A Secret for All Moms

wendy and boys april 2003

I have a secret for us moms.

While I could share my secret with Dads, I tend to believe that the men do a much better job taking care of themselves. I guess it is in their genes. Maybe it’s a hunter/gatherer type of phenomenon. Regardless, the secret I am about to share is solely for us girls—with kids.

You might be thinking what could this secret possibly be? Is it a fail-safe rule book regarding how to give equally divided attention to all of your children simultaneously without any of them feeling slighted? Is it the how-to-help siblings show understanding before shooting barbed insults at each other? Or maybe it’s a how do we deal with our uncommunicative teen whose face is constantly illuminated by the blueish-white glow from the electronic device braced two inches from their faces? Forget the old 1970s adage that if you watch too much TV, you’ll go cross-eyed. You can’t use that one anymore.

While those are all fabulous questions of which I wish I had the answer, that’s not my secret. My secret was told to me when my boys were 7 and 5. I spent most of my days like all other mothers, balancing work; constantly tidying; shuttling kids to and from activities; struggling with homework; managing bedroom clean-up; advocating for my mis-understood son; meeting with teachers; fielding phone calls from school; crying; making sure teeth are brushed; bodies are clean; healthy food is eaten; books are read; games are played; refereeing time limits on the tv; solving fights; dealing with fresh talk, selfish behavior, and frustrated attitudes. I did this like all of you, day in and day out. Never mind my poor husband. Thank god, he was good at speaking up for himself and doing things that suited him. He was on the bottom of my responsibility list for many, many years. At least, I was the last one on the rung—so he wasn’t down there alone.

I spent day after day, longingly gazing at other moms at the playground wishing to be them. They looked clean, freshly ironed, and peaceful in comparison to my harried frizzy-do, and crumpled clothes that sat in the dryer too long. It took everything I had to be dressed, teeth brushed and kids taken care of. Did I mention that my youngest was a major HANDFUL?

During a crying bout with on the phone with a long-time friend, she shared with me this amazing gift. Her words were: “When was the last time you focused on you?” I had a million and one reasons why this wasn’t ever possible. I could never turn my phone off, even when my kids were in school because sure as a full moon would light up a sky, I would have to rush over to school to either pick up my kid or meet with an administrator. I had to sit next to both of my boys while they did homework or it would never get accomplished. Then, laundry, dinner, dishes, bath, bed and SLEEP.

So, I simply responded, “never”. After an hour of debate, I finally truly let her words sink into me like the bubble bath I deeply needed. She drilled into me that the mom is the center of the family universe, the beating heart per say. When the heart is over-working and pumping with only one chamber, the body is not able to achieve balance. It becomes un-balanced, weak and possibly ends in a heart-attack. My friend asked me what would I need to do for all four chambers to be properly working and thereby pumping blood and oxygen to the rest of the body (also known as the family)?

Suddenly, I began to spout. Item by item, I detailed the things I could do to rejuvenate. Without talking myself out of anything, I just orated a list: get a massage, read a book, go to yoga, spend one hour with a friend having coffee, have a pedicure once a month, get a babysitter and have a nice dinner with the husband, stroll through TJ Maxx and buy something new to wear, go for a swim, take an art class, take piano lessons, find someone to walk with in the early morning, join a support group, go out and listen to live music, get another massage, etc. Once I’d finished, she asked me to pick one that I would do this week. It was a mandatory pact between us. I was required to do it and report back how I felt. There was no breaking this promise. Heck, we’d been friends since the fourth grade.

If you think about it, the Army wouldn’t knowingly hire an unstable, unhealthy Commander in Chief? Would they?
So I did it. I opted for a pedicure. It was simple, didn’t take up too much time and wasn’t over the top expensive. In the bright of day, surrounded by 20 other woman—I fell sound asleep in the massage chair as the kind-hearted pedicurist gave me a little extra attention. I must have really looked like I needed it. As I walked out into the sunshine after paying, I felt as though I was walking on air. My smile broadened, my shoulders came down a few inches from my ears and I started to feel like me again. I sent a whispered thanks into the air for my friend, Kitty who knew that if I wasn’t taking care of myself well, how could I take care of the ones that truly relied on me?

My gosh… what a great secret to know! You mean to say that I don’ t have to be weary to the bone, day in and day out? That simple $30 act helped me to gain perspective, breathe and allow myself a luxury that I hadn’t had in years. Every time I looked at my pretty pink toes, I saw a reminder that I’m worthy of attention too. Those toes reminded me to breathe first and fill up my vessel so that I can be of service to the ones that mattered most. As the days and years wore on, I learned to add a few more items to my accomplishments and became an even better mother because I too felt nurtured.

One might say, that’s no big secret. And I must disagree. I know hundreds of moms that are in the position I was in feeling frayed at the seams. Being a Martyr helps no one. Being nourished as a mom helps everyone. It’s like the tree that gets fertilized in the summer and autumn to provide a deliciously scrumptious fruit. When the tree isn’t fertilized, it suffers and the fruit is tough and a bit dried out.
Make a pledge with me today as you read this. Promise me that you’ll do one nice thing for yourself this week. If done with full enthusiasm, that one nice thing will turn into a pattern and then hopefully into a habit.

Cheers to us amazing moms!

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