I love books, but whenever I turn the page and realize I'm on the last chapter of a really amazing book, it's a little bittersweet. I'm simultaneously excited to see how it all turns out and also a little sad that it's ending. I know I'm going to miss the characters, the drama, the excitement - and I almost preemptively begin mourning the loss.
This week marks the second to the last chapter both of my daughters current education books. This week they will turn in their last papers and take their last finals for the second to last semesters in both high school and college. And for this mama, shit is getting real. And while I won't get all melancholy about how "it was only just yesterday...," I will admit there is truth to the statement that when it comes to parenting, the days are long, but the years are short. In another few months both will be onto starting the next books in the series of their lives... while this mama is left to watch and cheer them on from the sidelines.... and I'd be lying if there isn't a small, bittersweet aching in my heart.
Many of us exuberantly choose the path of parenthood; the glorious, thankless, wonderful, terrifying, mind-numbing, and mystifying experience of raising children. While we embrace it enthusiastically and are so grateful for the opportunity to shepherd and support another human, parenthood is a season of life when many of us to some degree put ourselves and our needs on the back burner because let's face it, these little beings require so.much.freaking.work.
And while we're helping these little beings grow, we sometimes forget (or simply run out of time or energy) to grow ourselves. Diapers and school lunches and PTA meetings and soccer clinics and homecoming dances and college applications take precedence over self-care, cultivating friendships, nurturing hobbies, and exploring personal or professional growth.
And then one day, they're grown. And they no longer need so much of us (and likely before that, no longer WANT much of us) and we're left with the proverbial empty nest.
But that nest isn't so empty; it's often filled with an aching loneliness, a lack of purpose, and grief. Along the glorious path of mothering we've forgotten to grow ourselves and we're left feeling empty and dazed.
And some of us have forgotten who we are. We've lost touch with what lights our souls afire. We're tired and hollow. We've given every ounce of our time and attention to raising our precious children, so much so that we've neglected caring for ourselves; we've forgotten how to engage in self-care.
Self-care in today's pop culture world seems like it may be found in getting mani-pedis, getting a fresh cut and color, or taking a bubble bath, but those are self-maintenance and grooming. Self-care may seem like late-night binge-watching the latest series on Netflix, a sweet treat, or downing a half-bottle of wine to de-stress, but those self-soothing (and often, numbing).
Self-care is engaging those activities, connections, or pastimes that feed our souls and replenish our energetic, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual bank accounts.
Take my advice parents: Put your own oxygen mask on FIRST. Remember that WHILE you are helping the precious children that have chosen you to grow, don't forget to grow yourself. Self-care and self-growth doesn't take much: keep reading, cultivate your sisterhood, find a hobby or craft that feeds your soul, take a class, grow a small or home-based business. Carve out time to have long, meaningful chats with a close friends, read a great books, journal, take a community college or rec class, volunteer, keep regular appointments with a good therapist, practice of mindfulness or meditation, engage in regular movement, or get outside and into nature.
Do something to remind yourself that YOU are important. Do something to remind yourself that you are vibrant and have a contribution to make in addition to raising your kids. YOU are worthy of all the love and nurturing and attention you so selflessly give your children.
You have enough and ARE enough to grow both your children AND yourself.