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Family-care is not self-care

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As I step out of the shower and reach for a clean towel, I see that, yet again, there are none. I grab a half-damp towel off of the floor and think this will do; at least the kids had clean towels for their showers. I always put my kids needs and wants before my own. Is this a universal mom thing? I don’t know. Is this the right way to parent? I don’t know that, either. What I do know is that sometimes mothering feels like nothing is ever my own. The tv and radio are overtaken by children’s shows, YouTube and Harry Potter marathons. The first load of laundry to get cleaned and folded is theirs; mine is last, if it gets done at all. What’s for dinner? Definitely not the salmon and spinach that I am so craving; the kids would never eat that. And when we drive in the car and my favorite song comes on the radio, my teen swiftly changes the station before I can sing-along to my preferred song, even for a moment. I wonder why no one ever warned me of this car-radio power struggle.

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All too often, we moms can feel like we’re drowning in motherhood, defined solely by our role as mothers so that even self-care comes in the form of “mom-care”—time, for example, to clean the house and run errands and catch up on our to-do lists. But that is not self-care; that’s family care, at best mom-care. Not self-care. The self-care that I so desperately crave entails just a little independence from mom-life. I crave a slice of life that is simply my own. A day or two of me doing me- of separating self from mother.

I realized this much about what I needed, and so I planned it – a mom’s night out at The Delamar, a local, luxury hotel all by myself. I planned the getaway complete with massage and facial and the most delicious dinner at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Artisan. When the day of self-care came about, I stepped out of life as a mom and into the most luxurious world. The hotel was beautifully decorated and everything was top-notch. The bed and the pillows and the bathroom and the shower were heavenly. Even more heavenly, was the solitude.

As soon as I entered the room, I collapsed on a bed that was made by someone else; the bathroom was full of all the clean towels (washed by someone else) a mom could ask for. I took the longest, uninterrupted shower in that made me feel like I was in a rainforest. I ate chocolate. And bread. A lot of it. I planned on reading and writing the night away but when my body sank into the comfort of the bedding, I could not move. And to make things even better, there was an SVU marathon on the television; I wouldn’t need to move.

For the first time in over ten years, I was able to just be. I had nowhere to go. Nothing to do. I was not referring fights or matching socks or cleaning or cooking or folding. The pressures of responsibility were just far enough away that they did not invade my thoughts. I was surrounded by silence instead of laundry and dishes. I spent two consecutive hours sitting still in the spa as I was treated to a massage and a facial and there was no phone or computer within reach. I anticipated a flood of guilt hitting me hard during my self-care getaway but the guilt never came. Maybe that’s because something deep in my soul knew that this recharge would help me be a better mom tomorrow— it would chip away at some of that resentment that creeps in when it feels as if nothing is my own. Or maybe its because my children surprised me and were happy for me to get away and relax and recharge. They too saw the importance of mom taking care of mom for a change.

And that is the thing with motherhood- it can surprise us. Our kids can surprise us and we can surprise ourselves and I swear sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We think and overthink and analyze and overanalyze and worry and anticipate and my god do we know how to fear- we fear that we aren’t good enough, that they wont feel loved enough, that whatever it is we are doing or feeling makes us bad moms. But now more than ever- during a pandemic when anxieties are high and demands are higher- we need to stop and breathe and make ourselves a priority before we crumble in resentment and exhaustion.

We need to prioritize self-care.

Self-care can’t always come in the form of an expensive night at a hotel, but that is okay. Maybe self-care is an hour a day out of the house enjoying nature, or a locked bedroom door with a sign that says mom’s night in or a manicure or a movie on-demand or the dinner of your choice. Maybe self-care is saying every Monday night for 2 hours 'I am off-duty.' Or maybe, just maybe, on the days when you can’t make anything else happen, self-care is grabbing the last clean towel— and knowing you deserve it!

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