As you stand at the kitchen counter eating toast and chugging coffee while paying the electric bill, the clock on the stove says you need to be in the car in 15 minutes if you are going to be at the office on time. You still have to figure out what to take out of the freezer for dinner, run the curling iron through your hair, feed the cat, take out the garbage, finish the 15 year old’s school list and wake the 19 year old to remind him that he promised grandpa he’d mow the lawn today.
You’ve been up since 5:30 making lists, crossing things off lists, and doing the work you can from home.
What doesn’t get done this morning can be done on your lunch hour, unless you’re lucky enough to work far enough away from home that it isn’t practical to drive home for lunch. In that case, I want to be you.
On your lunch hour you schedule appointments, return emails, check in with the kids to see how they are doing on their lists. You make sure you have enough milk for tomorrow morning so that you don’t have to stop at the store on the way home. Then you realize that you are out of spaghetti, and you’ve already taken the sauce out of the freezer. Before jumping in the car to head back to the office, you rummage through the pantry and find some macaroni. Spaghetti sauce and macaroni make goulash, for the win! You still don’t have to stop at the store.
It’s the small victories that get you through the day.
After work there will be World History, polynomials, and helping with the sewing of the Halloween costume. You will discuss what kind of tires his truck will need for winter and where to find the money for tires. You’ve checked the forecast and know that snow is coming, so you’ll need to move firewood into the garage. You’ll have to make a couple work calls that you were supposed to make earlier in the day. Oh, and then there’s cooking dinner, too.
You stop for a second to check social media while the water comes to a boil for the macaroni. You see a post about how important it is to take care of yourself – more on that tired old line about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. Your eye roll is audible. You think to yourself, “Who has time for self-care? If I take time to take care of myself, how will everything else get done?” And then you realize that you take several minutes a few times a day to check in on Facebook, and kick yourself because those groupings of a few minutes here and there could easily turn into a solid half-hour of self-care.
As you pour the bag of macaroni into the boiling water, you picture yourself lounging somewhere for 30 whole minutes. It feels icky. It feels self-centered. It feels like you don’t deserve it.
As you stir the macaroni and turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, you picture your kids taking time out of their day for some self-care. Maybe she sketches or plays with the cat. Perhaps he grabs a pole and heads for a fishing hole or plays pool with his friends. It occurs to you that you wouldn’t think they were being at all selfish. You would be glad to see them making their mental health a priority.
As you take turns stirring the sauce in one pan and the macaroni in another, you realize that they won’t learn to make themselves a priority if you don’t show them.