I am going to address all three of these topics with one important point, one seemingly impossible task, as women we do everything for everyone, that is, except for ourselves.
We work, go to school, raise our children, help others to raise their children, care for our husbands, and seniors and care for our homes. We are leaders, helpers and mothers in our churches, serve on committees and do community work. At night we do not “fall” asleep, instead we pass out later than the other members of our households. And in the morning we rise before anyone else in our house.
We are sleep deprived. We make sure everyone else has enough to eat before we eat and if there is not enough we go without. We find money to send our children on school trips and to go to movies yet we wouldn’t dare spend what little money we have to do these things for ourselves. We beam at the accomplishments of our husbands and children while we think our own are insignificant. We keep going even when we are sick. We put off seeing a doctor until we can schedule a time that does not inconvenience anyone else in our lives.
We are care givers – not care receivers. We do not take care of ourselves. We do not let others take care of us and for this we pay a heavy price.
My mother, who is soon to be 90 years old and the mother of 10 children, fits the above description. She raised her children and put our needs and wants before her own. She cared for her husband for almost 35 years until his death. She was “Mom” to all of our friends. As a registered nurse, she worked full time at a convalescent home. She never took a vacation, hung out with friends and never went to a movie. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that sometimes when she sat at the dinner table with only a cup of tea, saying she wasn’t hungry, that there was only enough food for her children to eat.
After everyone was in bed my mother would start the ironing. I have no memory of ever waking up in the morning while she was still in bed. She was usually in the kitchen or bringing up a basket of wet clothes from the basement.
However, there was one big difference, one thing of importance that I later studied in my mind. My mother managed to take time for herself.
How? How could she possibly have found time for herself? My mother had small methods of self-care. When we were little she had quiet time. She would show us on the clock, before we could even tell time, where the big and little hands would be when quiet time was over.
Then she would lay down with the baby and we would be quiet until the hands on the clock were where they were supposed to be.
When we got older she found other ways. One of my favorite was her announcement from the top of the stairs, wrapped in her bathrobe, that she was taking a “bauth.” Now a “bauth” is very different from a bath. During a bath we could knock on the door to ask a question or complain about what a brother or sister had done to us. We might even have an argument in front of the bathroom door waiting for our mother to holler to stop. But during a “bauth”, which was always a half hour long, we would have to be dead or dying to knock on the door or in any way disturb her or we would end up with a soar behind. This was Mom’s time.