When I’ve been running on the tired-mom treadmill too long, my whole upper body becomes a triangle of pain. Even a poor choice — the kind of choice I’d rather NOT model for my three daughters — seems reasonable under nagging pain.
I gave myself two choices:
A) Go to the doctor and increase the dosage on the pain medication.
B) Go away for a long weekend to stick my toes in the sand, relax and listen to the crash of waves.
I went with choice B. Because… the beach! I was facing burnout, so a trip to the ocean offered a cool, work-free respite.
I had delayed this trip for months because of crazy family scheduling and work commitments, which had most likely led to the runaway migraine and upper-body pain.
Yet choice B, as dreamy as it sounds, came with its own slight catch. And was probably another reason the trip took so long to actually happen. Namely, an unwanted, uninvited a**hole.
Of course, that character wasn’t my youngest daughter, who would be driving to Southern California with me. (It was her turn for a mother/daughter trip.)
Nope, this stowaway — despite years of experience that told me I’ll be the better for it and so will the people around me — still dogs me when I dare relax or have fun.
It manifested as worry about whether the gas money to drive to California would be better spent on clothes for my 12-year-old since she was outgrowing our clothing budget. On teeth-cleaning for our Chihuahua. On boosting three college-savings accounts.
The guilt showed up as unfinished projects at work and at home, like the malfunctioning dryer door. Would my husband be able to figure out how to prop the door closed with the broom so the clothes would dry and he’d have enough dry shirts for work? Should I have spent more focused time with the two girls still at home before I left?
But vacationing with my 9-year-old doesn’t leave much time for ruminating about wouldas, couldas, shouldas.
We ate tostadas and Thrifty’s ice cream. We splashed in Oceanside’s surf and turned cartwheels (she did, anyway). We shopped for kitschy souvenirs for my two other daughters and husband. My younger sister, whom we were visiting, played mom, taking care of me and making me feel silly. (But I loved it.)
One night we went to bed at 8 p.m.!
We returned to the beach again and again, and somewhere along the way, the guilt floated out to sea and never returned.
Because on the second day of what I had viewed as a very selfish trip, I woke up with no headache, no shoulder or neck pain.
Even at 9, my daughter knew what those days at the beach had been about. She calls this “sharpening the saw,” a riff taught at her school and borrowed from Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
A week before we left, she caught me reading a novel in bed when I told her that I would definitely be reading and signing her school papers like she had asked. She took it in stride. “Ah, it’s important that you sharpen the saw so you can take care of other people.”
See? She gets it.
I must. I want my daughters to choose the self-care option over the Band-Aid option whatever that may be.
I don’t have the choice every week, every month or even quarterly to take off to Southern California for mom R&R. But I do have dozens of choices throughout my day to sharpen the saw. And I have a choice right now to stop believing the choice of self-care is a selfish one.
Guilt shows up in my life when I’m taking an action that I believe on some level is selfish.
But it’s certainly not selfish to model making the best choice for girls who will become women who one day will weigh their own choices.
Among their choices, hopefully, will be one that supports their well-being. I want my girls to know they are valuable enough to make the choice that supports their health.
If for no other reason, it’s finally time to kick guilt from the moving car, the beach or from wherever moms find a moment to relax and have some fun.
We are all valuable enough to make that choice.