Amar’e was about four months old. I had just gotten back home and I had about five minutes to myself to spare before my first client of the day would be knocking on my door. I looked in the mirror. I saw how unkept my eyebrows were. Then I looked down. My toe nails were all chipped up like broken potato chips. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the polish had grown out like I had on acrylics and I needed a fill in.
I just began to cry. “What’s going on?” I thought to myself. After months of waking up through the night a minimum of four times per night I realized I was sleep deprived. But it was more than that. I had come to understand that the unresolved feelings of motherhood, were intricately connected to self-care; and that, as amazingly motherhood often is, it is also really, really, hard-and that sometimes I was in over my head.
I would get up, get Amar’e and myself dressed. Rush him off to daycare. Then I would come home, sometimes not even having enough time to eat breakfast or have a morning cup of tea. Once I get home, I have to service my clients. I am a nail tech by trade. I’m slightly anxious all day because I have to be done working by 5:30. Amar’e has to be picked up by 6:00. Then when I pick Amar’e up, he’s looking forward to his afternoon breastfeeding, which was one of my favorite parts of the day as well. After we are done with our bonding time, it’s time for dinner, baths, play time, and bed. Once Amar’e is sleeping, I have to clean up the mess from constantly rushing all day. Then it is time to get things situated for the next day. Next thing you know I’m exhausted. So off to bed I go to do it all over again the next day.
For the first time, it was like God spoke to me and said, “you cry because you have to figure out just exactly who you are.”
I started reflecting; what’s going on with me? This is supposed to be one of the best times of my life. I thought to myself. Why do I feel like I’m just existing instead of living? I did a little mental checklist:
- Healthy beautiful baby, check.
- I’m with someone whom I love so much, he’s a great dad, and he takes wonderful care of us, check.
- I waited until I was ready to have a baby, check.
I went on and on about all of these wonderful things I had going on, to end up with the feeling of being miserable, feeling depleted, and constantly second guessing myself. Then it made sense. I had all of these priorities. Only to realize that I was nowhere on that list. But guess what list I was on? This check list I read about in an article entitled, “Stressed-Out Moms Need to Take Care of Themselves.” According to Dr. Robi Ludwig’s five signs that your stress level might be getting to you are as follows:
- You frequently feel frustrated and cranky, even about little things.
- You experience chronic feelings of guilt and self-doubt.
- You feel like you are just going through the motions of your day.
- You tend to feel tired and unmotivated.
- You have repeated physical symptoms such as headaches and insomnia, as well as other sleep-related difficulties.
This is exactly what I was feeling. So, I would often complain to my Nana and she would listen. Then she would often gently tell me that I am more than Amare’s mom. Which would lead to tears every time. I cried every time I heard that, like it was the first time that I had ever heard it. The very last time that she said that to me I was driving to school. She said, “Why do you cry every time I say that to you?” I replied sobbing harder, “I do know!” So we said our “I love yous,” and hung up the phone. For the first time, it was like God spoke to me and said, “you cry because you have to figure out just exactly who you are.” So now that my son is three here is where the journey begins.
Right at that moment I was addicted to him. I was not only in love, but in love with the feeling of being needed by this little helpless angel. I was honored that God chose me to take care of this beautiful blessing.
I had Amar’e August 17, 2013. That had to be the best day of my life. My labor was as easy as my pregnancy. I knew Amar’e was special he came out with one push. I was a proud mommy. The doctor placed Amar’e on me and our eyes met. It was love at first sight. I was embodied by this huge sense of euphoria. I finally felt that genuine feeling of unconditional love. I could remember watching labor and delivery shows and when the doctor would place those babies on their moms. I thought to myself, I don’t want that yucky stuff all over me. I also thought it was probably smelly, it looked smelly to me. But, when that doctor placed my 6lbs. 11ozs. of perfection on me, I didn’t even care. Our eyes met and I said to him, “hi baby, I’ve been waiting to meet you!” Right at that moment I was addicted to him. I was not only in love, but in love with the feeling of being needed by this little helpless angel. I was honored that God chose me to take care of this beautiful blessing.
As beautiful as bringing a child into this world is, unfortunately, that’s just not enough. It’s not enough to heal old wombs. Though I was blessed to escape post-partum depression which effects 15% of women, I still had my own unresolved issues. Issues of knowing that it was time to make more of myself. After having Amar’e my finances were very unstable. Thank God for a supportive mate and Nana. With unstable finances, I became a Negative Nancy. I found myself complaining all the time. I talk to my Nana every morning. I guess this one particular morning my Nana was tired of me complaining. She said, “tell me something that you are grateful for.” I was still being a Negative Nancy, and I said, “I’m grateful I’m breathing.” Though I was not that receptive to gratitude that day something sparked in me. We did that same thing every day and I developed an attitude of gratitude. My outlook on life brightened. The love of my life, Rod encouraged me to enroll back into school. While the other love of my life, Nana offered to support me financially by paying for my last five classes that I needed to obtain my A.A. degree. School was something that I had ran from for over ten years because I had a fear of College Algebra. So I have one womb repaired, check. So this other pesky little deep womb that I have is abandonment. I am a product of teenaged parents. Not only am I a product of teenaged parents, I am product of drug addicted parents. Please don’t cry for me, or pity me. God blessed me with my Nana. Nana is my dad’s mom. Many people say that their child is the best thing that has ever happened to them. I have to say Nana is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I say that because if it weren’t for her I would not be the wonderful woman and mother that I am. Nana loved me endlessly, cared for me like no other, she nurses my wombs of abandonment to this day. In my eyes she is perfection.
It wasn’t until someone brought to my attention that this whole notion of mom’s making themselves priority is a self-esteem issue. At first I was offended, because I never thought of myself as having a self-esteem issue. A common effect of child abandonment is low self-esteem. I thought about it, this makes sense. I could see how if your parents don’t make you a priority.
I am obsessed with the topic of wanting to know when and how moms learn to make themselves a priority. Have these moms made themselves a priority? Are they on the journey to making themselves a priority? Since I speak to women all day while doing nails, it is really a therapeutic experience. It’s a time where women can be as honest as they like. A no judgement zone in my cozy, warm green colored, mini nail salon in my house. I always start the conversation off by being completely honest and transparent about my struggle of making myself a priority in my own life. Then that builds the foundation for a safe sacred place for the women who are important to me. To free themselves.
When women are honest they find out that they are not alone in the struggle of motherhood. Being authentic about your feelings gives not only the woman you are connecting with strength, but also helping you as well. When moms are honest with each other, fears are conquered, challenges are faced, and confusion is lessened. It is beautiful. Right before your eyes sisterhoods are formed. Many times women are stressed out with giving all of themselves to everyone and feeling depleted. For example, when a mom has worked all day, come home, taken care of the kids, cooked dinner, and cleaned the kitchen, All she wants to know is someone to understand how and what she is feeling. For whatever reason, we seem to think that we have to do it all and be it all.
The other day I was doing one of my favorite peoples’ nails. My friend Tammy. She is like a mom, big sister, aunt, and friend all wrapped in one. We have a very open and honest friendship, so it’s safe to assume I know her pretty well. I casually asked her when did she start or learn to make herself a priority? She told me recently. During her divorce. I was shocked because Tammy is one of those people who always seem to have it together. When I say have it together I am talking about a genuine characteristic of having it together. Her house is always immaculate. She is a hair stylist by profession so her hair is always pretty. Every two weeks like clockwork she is in my chair at 9:30 a.m. I have never seen her car disheveled. It’s always clean. Her car is almost ten years old and you would never know it. Tammy has one biological child and two step children. She cared for, nurtured, and loved her step children as her own. Tammy made sure that each one of her children when they moved out have a vehicle, and a fully furnished apartment. Even to this day she is there for her children and they are all adults. She remembers everyone’s birthday. When someone she knows is in the hospital, she makes it her business to go visit them, take them some fruit, or anything else she thinks would put a smile on their face. When someone she knows dies, she doesn’t do like most people and call their local florist. Tammy personally makes them a flower arrangement. Any friend of Tammy’s who is being honored for something, or it is a birthday, or baby shower, or anything of that nature. She is right there to support in any way she can. When I had my baby shower she handmade all of the centerpieces. Every last centerpiece was different; it was unbelievable. She drove around town looking for the things that she needed for the centerpieces. Tammy worked tirelessly for weeks after a ten-hour work day to assemble these centerpieces. She never complains, and she is always so well put together. I just assumed she made herself a priority in her life.
After reflecting on Tammy and my conversation I realized, she was doing what so many women do. With all the “doing,” there’s one thing women agree isn’t happening: They are so busy taking care of everyone else that they aren’t taking care of themselves. It is amazing that Tammy is so self-less that she seemed to forget the need to take care of herself. She told me for years she only went to the doctor on an as-need basis. We are taught by society to not be selfish, as if that’s a negative thing. I learning that it is not necessary a bad thing to be selfish. If the word selfish makes you uncomfortable, say self-full.
In order for the cup to runneth over it has to be full. What is in the cup is for “you”. What runneth over is for everyone else.
One Sunday afternoon after I prepared the boys favorite chicken alfredo. The house was clean and laundry was done. Amar’e was napping, and Rod was watching football. I had a little time to myself. While fumbling through the channels I ran across Oprah’s Life class. Iyanla Vanzant was saying it’s important to be self-full. I’m paraphrasing, but she said that old quote, “my cup runneth over”. In order for the cup to runneth over it has to be full. What is in the cup is for “you”. What has runneth over, is for others. She went on to say when you allow people to take, take, take, you are allowing them to be emotional robbers. That’s not fair to you or others. For many women all that Tammy does would make them crazy and miserable. But she happens to enjoy it. It was after her split from her husband when she realized she needed balance though. People seem to have had what was in her cup, and what had runneth over. So the new Tammy is figuring out what makes her happy. She has committed herself to Christ. She is challenging herself with public speaking. Tammy has also made a conscience effort to stop running to everyone’s rescue which has shown her who genuinely loves her. Most importantly, she has made herself a priority and has been making frequent doctor appointments. I am so very proud of my friend.
Have you ever made one of those connections with someone who has gone through something similar to what you have gone through? That’s what I had the pleasure of sharing with my classmate named Deb. Deb and I share that sisterhood feeling that I spoke of earlier when women connect and understand this whole motherhood thing. When I shared with her my interest in moms making themselves a priority, she got it. As I talked she just had this reassuring smile, followed by several nods. I learned that Deb had her daughter in her early twenties. Deb knew early on that she would be raising her child alone, and she was okay with that. Deb embraced motherhood, and her mother agreed to help her. Her mom knew how important it was for Deb to enjoy what young adulthood was like, so Deb’s mom told her that she could enjoy and experience all of the pleasures of being a single young woman. The deal was for Deb to enjoy her twenties. Her mom said, “just don’t forget that you are mom and you have responsibilities.” Deb’s mom help afforded her to go out and enjoy the night life. She would be able to go out for drinks and dinner with friends. Meet different guys and experience the dating life. Take trips with her girlfriends and still be a mom to her daughter.
When Deb told me this, I immediately thought of that gentle nudge my Nana gave about “you’re more than Amare’s mom.” What I understood from that conversation is that Deb’s mom understood that though you are a mom it is so important to make yourself a priority so that you can be the best mom that you can be. Had Deb deprived herself from experiencing the things that twenty-somethings do, she may have been resentful at the fact that she was a young mom. I was pleased to know that Deb’s mom afforded her the opportunity to enjoy herself. Deb has put her daughter through college. She has also supported her husband while he obtained his master’s degree. Her family was so grateful for her sacrifice that they encouraged her to go back to school to peruse her dreams and goals. Her husband was also caring enough to allow her not to work so she can solely focus on herself. This was a story that many people don’t her about. Deb’s sacrifices did not go unnoticed and her family was grateful for her. That really warmed my heart. Deb is making herself a priority!
Erica is client of mine who has been loyal to me for about fifteen years. When I met Erica she was just a baby. Erica was about fifteen years old. Not only was Erica a baby, she was having a baby. Unlike Deb, Erica had no one to help make her life easier. Erica had to figure it out on her own. I watched this young lady, in spite of the adversity she dealt with handle her situation like an exemplary adult. There was a Long John Silver’s restaurant right next to my job and Erica worked there. There were times she had no babysitter; her job allowed her to bring her baby to work with her that’s how hard working and determined she was. I never heard her complain. Erica ended up having three more kids, and she did a beautiful job loving her children and supplying all of their needs and most of their wants. She has always handled motherhood pretty effortlessly. So I asked her when did she decide to make herself a priority. She said for her, she felt ok to make herself priority once her children were more self-sufficient.
Once Erica was ready to make herself priority she enrolled into Valencia College. When she finished there she transferred to UCF. Erica will be graduating in the Spring. She has also managed to lose about fifty pounds and keep it off. She works out six days a week. She told me that’s a stress reliever for her. Like Burton writes in The Self Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well Being, Erica was aware that she needed to take care of herself in order to be the healthiest version of herself mentally and physically. Erica told me she understood that she had no one there to through her a life raft, so she learned to depend on herself. So that meant if she had to take her baby to work. She did the best she could do with limited resources until she could do better. She is definitely doing better. Erica makes sure to make herself a priority. She lives a healthy lifestyle. She is about to finish school. Erica allows herself time for a social life, and travel.
Every mom that I have spoken with neglected themselves at some point for the love of their children and families. What I got out of these conversations is, it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as you get it. All moms need to know and make themselves a priority. You have to put your own oxygen mask on first. If you go to pieces, everyone is going down with you. So you have to give time to yourself. Mom’s try to achieve this “idealized or perfect mother”. Well, guess what? She doesn’t exist. We just have to do the best we can do. Ask for help when you need. Respect yourself and others will follow suit. Make time for yourself, because you deserve it. And just enjoy the honor and privilege that has been given to you.
I know and understand that my journey is nowhere over. However, I am grateful that I had the guts to have the conversation about not making myself priority. Had I never done this, not only would I have failed myself. I would have failed everyone around me. Every day I have to make effort and remind myself that I have to be a priority in my life. So I schedule appointments to do the things that make me happy like getting my hair done, my eyebrows done, and monthly waxing appointments. This works because by setting an appointment I have prioritized myself. I am also making an effort to ask Rod for assistance when I need help or am feeling overwhelmed. This whole self-esteem issue is really new, so I remind myself how important I am daily. I also make a conscious effort to treat myself with the same love and respect that I give to others. I am doing better about what I eat. I am doing better by getting the adequate rest that I need. I am also taking time to reflect on what it is that I really need and want. All of this self-reflection has me in this euphoric state. I feel like I am enjoying my boys Rod and Amar’e more now than ever.
Burton, Julie. The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well
Being. She Writes Press, http://bit.ly/1nPCfuF 2016.
Vanzant, Iyanla. “Why You Should Put Yourself First”. Oprah’s Lifeclass . 28 March 2012
Mack, Tammy. Personal Interview. 10 October 2016.
Carter Leonard, Debbie . Personal Interview. September 2016.
Wheat, Erica. Personal Interview. 17 October 2016.
Ludwig, Robi Dr. “Stressed Out Moms Need to Take Care of Themselves.” Today.com 11 May
Kavita Varma-White. In “doing it all,” moms neglect an important person: themselves.
Today.com 13 January 2014.
Pam MS, NCSP. “Psychological Effects of Child Abandonment.” Psychologydictionary.com.