I Didn’t Take Self-Care Seriously Until I Became a Single Mom

I used to blow off things like massage gift certificates and going to get my hair done at the salon. I’d leave the coupons for a gifted massage to die at the bottom of my purse because I felt guilty about indulging, leaving my kids, or missing an important event to get a rub down.

I’d run box color through my hair to save time and money because deep down, I figured I was a mom who didn’t need such luxuries and I didn’t really deserve it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with box color. But there is something wrong with denying yourself something like that because you don’t think you are deserving.

Finding a therapist crossed my mind many times, but I’d play it off like I could make it through another week without getting help. Also, I didn’t think it would be worth the investment.

woman in running clothes
I always put my self care last. (Pexels mentatdgt)

I always put myself last and that made me resentful

There were times as a married woman I put myself so low on the totem pole that I was unaware of the damage I was doing. Not only to myself, but to my family. I became resentful because I was always present for them, but not for me.

After my ex-husband moved out, I gave myself more reasons to put me last: I had to be there for my kids. I had to work harder than I ever had before to provide us with everything we needed. I had to learn how to turn off water lines and repair loose pieces of siding.

I had no time for me, or so I thought. In reality, I didn’t think there was room in my life for myself out of pure stubbornness, and the mindset that being in the midst of a divorce was no time to take care of me because now, my plate wasn’t only full, it was overflowing.

But, when I listen to how silly that sounds-I’m not married, so I don’t deserve to invest in myself-it makes me realize how wrong I was.

Well, that and the fact I was so depleted I wasn’t able to care for all my new responsibilities in an effective way.

There was a pivotal moment when I was going through my divorce; my best friend’s husband called and told me he’d reserved a room at a spa for two nights for me and my bestie. “Don’t tell her,” he said. “This is a surprise for you and for her. You both need and deserve, this.” He didn’t give me a choice, he didn’t ask me if I wanted to go, he told me I was going.

In that moment, I wanted to tell him I couldn’t go, there was no way I’d enjoy it. I had to be home with my kids.

The truth was there had been plenty of family and friends who had offered to do things for me, including staying with my kids so I could get away. Their father was happy to have extra time with them, and they were definitely getting sick of me crying every day and feeling so exhausted I could barely make it up the stairs to bed each night.

When did I start to matter so little?

I wondered what had happened to me. Why did I think I mattered so little that when a dear friend offered to do something this generous I didn’t feel like I was important enough to accept it? Instead, I thought staying home and plowing through my life was the way to go.

We constantly talk about self-care. We know it’s not just soaking in a tub or getting our nails done. It includes walks, getting out in nature, buying your favorite tea, getting a good therapist, and finally getting a prescription for anti-anxiety medicine you’ve been denying yourself.

But we all know how hard it is to keep up with it. It takes time away from our family, it takes money, it takes a commitment to yourself you can’t break if you want to be consistent.

And I not only want to be consistent so I feel healthy, I need to be consistent for my family.

When my kids are with me, it’s all me. There is no back up. There isn’t someone coming home from work who can fix the broken garage door, or change the light bulb I can’t reach. There isn’t someone in my ear reminding me I feel and act a lot better when I get enough sleep and get in a workout.

That’s all on me now–I do the fixing, the reminding, and the taking care of everyone. And I have to be included in that.

It’s taken a bit of time, but the voice in my head that tells me I don’t need to get that massage, or we don’t need to get take-out, I should just cook even if I’m exhausted, has left the building.

It took realizing no one was going to remind me or save me when I felt like I had nothing left to give my kids. I have to do these things whether I’d taken some time for myself or not.

And my life (and my kids’ lives) have been so much better when I started admitting that taking care of me is just as important as taking care of everyone else.

You may also enjoy:

As Your Empty Nest Looms, How to Focus on Self Care 

Eight Things We All Feel In Our Forties

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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