You Can’t Pour From an Empty Pitcher
Last week, my family got the flu.
When I say “my family,” I mean every. single. one of us. I got sick first. The next day, my husband followed me. And the girls succumbed the next day. Influenza A(H1N1) ain’t no joke, my friends, and it laid us all flat.
When I was able to type again without feeling like I was going to die, I went onto Facebook. (Good brain candy, right?), and I checked in with a group friends from college. We live all over the country, but we chat regularly, supporting and laughing and crying and being a virtual village. I said that while the flu is awful (and it is), at least I had a reason to get some rest. A friend said, “Right? Sometimes I feel as though getting sick would be my only chance to relax.”
How sad is it that our lives are so crazy that we cannot allow ourselves to relax, to take care of ourselves unless we have a dangerously communicable disease? What is it in our minds that prioritizes work and taking care of everyone else above taking care of ourselves?
There are countless mommy blogs out there that extoll the virtues of Self-Care Sunday, of treating ourselves to a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and a book or a mani-pedi or a night of drinking cool, fruity cocktails with the girls. But self-care isn’t necessarily self-indulgence.
I recoil from the idea of “self-care.” As a card-carrying member of Gen X, I’m too cynical, too pragmatic to think that bubble baths and mani-pedis are my due. As a child of the Silent Generation, I recognize the need for a work-life balance, but my natural tendency is to put my head down and keeping going. Self-care seems… selfish.
As I said, self-care is not self-indulgence. Self-care is just that: caring for yourself. It is taking 15 minutes to eat a healthy lunch away from screens instead of cramming down a fast-food combo at our desk. It is saying “no” to another “opportunity” to volunteer, without feeling guilty. It is understanding that you cannot pour from an empty pitcher.
Like so many of you reading this, I’m a working mom. I have two jobs, and my kids are in middle and high school. I’m busy. Busy with important things. Very important things. Super important.
But somehow, the world didn’t fall apart when I was on my deathbed.
Last month, I wrote about an experiment in our house. I went on strike. I didn’t nag or yell. I didn’t guide or cajole. I just absented myself and let the girls and my husband do what they had to do. It was interesting. The world continued to turn without my constant pushing. Yes, the house was dirtier than I would like, but it was still standing. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get the message.
We have to allow ourselves to relax and recharge. Yes, work is important. Yes, our families are important, even more important than work. However, we need to recognize that WE are also just as important as work and families, and we cannot do our best for our work and our families if we don’t do good for ourselves. We cannot pour from an empty pitcher.
So this year, I am going to look for ways to work in self-care. (I almost wrote “sneak in self-care,” as if it is something to be ashamed of!) Not just on Sundays but every day. Be it taking 20 minutes to sit in silence, walking around the block before leaving to pick the girls up from school, or even going out for cool cocktails with the girls, self-care is now a need, not a want. I’d love it if you’d join me!