Photograph by Aubrey Trinnaman
Moms have done much of the heavy lifting during this recent global crisis. This includes homeschooling, working full time, and all of the other duties that they were doing before the pandemic began. I decided early on to take care of myself. I order food to be delivered. I hired a pick-up laundry service, and I don't always wash the dishes at night. With four daughters, one with special needs and three 6 and under, the days are busy. Even with my advanced degree in education, it is not easy homeschooling.
My oldest, with both a diagnosis of deafness and autism, doesn't understand completely her new life. Over the last three months, she's had two seizures related to her onset epilepsy. I am unapologetic about boundaries, schedules, or indulging in things that make me happy. I even threw myself a quarantine birthday party last month.
My husband, who does plenty to lighten the load, is in the field Emergency Management. In my new memoir about raising a special needs child, I share some of the best advice from my aunt before she passed away: take care.
I remember the last conversation with my aunt very well. She was sick for several weeks, and my mother was by her bedside. She requested to speak with me before going into surgery. We both knew that she may not make it out of surgery, but I girded myself up, and stayed strong. As my mother handed her the phone, I listened intently, wanting to respond to whatever she said with care. “Hi Eraina, I love you, you take of yourself, you hear me?” I responded dutifully and as quickly as possible. “Yes, auntie, I will.” Those words have stuck with me ever since.
That was seven years ago. She never made it out of surgery, and I never heard her voice again. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine what it sounds like. Soft and mellow. One of the most beautiful and deliberate voices I’ve ever heard. I hope that I have made her proud in how I have taken care of myself. I have yet to master the art of self care, but being a mom of three girls, and two bonus boys, an entrepreneur, and a wife, it definitely takes practice. Below are three action steps that I practice in order to take care of myself.
Plan: Sometimes creating a plan seems like a daunting task, especially when you have variables, people, and multiple schedules. But more than planning, I make an effort to stick to the plan. Marking my mental and physical calendar for important dates is crucial. Some dates, events, and appointment are negotiable. Most are not. Though I remain somewhat flexible, even when it is uncomfortable, I keep my commitments. Doing so allows me to trust myself, and maintain the trust of others. This is a great way that I take care of myself. Nothing is more stressful than having to re-book constantly.
Sleep: Though at the end of most days many of my tasks on my list are not accomplished, I sleep. Without sleep, I am anxious, moody, and not the nicest to be around. Since I am still breastfeeding my one year old, and I have a special needs teenager, even when my sleep is interrupted at night, I go back to sleep. It is one of my favorite ways of caring for myself.
Travel: When I lived on the east coast, day trips were my saving grace. Seeing the highway in front of me was therapeutic. It was helpful to gain a perspective that there was more happening around me than just my physical location or personal life. Traveling expands your palette and creates the opportunity to reflect on what is important. Even in small spurts and distances, I make an effort to plan a trip or getaway bi-weekly. It is also great for the family.
Though they seem simple, this regimen of self care has sustained me through both great and challenging seasons of my life. If I lack discipline in any of the above areas, I feel it first, and then my family feels it. In the words of my aunt, “Take care of yourself.”
Photograph by Aubrey Trinnaman