I often tell parents that they have to put on their own oxygen masks before they can help others. I emphasize how they must make time for self-care. Meanwhile, I’m over here gasping for breath, struggling to assist the other members of my family: wheeze, cough, sputter—did we lose cabin pressure? Clearly I am in serious need of my own advice!
Resolutions can be a slippery slope: putting it all on the line, making a concrete promise, vowing to make changes. If we commit, then there is the potential for self-abandonment and failure. But if we don’t try, we never know what we can achieve. This will be my ultimate taped-to-the-fridge-list, (isn’t that where everyone puts their New Year’s resolutions?) and the pressure will be on to stay true to myself.
Like many of you, I do too much.
I am a mom, I have a husband, I work, I’m promoting a book, I have family nearby that I enjoy spending time with, I volunteer my time, I donate blood, (I even donated my hair for Pete’s sake!) I give, and I give, and I give. But what about me? Don’t I deserve a piece of the pie? I know I do. I don’t want to end up in Martyrville—I hear it’s no fun there, even for the most accomplished.
Thinking in this vein reminds me of a sticky-note I once saw taped to a friend’s bulletin board. It was handwritten in bold, black letters: “If it’s not a huge YES—say NO!” Keeping that in mind, this year I vow to:
*Slow down. Literally. I will stop moving so fast. Sometimes, when I try to do three things at once, I move so fast I bang into unclosed drawers and drop things all over the kitchen floor. This can’t possibly help me get out the door any faster in the morning. I will do one thing at a time, I will be intentional, I will stop to smell roses. (Well, maybe not until a little later in the year.)
*Take more breaks. I will go out on dates with my partner even though we can’t afford a babysitter. I will say “yes” to all of my family’s offers to help, and I will continue to swap child-care with friends. I will, as a wise friend recently put it, “take the exit ramp,” as often as possible. I will wander, putter, and relax.
*Stop beating myself up. My child will not shrivel if he watches fifteen minutes of video while I make breakfast. My family can survive take-out Pad Thai or Hannaford rotisserie chicken with rice and peas. Yes, again. The house does not need to be any cleaner than it already is. And, unless someone is out of clean socks or underwear, the laundry can wait.
*Say “no.” I am sorry to say that if I am not already working hard for your organization, group, or cause, well, I just won’t be. I must draw the line somewhere. Perhaps at a later time we can revisit the opportunity. Like maybe sometime in late 2013 when my child is in Kindergarten.
Now, I will put this on my refrigerator where I can see it, and straighten out this darn mask. At least I can breathe again. That feels better.
I invite you to make your own list of radical resolutions. Then share it with a friend (or your whole community!). When we see each other at the next committee meeting, I’ll ask you if you’ve been making it to the gym. You’ll say, “Yes, I have been, thanks for asking.” Then you’ll pause and say, “Hey, I thought you weren’t going to do anymore volunteering. What are you doing here?”
Originally published in the January/February 2011 issue of Parent & Family.