Making Yourself a Priority. Not Selfish – Vital.

As a working mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, teacher – I know all too well what it means to live for others. And, I didn’t even realize how detrimental that was to my identity until I felt completely and utterly empty. I became a void. I felt nothing and it didn’t matter because as long as the to-do list was done and everyone else was okay – then I had accomplished my job.

I didn’t even see how poisoned I was until one little Instagram post last summer. I discussed my deep gratitude for the life I created; however, I couldn’t help but feel exhausted by all of it’s demands. The responses tremendously echoed my sentiments of feeling like all we – as working, married moms – were good for was to serve others.

How had this happened? How had two university degrees, a wonderful career, life-long learning through travel, reading and establishing meaningful connections been boiled down to cooking, cleaning, mountains of laundry, managing a household while still having to look good, keep up said career and aspirations and be gleeful about it? Fuck.

I have never not been happy. Even during the most trying times of my life – I have found an inner joy which kept me going. When I felt that flame was extinguishing – I knew I was in trouble.

Fortunately, the universe brought into my life a chance encounter with a woman whose malas I’ve purchased. And, she, with her deep intuitive knowledge, instantly read my lack of joy, my blocks and gave me some brief direction on how to deal with it.

A plan of action? Sign me up! If there’s a problem I’m the type who needs to find a way to fix it – and fast. I dove in.

Daily meditation. Daily gratitude practice. Daily journaling. Daily excavation of all the things I had buried in order to be the best mom, wife, home owner, guidance counsellor, friend…this led me to Yoga Teacher Training.

But, there were so many BUTS…the time away from the kids and home, the imposition on my husband, mother and mother-in-law to hold things down at home, the amount of reading and work and yoga practice which would take me away from my family.

BUT, the need to do something solely for me was too loud. I somehow worked things out by asking for help, by outlining clearly the time it would take, by allowing my husband to be the father I know he is and my children to know they are just fine without me. I relinquished control on the weekends I was gone – and it was amazing.

I’m just finishing up the in-class portion of my yoga teacher training. It has been a journey of self-discovery unlike any I have ever been on. Yoga has changed my life. I am deeply grateful for the women who encouraged me to go for it, for the women who were by my side for the intense 22 hours every other weekend, for my husband’s humor and complete support at home and our mothers who were there for me by being there for my family.

When I heard the words spoken by Rachel Hollis during my listening to the book, as seen in the excerpts in this post, they resonated in every cell of my body.

The message about being good for others first is delivered so quietly as we grow up, we never think to object. But it slowly eats at our soul and it is up to us to end it. Our children and husbands are happy when we are our best selves because we show up differently. The boundaries I’ve established around mommy’s meditation time and yoga time have been difficult for my children to understand – but they are slowly adjusting. And, I am so bloody happy and full when I finish meditating and my practice – that I mother & wife whole-heartedly. I am once again full of the joy I’ve always felt in my life.

I don’t want to put out the message that my life is perfect and all problems have been solved. Far from it. My struggle now lies in making time to write when my family is at home. That is a big one for me. At least I can see it and acknowledge it. And, do something about it.

In putting my needs first, most of the time(this is still a practice, after all), I can be for my family from a place of love – not obligation, not guilt, not shame, not trying to prove something…but just because I love them.

As hard as it may be, I encourage all of you to find the one thing which sparks you so brightly you feel like you want to explode. And, do it. See the excuses for what they are and lay them to rest. Be the best version of yourself for you, and magically you will be the best version of you for those you love.

Tell me what your journey has been like in the comments below!

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Motherhood

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#6. The laundry.

Oh, the laundry! If you’re just starting your family, invest in the best & largest washer/dryer set your budget allows. Stock up on your favourite brand of stain remover and be prepared to rewash a load which has been sitting in the washer for a few days or wear wrinkled clothes that never quite made it to the hanger because life.

#5. Your Calendar will never be your own again.

Play dates, birthday parties, dentist, doctor, eye doctor, practices, rehearsals, games, recitals. Curriculum nights. Due dates. Is it library or gym day today? Book orders, fundraisers, spirit days, food drives. Pizza orders, milk orders, lunch pails orders because making lunches is the bane of my existence (I wonder if that should be it’s own category?)

#4. You will shop incessantly, except not for yourself.

Because growing bodies need new clothes for every bloody season. Shoes can’t be so big they’re a danger to everyone or so small they’re outgrown in a month. You must analyze weather patterns, predictions for how cold or warm fall/winter or spring/summer will be and then say “f*%! it!” and buy whatever they’ll wear anyway because who has time for arguments about clothes in the morning. Regardless if you go thrift, mall, online, discount stores…you will shop. For them. (And don’t even get me started on gear for sports which need to be purchased months in advanced because by the time the sport is in season, every store everywhere will have every size available except the one which fits your child).

#3. The hostile take-over of your home.

Everywhere you turn there will be evidence of the people you created. And, I don’t mean the play pen, high chair, bouncy chair kind of take over because you decide where those actually go. I mean the toys. The toys! In every corner. And you may swear you will never spoil your child with toys, but everyone else will. And, of course, you will too. Regardless of how many times you sing the damn clean up song, or swear to throw it all away each time your foot is impaled by a sharp object in the middle of the night, or create a game or rewards chart or simply threaten the entire household…the toys will take over your home. (Add to that every single piece of paper they scribble on at school; the problem exponentially grows before your very eyes).

#2. The energy it all takes.

Motherhood is a continuous ebbing and needling and prodding for attention. Everyone needs something. So it’s important to put your energy where it matters.

Weaning them off needing you takes work, too: “You can pour your own cup of milk” “Try the step stool” “Did you check the dishwasher?” “The milk may have been pushed to the back of the fridge” “There’s more paper towels in the storage room downstairs”.

One thing to remember is that every battle doesn’t need to be fought: yes, you may wear a t-shirt and shorts to school on the first cold day of autumn because the cold will get you into warmer clothes faster than I ever can.

Everyone needs something. All the time. And while daddy is sitting right next to them, willing to address their needs, mommy is always the first resource. Even on the good days, the energy required to mother two children, maintain a home and a career is almost miraculous. Never mind this ambitious endeavour of writing on the side.

#1. Self-Care is paramount.

I always loved going to the gym and having “me” time…who doesn’t? I didn’t realize that it would become vital to my very survival. Making time for myself is the only way to keep from breaking down. I do that by (in)consistent yoga practice, (not so) daily meditation and writing, sprinkled with a few outings with dear friends when I can get away. I can feel my entire being rebelling when I haven’t spent the time on my mat, at my keyboard or chatting away with someone I love who is not a part of my family. It’s easy to be swept up in the feeling of being needed by your family, of being indispensable to them…but one day, they will be their own independent people (because that’s the goal, right?) and I want to still have something that’s mine, that can’t be taken away when they’re continuing their journey without my everyday care & guidance.

I think I could write on this topic forever because with motherhood the learning curve has been steep…and, oh so worth it. After all, I wouldn’t be the woman I am without my two and I have to admit, I kinda like her.

Any lessons you’ve learned you’d care to impart? How do you self-care in order to keep going?

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