I’m currently typing this with my foot on pillows on top of the desk, awkwardly holding the keyboard on my lap. I hurt my foot. That was weeks ago and it’s still not healed. I didn’t want to change or alter any of my plans the first couple weeks of the injury, and now I’m forced to sit with it elevated for most of the day. Forced to sit with my feet up. My to-do list will not get to-done, but my family (and doctor) has insisted. And so I will rest.
Why is it that many of us parents will only take care of ourselves under doctor’s orders? I didn’t change my plans much the first couple weeks because it was a busy time. Our spring has been filled with concerts, plays and graduation events and parties. My son completed high school—yay! We homeschool, but that has not cut down on anything; in fact, I think we had more than the usual because we belong to two groups with their own events, plus our family celebrations as well. Was I not going to dance at the dinner banquet because of a silly little foot injury? Was I not going to prep for the graduation party for 75 people that I thought would be outside, but then the forecast called for extreme heat and I knew people would be coming inside as well which required an entire house rearrangement?
When my kids were tiny, I also had foot injury that required months of as much rest as possible. I spent much of my time on the floor playing with them. The house was a mess, but I was following doctor’s orders and my kids got lots of attention. I remember that time fondly. Then I started homeschooling, going to college part time, and taking care of my ill mother. Self-care didn’t fit in the schedule much.
Take exercise. We all need it, but it’s time and expense. Sure, I’ll pay a monthly fee for my kid to take Aikido, but pay for a yoga class for myself? No way. Online yoga or books work. Except when I don’t do them because I’m in the house and there are so many other things that need to get done, and it’s easy to cop out during an online “class” when you’re the only one who knows, and there isn’t a place in my house where I won’t be stepped over or around while I’m sun saluting anyway.
Exercise leads me to other body-related lack of self-care. Like driving. I hate driving, and it was a part-time job for years. But the stress on the road, the bad posture, constant sitting, and awkward timing. Why was every activity too short to go home and back again, but too long to just sit and wait? I often ended up in a café with a fattening and sugary drink to use their wifi. Another mom friend called those Time-A-Wasta-Lattes.
Sometimes it’s about saying “yes” to things (like daily walking even if that means getting up extra early) and “no” to others (like tennis lessons when they’ve never expressed interest but all their friends are taking them.) They didn’t take every class, go to every camp, or participate in every cool museum day available. I wanted my kids to have the chance to be bored. That was when they were the most creative.
Self-care goes beyond physical needs. I needed to be home. I needed to read my books, cook because I like to, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I was in a band for years to have something that defined myself beyond “mom,” but that took time away from my family. So I started a band with my drummer daughter and cello-playing nephew. My son and husband were our roadies. It was a musical blast, and I enjoyed the family time. But was taking away my solo musical time wise for myself?
Financially, we counted overnights at the grandparent’s farm as vacations. But I did manage to budget a weekend here and there to myself. The first time I went to a geeky convention, my kids were too young to attend. I struggled with leaving for an entire weekend just to… have fun? And I did. And I came back happy to see my kids and refreshed. Then they were old enough to attend, and it became a family weekend. A part of me resented that shift, even though I loved introducing them to my geeky world.
The last few years I have been ill. Luckily, my kids are old enough to step up responsibilities around the house, and figure out their own schedules. On one hand, I know it is good for them to learn how to be self-sufficient, but I still feel guilty. The line between self-care and lazy parent changes for me daily. Now that my youngest has graduated, in theory I should have more time for me. In reality, college is expensive and I feel compelled to work more. I seem to always rope myself in.
But for the next few weeks, my foot needs to be up. What is sadly amusing is that this is a fantasy of mine. Once I heard about a dad that had some medical thing and he had to sit in bed for six weeks. He used the time to sort all his family’s photos. I remember being jealous about that, a medically necessary time to rest. And now I’ve got something similar. I plan to drink lots of tea and get through my book pile—doctor’s orders.