hard enough, but she will also form relationships that demand her attention. Life’s responsibilities and obligations will manhandle her. And how will she manage it?
I can tell you that, at 14 years old, she’s pretty dang decisive, and she gets after what she wants. She takes responsibilities that are meaningful to her seriously. She doesn’t mind getting dirty and sweaty, standing on her feet, or carrying heavy loads. She has a big heart and tons of compassion. So I imagine that she, too, will pour her heart into whatever she creates, whomever she loves, and whatever she chooses to do. And that’s when she will need to learn to take care of herself…so I have to do better.
I want to get better at showing her that I can be a warrior, but also seek shelter when I’ve been banged up fighting life’s battles. I want to get better at showing her that I can love big and give of myself, but also stay closely connected and focused on her and my husband who always come first. I want to get better at being a living example of safeguarding my mental health and proactively coping (or seeking help!) when it begins to deteriorate, rather than bitterly salvaging the broken pieces after it has completely crumbled. And I want to show her that we (I) can live slower, more simply, and not allow the world to chew us (me) up and spit us (me) back.
For the past few weeks, she has seen a broken me, a tired me, a spent me…but also a recovering me. We have sat together, towels on our wet heads fresh from showers, and giggled. We’ve shared chips and sodas, crackers and good cheese, fruity popsicles, while we propped our feet up and snuggled under blankets. She’s watched me cry through the exhaustion, yet reflect tearfully on the joys and accomplishments of my work. She has gone to the doctor with me when my body was falling apart and reminded me to take my medicine. We’ve discussed everything from theology to horsemanship, acted silly, sang songs, and solved all the world’s problems during single car rides. All she has seen has not been a loss.
I talk a good game, and my advice to her is always sound. After I saw that quote, though, it made me think about what my actions say, since they do speak louder than my words. I will be sure to remind her that “self care” isn’t just being bantered around right now but a real thing, a necessary thing, a critical thing, for maintaining one’s sense of self, value to others, and physical wellness. I’ll show her, too. I’ll do better. I’m busy showing her now.