Dear Exhausted, Wrung-out and Frazzled Mom,
I see you. I see you struggling to make it through the day, through your child’s melt downs, the medical appointments, and the therapies. I see the desperation in your eyes. I see the heartache as you are alongside your child in the midst of their ongoing pain.
I see that you are on the verge of collapse, and the idea of having to do one more thing overwhelms you. I see the loneliness you feel in this journey. I see you slump your shoulders when someone mentions self-care and the guilt you face at the idea you need to take a break when your child doesn’t get one. I see you and I get it.
Our inclination as parents is to keep on pushing. We push until we can’t push any longer. It’s not a badge of honor, but born out of what we feel is necessity. The idea of taking care of ourselves just seems like an impracticality, and can increase our feelings of guilt on multiple levels.
This weekend I was asked, “How do I know when I should pause to take care of myself?” If you are reading this letter, then the time is now.
When our youngest son was a year and a half, my wife Sarah had a physical and emotional breakdown. She had been pushing and pushing, only getting a minimal amount of sleep each day. It was a Sunday morning when she broke down. Sarah—not normally a crier—wept all the way through the church service and all the way home. She cried herself to sleep, slept for 22 hours, woke up, cried some more and slept for another 17 hours.
The thing is, she didn’t wake up feeling refreshed and like she could keep going. She was exhausted. Her hormones were shot and today, ten and a half years later, her health is still struggling.
As a husband and a father, I implore you to take that time now. Don’t wait until it is too late. Your family and your child need you there for the long term. Please take that time, even if it is only five minutes a day.
Self-care doesn’t always have to be something that is grand. Just five minutes a day is a good place to start. Take time to breath. Smell your favorite scented soap as you wash your hands. Eat a piece of dark chocolate. Lay in your bed with your headphones on and listen to your favorite song.
Self-care is not an extravagance. It is not selfish. It is necessary. Please take care of yourself before it is too late.
What are one or two things you can do today to take care of yourself? It is that important.
Jonathan McGuire is the father of two sons and the co-founder of Hope Anew, a nonprofit that comes alongside the parents of children impacted by disability on a spiritual and emotional level. You can follow Hope Anew on Facebook here.