The classes for adoption and foster care often encourage parents to practice self care. We were told to have respite lined up, to exercise, and eat well. I can't tell you how many times the example of the adult putting the oxygen on first, then the kid in an airline emergency is used to encourage us to take care of ourselves. Those of us embarking on the journey, even those of us who were already parents, tend to hear those words and nod. We agree that this advice makes sense, and we are doing many of these things already.
Then the kids come.
And we find that it is a lot more difficult to care for ourselves when we have children with such great needs.
But we survive somehow. We learn ways to feed ourselves in the midst of feeding our children. We find another rhythm of going through each day until another crisis comes. Then we feel knocked off our feet for a bit, and taking care of ourselves gets pushed out of the way as we struggle to care for our children. And as we see the signs of stress in our bodies and minds, we realize that Mama needs to get some oxygen, or neither adult nor child will make it.
The past few weeks has been very stressful. Hubby is out of state, I worked hard to get the house ready to sell with the help of family and friends, the younger kids have been acting out, and now we have to leave the house at a moment's notice while people walk through our home. A week ago I was in a puddle on the floor, shaking with cold and anxiety. And even though losing ten pounds is welcome, doing it in three weeks can't be very healthy. The stress was getting to me, and it wasn't going to make me a better parent.
So this weekend I have been feeding mama. If I'm going to get through the next few weeks of transition and change, if I'm going to help my kids through it, I need to be in good shape.
So Friday evening I went out with my school friend and her husband. It was awesome that we were able to see each other twice in one year after so many years of being apart. We still marvel that we can be such good friends still. Most friendships cool as people change. Ours is perhaps even stronger, since we have years of adult perspective on life. She was able to detect a rising anxiety level in me as I was worrying about the move and the kids, even before I saw it in myself. Our lives have taken such different paths, so it is amazing how close we still are. It was so good to escape parenthood and house selling for a night, and enjoy good company with her and her husband. It was wonderful to see how happy my friend is, her awesome talents, and how blessed she's been.
Yesterday was a big day of house selling. There was an open house in the afternoon, so I let the kids go with friends and I went to my daughters' place and took a nap. I really needed the rest. Then in the evening I went to church without the kids. We will work on church attendance later, but I needed to go. And even though Ms. D texted me in the middle of worship time with sore throat complaints, I still was able to participate.
Because I've been feeding myself for the past couple of days, I feel refreshed. Yes, I've let a few things slide with the kids, but I wasn't in any shape to help them before I lowered my anxiety level. I can better calm them by modeling peace and joy. But there isn't much peace or joy when mama is exhausted.
So Mama is fed. Mama is rested. And Mama is ready to take on another busy day!