My most common clients are Moms. Probably because Mom is typically really, truly exhausted. She’s not usually very comfortable with asking for, or receiving help. But by the time I see her, she’s finally admitted to herself that something really needs to change. She’s rather vague on what that might be. But somewhere down deep she has an inkling that what needs to change is her, not her lab testing or prescription medications or primary care provider. She sometimes has some ideas about what might help her, but doesn’t know how to initiate change. She usually states how tired she is within the first few minutes we meet.
Now, she doesn’t look tired or cranky on the outside. In fact, she usually looks pretty darn good. An overachiever. Someone to envy. She’s often the Mom who dresses well and is always smiling and takes time to help everyone with everything. But inside she’s frustrated and tired. And a bit scared- because she knows the jig is up. You can only juggle for so long before a ball is bound to drop.
This woman is outwardly focused, in terms of who gets best parts of herself. This is mostly a good thing. She has a lot to offer and she offers it selflessly. She typically works, volunteers, supports her husband and his career, helps her friends whenever possible, cares for aging parents, helps her community, and takes on extra tasks wherever and whenever they arise. In addition to the back-breaking work of raising her kids well. Her self-worth is tied into caring deeply for others. She loves well.
But. She nourishes herself on the leftovers. Literally. Lunch is often whatever random tidbits are left on the kids’ plates, and she eats those scraps more to clean the plate than to feed herself. She eats her kids’ sandwich crusts while standing over the sink and doing about six other tasks at the same time. Real nourishment? It’s an afterthought.
She says yes to many things, but rarely to herself. Now, she often means to do something nice for herself, but the time for self-indulgence is always “later.” After she’s taken care of everyone and everything else. Her “me” time almost never arrives. That bubble bath after the kids are in bed? The novel earmarked at page 6 for the past nine months? The long-overdue phone call with her college BFF? Hmmmm. These things are niggling away at her, in the corners of her mind. But no time to dwell on it. She has things to do.
At some point, usually after a health scare, this Mom realizes that she’s trained both herself and her family in this way of living… and she’s forced to admit that the price is starting to seem too high. It’s all like a hamster wheel she can’t stop. But since she’s feels she’s the one who built this reality for herself and her family, she doesn’t think she can change it. After all, that wouldn’t really be fair. Her family needs her. This is how it’s always been. She’s capable, after all, so it shouldn’t be that hard to keep up the pace. And there are still so many things to do. But. She’s beginning a downward spiral. She’s beginning to feel sad or anxious or depressed. Health issues are cropping up, and she’s starting to be concerned. She knows other people her age struggling with really scary diagnoses and they don’t seem all that different from her.
So by the time she’s ready to get some help figuring things out, she has no idea where to begin. She expects that our work together will involve changing her diet up a bit, maybe working on her stress levels or her exercise routine. Band-aids.
She’s always surprised at the first visit.
At that visit, she tells me that her goals are to lose some weight and reduce stress. And maybe work on something a little more specific, like digestion or joint pain or those frequent headaches. She’s expecting that we’ll get right to work on these things. And we do, but that’s not my primary focus. Instead, here’s what happens.
I spend that first visit looking for what’s underneath the issues. I almost always know what that thing is right away: she’s put herself last. For too long. And that’s where we begin.
Look, I get it. I’ve got three kids and a super busy life. In fact, the reason I know so much about this Mama is because I was her for a long time. Being a Mom is seriously hard work. Moms are hardwired to prioritize the protection and growth of those sweet babes. It’s important, blessed work. But listen up, mamas:
Until you learn to honor all the important bits of you- your physical, emotional, mental, energetic, and spiritual health- you will never be truly healthy. And neither will your family.
Read that again.
And once more.
Yes, you have some health goals, some things you’d like to accomplish and we could be real busy working on that stuff for awhile. It would be helpful.
But the truth is, your symptoms will only continue to morph and grow over the years. They simply can’t resolve unless the root cause of imbalance in your life is addressed FIRST.
Our first task is to align your life with an appropriate self-worth. You have to want to care for yourself. Enough to be willing to actually do it. And no, I’m not suggesting that you get selfish and stop taking care of responsibilities. No skipping carpool or quitting your job or running away to France to eat cheese all day. (Sorry.)
Here’s the thing: demonstrating your own worth means choosing in love to take care of yourself in ways large and small. The irony is that you’ll actually be better equipped to do more, and be more, in the lives of those you love. It’s a funny cycle- taking the time to feed yourself allows you to better feed others. And you’ll be able to do it from a much healthier place that’s actually sustainable. Caring for everyone else will feel less obligatory and more joy-filled.
And that’s a life lesson that’s worth demonstrating for your kids. So yeah, start with the inner workings. Because you are more than worthy of self-care. Decide that you are and see how much easier the rest becomes.