When I was a single Mom, there were a few years where I didn’t have dental insurance for myself or the kids. Any dental procedure that welfare didn’t cover basically didn’t get done for myself. If I had any extra cash or leeway on the credit card, the kids were the ones to receive the extra treatment. I put my children first at the expense of a few of my teeth.
I’m in a different place in my life now. My youngest is 22. I’m not exactly an empty-nester, as my Mother and a daughter and her family live with me right now. But, I’m not in the position I used to be in having full responsibility for my children. I (good or bad) neglected my physical and mental health for quite some time because of competing priorities with working and being a single parent. Now, I’m at a point where I can and should be taking care of me.
It was a paradigm shift for me – to actually think about myself and put some of my needs first. I grew up with a mentality that doing so was selfish. When you are a Mother and a wife, you take care of your family first. It’s your job.
And then seeing the effects of the Me generation – where individuals do what they want, how they want, at the expense of others, really solidified that doing something for myself felt like I was ditching my responsibilities and leaving those I cared about to fend for themselves.
It took some time after my last child left home to get to a healthy point of understanding that if I don’t take care of myself (and I sure can’t expect someone else to do it for me, much as I’d wish), I’m not going to BE taken care OF.
So, I’m slowly getting to a point of laying down some boundaries, and taking time for myself that helps me decompress. It hasn’t been easy as it sometimes still feels selfish…
One of the first boundaries I recently had to set was how and what was cooked for dinner. I have diabetes. Not everyone wants what I have to eat. Not everyone gets full with what I am allowed to eat. It was literally driving me insane trying to find food my Mother liked and having enough dishes available to fill up the others eating with me. I thought to myself so many times, if I only had to worry about myself, half the nights I’d have a salad and the other half would be TV dinners. Also, apparently I have a food addiction. It was almost impossible for me to turn away from the “extras” that I would include in a meal to help fill up everyone. Rolls, macaroni and cheese, pasta, rice, bread, pizza (you name it), it’s a favorite of mine, I love to eat it and I can’t.
How’d I solve this problem? I finally enlisted help. My daughter who’s living with me offered to include my Mom in some of her meals. I also spoke to my husband and told him what I needed to do. It came together pretty nicely and I only have to make one meal for dinner. Mine. I make enough to feed my husband and he knows there is extra food in the kitchen to eat more if he’s still hungry. I don’t have to stare at a table full of carb-laden foods and say “no”, “No” and “NO” to every dish. It’s depressing.
And that is my first discovery of how to take care of myself. Sometimes if you are able, you just need to ask for help from others.
I’m still figuring out how to do other things for myself (like exercising regularly) where I’m not taking too much time away from my husband and Mom. I’m also trying to get a healthier attitude about mattering to myself. Done in certain contexts, it’s not selfish.
To be, being selfish means that I am not being considerate of others. Exercising, eating right and getting the rest/downtime I need isn’t being inconsiderate of others. I am taking care of myself SO THAT I can live a longer, happier life to continue to take care of my family.