The Case for Self-Care

Me at Pure Barre, taking care of me.
When in an emergency situation "put your mask on first". We have all heard this when preparing for take off. The very basic concept is if you are struggling to breath and frantically trying to place the oxygen mask on your loved one, you will pass out before you can help them. This is the perfect analogy for life. It certainly is a perfect mindset for parenthood. I need to put my mask on first everyday. This isn't selfish. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Such a silly cliche' but it's true. For the first few years of my daughter's life I fumbled with her oxygen mask and beat myself up every time I failed to put it on. Around the time I was putting together that my daughter was "different" I was completely losing it. I was anxious all the time. It took nothing for me to snap. My marriage was strained because we were both anxious and fumbling with other people's masks. At the urging of family I began going to therapy when my daughter was 14 months old. This was also around the time I started taking Zoloft. I felt like a failure. I wasn't able to fix 'this' on my own.

But after a few months of going to therapy I began to see the value in self-care. I began to feel a bit better. And I am very thankful I was already in therapy when we got Sofie's diagnosis. I felt like my mental health had a booster shot before being exposed to the label I had feared: Autism. In those first few months of the diagnosis and ensuing therapies, I often needed to be reminded to put my mask on first. There was a lot of crying in frustration and feelings of isolation. I was frustrated at my daughter, frustrated at me, my husband, the world-all of it. But we made it through that first year. My husband and I got through it. But in the years to come I had a nagging question "Should we have another child?" I always imagined having two kids. But now I couldn't imagine how that would work. What if the baby has Autism too but is more severe? How would I keep Sofie from accidentally harming the baby? How would I give the baby enough attention with all that Sofie needs? How would my marriage survive it? All these questions came from a place of fear. They came from this idea that we were drowning. It came from this idea that there was no way I could put on all these masks and have enough air in my lungs to put on my own mask. But as I was having all these questions swirl around in my head, I had to deal with outside questions. People would ask me if I thought a sibling could help Sofie socialize. I would hear about how special a sibling bond could be. Great! More pressure! Every birth announcement on Facebook felt like an addressed letter to me "Kristin, (Fill in the Blank) is a more capable person than you. You are drowning. Best of luck."

 As time wore on, life got easier. My husband and I were adjusting really well to the new normal. Of course, not without bumps and bruises along the way but we were happy. And it began to dawn on me, I liked it being just the three of us (four if you count our bird). My husband and Sofie loved it too. I now realize that the decision to not have any more kids is my husband and I putting ourselves, our daughter and our marriage first and turning our backs to expectation. I see now we could have another child but we don't want to-and that's okay. We, as a society, have to stop pressuring people to have kids. Self-care is important, it is crucial. It makes you a better person. Because with enough air in my lungs I can go the distance for my kid. There are no awards for martyr of the year despite what your facebook newsfeed or instagram may suggest. This may be all I can handle AND feel like I am taking really good care of myself and tending to my marriage and that is okay. There are other people that could be in my exact situation that would be like "bring on more kids!" But that's not me. And that fact doesn't make either myself or the hypothetical woman better or worse. We all have to map out our own paths to contentment. I'm certainly not "there" but I like the path I am on. Would I like a little more professional success or money in my pocket? Sure. But I think everyone can say that, even the immensely successful. For now, on this rainy Tuesday, I will say that I am doing alright. And tomorrow I may feel like a complete failure or I might feel pretty good about my decisions. Who knows. This is all a process. And I am going to keep putting my mask on first. And I suggest you all do the same.

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