I am stubborn. Like, really REALLY stubborn. Probably one of my worst traits is that I think I’m invincible. I take pride in being the working mom who does it all and rarely suffers a Pinterest fail. And I like it like that. No, I LOVE it like that. I thrive off of accolades and the “How DO you have the time and energy to do that?!?” queries. I am in a constant battle of one-upsmanship. Not with other moms, though … with myself.
Those teacher gifts? They’ll be much more creative next time … I just need to get a glue gun. That Elf? Oh, I know the kids will be even more excited when they see what I have planned for tomorrow night! Our next family trip? Wouldn’t be complete without surprises hidden in the kid’s special airplane bags (yes, special airplane bags!).
A few weeks ago I had dinner with one of my very best friends who re-hashed the horrors of her ill-fated assignment as “room mom” for one of her kid’s school parties. “Never again” she said as she recounted the judgy judgerton eyes of the other expert room moms when they realized my friend hadn’t brought forks. “No forks! What will they eat their grapes with?!?” After our laughter died down, all I could think was that I am THAT mom … without the judgy judgerton eyes, of course.
Which brings me to my New Year’s Resolution for 2016…
If you thought I was going to say, “I’m hanging up my cape!”, you don’t know me well enough. Remember that part about me being stubborn? Well, no flipping of the calendar will change that. But here’s what has to happen this year, and what I am truly going to make an effort to do. I’m going to take better care of me. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is the standard “Resolution Heard ‘Round the World” each year. But for me, this year is different … it has to be.
Two years ago while attending the Children with Diabetes “Friends for Life Conference,” I decided to take advantage of the free retinal screenings that are offered. I’ve had 20/20 vision my entire life and, being the perfectionist that I am, wanted to keep my perfect record going.
After a series of tests at a handful of fancy machines I was told by one of the staffers that Dr. Ben would need to speak with me before I left (cue ominous music). I had no idea who “Dr. Ben” was or why he needed to chat … I just assumed he would be coming to give me a congratulatory high-five for having rocked the exams. I was wrong.
After shaking my hand and introducing himself, Dr. Ben asked me if my husband was also at the conference and if he could come meet us. While most people would have been nervous about why he’d be making this request, my over-confident self thought Dr. Ben just wanted Greg to be there to share in the high fiving.
When Greg arrived Dr. Ben asked us if I had any stress in my life. Hah! Hilarious, right? Here we are at a type 1 diabetes conference with 3-year-old triplets. Stress? Nah. Life is easy peasy.
Though his face was full of kindness, it was obvious Dr. Ben was concerned about something. He proceeded to tell us that the detailed scans of my eyes showed the beginnings of retinal detachment and that the cause was most certainly stress. His message was clear: I needed to eliminate some causes of stress in my life or the progression would continue.
I promised Dr. Ben that I would take it easy and that I’d delegate some responsibilities at home to Greg. I told him that I’d try not to succumb to my desire to be super mom, and to not worry if things didn’t turn out just perfect. I made all of these promises to Dr. Ben, to Greg and to myself … but I lied.
Fast forward to July 2015. Same conference. Same exams. However, I was confident that the results would be different … and they were. Dr. Ben shook my hand and asked me if I could call Greg again to meet us. I did so happily knowing he wanted us both to hear how proud he was of the strides we’d made in the past year and that things looked great.
He asked me if I’d taken his advice from the previous year to try and eliminate some stress from my life and if I thought the scans would show improvement. I nodded confidently and told him I thought I’d done a good job of delegating and not trying to do so much. I could tell by the look on his face that the smile on my face and the upbeat tone of my voice wasn’t going to change the truth.
As the doc walked us through the images of my retinal scan, pointing out the quadrants in red indicating the already irreparable damage, I could feel the reality of my choices settling in.
“You will develop tunnel vision and you’ll slowly lose the ability to see …”
Believe it or not this statement wasn’t the one that drove home the severity of the situation. The realization that I would possibly begin losing my vision didn’t do it. It was his next statement that brought the lump into my throat:
“Your daughter could, at some point, need you to administer a life-saving glucagon
What if your vision is so impaired that you don’t have the ability to save her life? You can’t take care of your daughter if you don’t first take care of yourself.”
In that moment I realized that most parents, let alone parents of a child with any type of special needs, rarely consider taking care of themselves FIRST … or even second or third. You know that moment before a plane takes off when the flight attendant tells you to put your mask on FIRST, and then help your child? How many of us actually think that way on a day-to-day basis?
In that moment I realized that to be an awesome mom, wife, entrepreneur and friend you don’t have to do it all. The floor can get mopped tomorrow but your kids won’t always ask you to play Old Maid with them, or to listen to them read a book for the first time.
In that moment I remembered the quote: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I realized that, though my heart and my pride were full, my cup was nearly empty.
So this year, I am making a resolution to take care of myself. I vow to put my mask on first and not worry so much about that load of laundry that’s been in the dryer since last week. I will take time to paint my nails and read People magazine … guilt free. I will be okay with the kids eating PB & J on a weekday.
I am making a commitment to fill up my cup, and when I am room mom for the class party … I will purposely forget the forks.
Read Caregiver Burnout by Mark Heyman, CDE, PhD.