Maintenance Required. When that message popped up on my dashboard display, I felt like my car was judging me. How dare it suggest I need a bit of self care! Yes, I’ve been working long hours, super-busy with kids’ projects and homework and events, still getting up to speed in my new role at work, having a midlife crisis (yes, I think I’ve hit that age. Isn’t this when 80’s movies would just depict men buying convertibles? Maybe I’ll try that.), trying to keep things in perspective, figuring out how to talk to my kids about school shootings, trying to laugh instead of yell when the sh!t hits the fan at home, doing a 5-week health and fitness challenge in which I’ve lost approximately no weight, trying to be a supportive friend to some great people going through hard stuff, dealing with winter sickness in kids, all while managing a household and a family and a job . . . I know, every mom could recite a list just like this, and it’s the reason we joke about wine a lot and desperately need to plan some me-time or girls’ nights out.
But, really — Maintenance Required? With those words lit up on my dash, staring me in my face, I realized it was right. I was in dire need of a little self care. Here’s how I knew, and what you can do about it if you find yourself in the same situation:
I’m not talking about the fact that I haven’t routinely painted my nails since 10 years ago when I was pregnant the first time. Nor the fact that I treat myself to a manicure only maybe twice a year, and I ruin my nails within an hour of leaving the salon by playing with toy trucks or washing dishes or reaching into my purse to get a snack or a Bandaid or a tissue for one of my three boys. I’m talking about the day I realized that I had clipped my nails on one hand . . . but not the other. Can you say busy mom, anyone? Or overwhelmed to the point of oblivion? There I was in my office wondering whether anyone had noticed the disparity in nail lengths and whether I was about to become the most annoying, disgusting person in the company who may dare to use a nail clipper in the office. I didn’t. I waited until I got home.
Many years ago, a friend of mine had a large rock stuck in the heel of her shoe and didn’t notice. It wasn’t until she got home from work and her son said, “Mom, I think there’s a boulder in your shoe” did she realize that she had been walking a little unevenly during the day. I laughed and wondered how she could have been so unaware (except that I only half-wondered, because she’s one of those ridiculously smart people who doesn’t always see the world right around them because their brain is working at such a higher level). Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I heard a clicking sort of sound as I walked through the halls of my office wearing my favorite leather boots. I noticed it. I felt it. A piece of my boot’s heel had come loose. Devastating, because I love these boots. I thought to myself, “This might be the first time I ever really need a shoemaker! Remember to ask S who she goes to.” I tucked that reminder in my brain. A week after that, I found a piece of the heel of the boot under my desk at work, realizing I, too, had been walking slightly unevenly and not noticing. Truth: I put the piece in my purse and it has been there ever since, waiting for me to call a shoemaker.
I walked into my kitchen the other day, and this is what the trash looked like:
Overflowing is an understatement. And, yet, my next move was not to go empty it! Not because it looked heavy or because I figured B would do it, but because it wasn’t an immediate need, and the “Mom! Mom! MOM!!!” calls coming from the family room were. But this garbage situation, coupled with the wonderful gift my parents brought D last week — Mercer Mayer’s “Just a Mess” — was a maintenance light flashing in my face.
So, what can we do when we realize Mommy needs Maintenance? Here’s how I’m handling it. What works for you?
- I’m inventing a nail clipper that plays a song until all ten nails are clipped.
- Just kidding about #1. But I am trying to ensure I am more present in very routine activities than I otherwise have been because they’re so routine. I really should look in the mirror before going to work. And I really should have noticed the nail situation while putting on my rings that morning. Practicing being present in my own routine activities will strengthen my ability to do it with my kids, too, like looking them in the eye and speaking calmly when my heart is racing and my brain is ready to explode and my mouth wants to yell “I’ve asked you 15 times to put your shoes on!!!!”
- I’m figuring out my maintenance schedule. I’m worth more to the world than my car, right? I routinely take care of it, so I should routinely take care of me, too. I should think of self care like a medical appointment. If I have a bad cough for weeks, I’ve definitely called the doctor. It’s no different. I’m making time for exercise, even if it’s just twice a week. And it feels amazing. I’m remembering to plan dinners out with my friends. And to ensure I have one-on-one time with each of my boys — it’s amazing what that can do for the soul — theirs and mine.
- I’m trying to do things that keep me sane. Even the little things, like having the kids help put away laundry after I fold it (yes, world, the source of all that loud complaining was my house when I told them they had to help), or making sure I take out the garbage when it’s full instead of watching it get overstuffed. It’s the little things!
What’s your maintenance routine? How do you engage in self care for your sanity?