I used to think it was selfish to want time away from everything and everyone. How could I possibly justify dropping my responsibilities as a wife, mother of a special-needs child and employee for 30 minutes or an hour to refresh and recharge.
The internal battles and justifications of why I couldn’t and shouldn’t break away were so overwhelming.
“I’m too tired.”
“I just don’t have time.”
“What if something bad happens while I’m absent?”
“I’ll worry the entire time and won’t enjoy myself because I’ll feel guilty so why bother.”
The many excuses like these are easy to generate, but reframing the scenarios with a positive attitude and open mind allows you to identify solutions to every single excuse. Putting yourself first is not only possible but necessary.
For years, my favorite way to unwind was to go for a run. However, I made the conscious decision several years ago to take a very lengthy hiatus from running. It just felt wrong to lace up my shoes and essentially run away from the people who needed my undivided focus. As my severely autistic son grew older and his delays more profound, requiring even more of my attention and assistance, I felt extremely guilty at the thought of leaving his side to exercise, read a few chapters of a book or God forbid take a power nap.
I’m in no way blaming my child or anyone other than myself for throwing in the towel on my own health and well-being. However, it seems engrained in us at the onset of motherhood that we must always be selfless and put the best interests of our children ahead of our own. In my opinion, even Albert Einstein saying “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living” sends the wrong message to mothers!
We invent that rhetoric and play it on loop for every generation to internalize as required criteria for earning the badge of amazing mom. Labeling ourselves as anything less than amazing when we admit a need to reclaim a lost piece of ourselves and our identity is sad and contributes to the stigma that we are selfish.
So, I made the decision in the middle of this crazy, unpredictable year to put myself first. I granted myself permission to make my mental and physical health a priority and announced it proudly and loudly to my family.
“This momma is scheduling an hour a day to herself to be ALONE and there will be no negotiation.”
To my surprise, I was met with “absolutely, you have my support,” from my husband and “good for you mom, you deserve that,” from my teen daughter.
The six to seven hours of weekly solitude I’ve observed these many months has transformed me into a better version of myself. My patience has improved and I consciously approach our, often chaotic household with calmness instead of irritation and anger.
My love of running has returned but now, I’ve discovered an appreciation for each step taken and the scenery around me that I had not experienced before. With each casual run, I marvel at the beauty found in the fresh air, sights and sounds of nature and have developed a renewed perspective for the possibilities in my life.
Without a doubt, granting myself permission to unplug from conversations about all things autism and purposely avoiding exposure to and influence from all the negativity within the world has revived my positive outlook on the future.
Trust me moms, you owe it to yourself and those who love you to rid your mind of the excuses as to why you don’t deserve a break. Stop advocating for only the well-being of others and transfer some of that passion and loud championing toward your own mental and physical health!
It’s not a matter of IF you become overwhelmed and burned out but WHEN, so implement some changes now! We are not equipped nor is it God’s intention for mothers to handle every single detail of everyone else’s life with complete disregard for our own. Make today the day you grant yourself permission to place the oxygen mask on yourself before anyone else!