Any woman can tell you - it is in our nature to be a care-taker. Mother Nature has hard-wired us all to be the nurturer. Although some of us gals may be better at taking care of business than others; however, we are all genetically pre-disposed to take care of the village. What happens when that village does not include caring for the most important person of all? You!
What working mom has not felt the tug, pull and YANK of the countless tasks in her daily routine? What wife does not maintain her household responsibilities with careless effort twice her heft? What woman has not let herself go, at the price of taking care of her children, her parents, her employer, her spouse, her pets and her friends?
I thought so.
Now, every single one of us is a smart, level-headed individual who knows what has to be done in the general gist of daily life. But, why…..why do we always put ourselves dead last? Why do we not hesitate to take our kids to their countless doctor appointments and sports commitments? Why do we absolutely ensure our spouses are cared for, nurtured, listened to, cooked for, laundered for and mentally okay?
Hmmm. I hear you. You are saying, "Because...... that’s what we do."
So, why do we fail to take ourselves to our necessary doctor appointments (both routine and when something feels off)? If our child so much as wimpers for a moment too long, we have the doctor on speed dial ringing. Why do we make excuse, after excuse, after excuse when WE are not cared for, nurtured, listened to, cooked for, laundered for and not mentally okay? We simply cast ourselves off with a brisk (and oftentimes harsh), “I’ll be fine.” In reality, we are suffocating and we are letting ourselves go.
Now, I am immensely guilty here – so I will be affirmatively calling the pot black. However, all I can think of is flight attendants. Yes, formerly known as airplane stewardesses. What do these ladies of the sky instruct you to do on each and every flight? Put your oxygen mask on YOU first. Yes. They do not advise that you put it on your children first, or even someone else next to you. PUT IT ON YOU FIRST. Okay, so we get that. Why, oh why can’t we women apply that to life as well?
Why does it seem socially UNACCEPTABLE for a woman to take care of herself? To put herself first makes a woman appear selfish. Wait. What?
I do not have the answers for you.Why must we always portray ourselves as being completely pulled “together”; despite the circumstances? Why, when we really take a look at ourselves – and we do not feel pulled “together”, do we judge ourselves as not worthy? Why do we criticize ourselves as inadequate when Jane Doe seems to be sufficiently pulled together? Instead of changing our thoughts, we simply chastise ourselves for being too tired and the fear of competing with the other women in our world forces us to give up on ourselves.
Typically, it is not until a woman falls sick that she is cared for and relents to taking care of herself. I know this first hand. My cancer diagnosis SCREAMED at me for being foolish; the chiding voice still takes up residence in my head as I struggle to keep lovely, wonderful me on the front burner in a life of three kids, a husband, a job (okay, and a couple of hobbies on the side).
Suffocation, for me, is not the crushing pressure of not being able to breathe amongst the weight of my womanly duties. For me, when I fail to put the oxygen mask on me first, I find myself exhausted. Utterly exhausted. After a particularly non-stop day, you know – the one that starts at 6:15 a.m. and does not wind down until well after 9 p.m. – I wonder how I persevered through the day. I suddenly remember that I forgot to eat. I then tend to overeat because I am hangry (so hungry, I have become angry); or I am in auto-pilot - eating is no longer a pleasure but a survival reaction - my brain instructs me to shovel in copious amounts of calories to ward off starvation (and because I am so hangry , no one shall die a premature death).
Well. Let us do this together. Let us STOP wearing our exhaustion as a badge of honor! Let us STOP buying into the excuse that it’s okay to be the sacrificial lamb of the family. Seriously, our behavior is a form of self-abuse. Being a good mother, a good wife, a good friend – it is all irrelevant if we are driving ourselves into the ground. Let us STOP comparing ourselves to Ms. Jones next door and let's start being us.
Grab your mask. Let’s oxygenate you. Now. Starting this moment. There’s no better time to breathe.