I saw this phrase posted on a group FB page that I follow…and I feel like it was written with me specifically in mind.
I know most parents, women in particular, feel we’re failing our kids if we do anything for ourselves. We feel selfish, and that leads to guilt, then we feel if we deprive ourselves of those things it makes up for our “selfishness”. I am 100% guilty of this. After becoming a mother, I felt guilty leaving my children to go to work, even though it was necessary. I felt guilty wanting to finish my degree, even though I had already invested so much time, money and effort into it and I was so close to the end. I felt guilty for wanting to go to the gym to workout or just leave the house for a walk, run or bike ride. In my head all I could think was that the kids would need me and I wouldn’t be there, or they would think I was trying to get away from them.
I feel like, as a society, we’re slowly getting to the point where self-care is really coming to light in terms of importance of mental health. But even though we are talking the talk, we’re not walking the walk just yet. I see articles daily about how parents rarely take any time for themselves and how we’re all running ourselves ragged tending to our kids’ every need, BUT then when we do take a step back for a quick break, we’re ridiculed and shamed for it. So, we go right back to our self deprecating ways until we’re so stressed that we snap and lash out — and then the same ones who made us feel bad for taking a break are the same ones telling us what lousy parents we are for not taking care of ourselves first. We can’t win.
This deeply affects people like me. People who will always take things personally…people who will feel guilt at the drop of a hat — even if it’s something we didn’t even do…people who will always feel things 10X deeper than what we’re showing you on the outside. This has had a huge impact on me being unsuccessful with loosing weight in the past.
I have felt guilty when trying to make super healthy dinners for the whole family when I was the only trying to loose weight. Like I am depriving them of what they want because I’m the the fat one who can’t loose the weight. I have felt guilty leaving to exercise when there was still so much to do around the house. Like I was slouching on my motherly duties because I couldn’t find a way to get this weight off.
Basically, what it comes down to…I feel guilty simply for being fat.
My kids have “the fat mom”, my husband has “the fat wife.” I feel it when people give me the, “oh, bless her heart” look when they think back to how I used to look as a young, bouncy little cheerleader. And let’s not forget how it’s “such a shame Amie just let herself go like that”. If I’m embarrassed of me, I always feel like others should be embarrassed of me, too. I have been feeling exceptionally down lately and my self esteem has taken a huge blow, all these feelings that everyone is ashamed of me have been creeping into my mind constantly lately. Now, I AM a rational person and I am fully aware that this is not the reality, but when feelings bubble up we feel them no matter what — we don’t have the power to turn feelings on and off, but we have the power to choose what we do when we feel them.
For the last week, I have really forced myself to power through the self loathing and get my ass to the gym, and also just keep moving when I’m at home. I’m proud to report that it has paid off…like, really paid off. Since returning home from vacation, I have dropped 11 pounds in the last 13 days. I am really pushing myself hard on the cardio machines (I alternate between the Precor 100i and the Precor EFX546) until my legs feel like mush. I have started paying extra close attention to my heart rate as I alternate between lower and higher resistances, making sure I fluctuate between my fat-burn range and my peak-high range. I am completely drenched with sweat and out of breathe — but in the last 2 weeks, as soon as I step off the machine I am able to control my breathing and lower my heart rate quickly. My body is becoming more responsive again. FINALLY! During any other attempts at weight loss, I felt like dead weight at the end of any cardio, couldn’t catch my breathe, heart was racing for quite a while afterwards…and then when the kids would bombard me when I was done, I’d feel all the mom guilt for having worked out at all because “clearly” they needed me in those 30 minutes and I selfishly chose to take that away from them. (Once again, just to reiterate, I know this is not the case, but it is what I feel, nonetheless.)
At this point in time, I am going to keep using all these ill feelings to power through my workouts. I know that as more weight drops, the numbers on the scale drop, and my clothing size starts to dwindle, that I am going to begin replacing these ill feelings confidence. On that note, I’ll leave you all with this picture of my peace lily. It takes a beating from lots of tiny little hands. Leaves are torn or ripped off completely, the flowers in the middle are battered and abused — but not matter what, as long as I tend to it a little bit each day, those torn leaves still grow bigger, and new flowers and leaves sill manage to shoot up through all the chaos. Sometimes dead leaves need to be removed completely so they don’t strangle others parts of the plant and slowly kill it, and I take care of those as needed. A little TLC is all that’s needed by plants and humans alike.
My parting song today should be one about resilience, I’m going with Andra Day’s “Rise Up”. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I am certain I need to take care of myself in the mean time. I’m feeling just about as low as I have ever felt about myself right now, sometimes downright hopeless and trapped, but as long as I stay on the right path — no matter the outcome — I’ll be able to take the next step in my life on a healthy, positive, confident note with my head held high.