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Taking Care of Mama

  • Posted on June 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

The idea is that if I take care of myself, I will then have the capacity to take better care of my family. That’s the idea and I’ve tried to accept it. But it hasn’t ever really stuck. I’m in the habit of running myself ragged, because there’s always more to do than I can possibly get done. I keep it up until I can’t any more, and then I crash and burn. I vow to change, pick myself up, dust off the ashes, and start all over again.

This doesn’t really work.

By failing to take care of myself, I end up failing to take care of my family. I end up with a longer, more unwieldy To Do list and less capacity to do it with. I get further and further behind. I become more and more vulnerable to depression. The overall effect is disastrous levels of suckage. Simply put, it stinks. But I am stuck.

The key for me is to think about capacity.

If I don’t safeguard my capacity, then I won’t be able to take care of my family in the present. If I don’t build my capacity, then I won’t be able to do the things I want to do in the future. In order to safeguard and build my capacity, I have to take care of myself. My health must come first, next my family, then my (paying) work, and finally my dreams. Throw in a dash of fun and a dollop of sleep and I should have a winning recipe, not that I cook or even want to learn how. The point is that sometimes putting things in order requires less busy hands and more purposeful patience.

So, here’s to taking care of mama: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, but a mindful look to my own reality is what makes me swallow.

Drawing Rules

  • Posted on September 20, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Will is thrilled to have a class dedicated to drawing. His drawing class has bumped PE as his favorite class of the day. Unfortunately, he’s not really enjoying either math class or his English or physical science classes. (Yes, he has two math classes this year—all year long!)

The real surprise is that he’s not enjoying his computer class either. He has Communications Technology. Last Friday, we got a call to inform us that Will was refusing to log on in class. My first thought was, “How is that he gets away with refusing to log on in class?” I mean, I couldn’t imagine even trying something like that, let alone having gotten away with it in school.

His advisor was recommending he swap out of this elective class in favor of study hall or study skills. I looked at Will and told him that he could do that, but if he did he would never be a video game programmer. I said this under the false assumption that this was a prerequisite of the programming class, because, when I filled out the schedule requirements, there was a prerequisite class to programming. I assumed this was it.

After I said that, though, Mark told me that the advisor told him that Will would still be able to take his programming class next semester. Later, after Will told me he’d decided to stick with this class, I told him what his father had said. “No, Mom, you’re right. I should do this. I’ll do my work.”

We’ll see how that goes. But Mark assured him that if we ever get another call saying Will refused to get on the computer at school, then he wouldn’t be getting on the computer at home either. Will got the message.

Self-Care: A Philosophy

  • Posted on January 4, 2013 at 9:00 AM

The development of a worldview and a belief system is one of the most important of our lives. This usually occurs from some default process—an accumulation of what we learn at home, at school, among our family and friends, and from the entertainment we consume—and influences our decisions for the rest of our lives. Once our worldviews and belief systems are formed, they tend to be difficult to change. When we live our lives in conflict with our beliefs, we experience internal dissonance that causes stress and we’re not always consciously aware of why this is happening.

My worldview and belief system, rather my priorities as they are formed by my worldview and belief system, look something like this:

Ethics
Family
God
School
Work
Extended Family
Friends
Career
Household Management

Self

I do not put this forth as something that is “correct,” but (with minor fluctuations based on urgency) this is how I prioritize my life. The dot-dot-dot represents minor things that, while not essentially priorities, tend to be considered before I think of myself and my own needs. Self-care is something I rate, as per my worldview and belief system, as a rather low priority.

I’ve resisted the wise and reasonable counsel that has warned me—for years—that this series of priorities doesn’t work. I’ve talked about it with family and friends. I’ve read the testimony of my fellow parents of children with special needs who have posted about their own struggles with self-care. I’ve read about it in countless books, from nonfiction to fiction. In short, I’m far from the only who has been taught to regard self-care as an act of selfishness and to regard selfishness as an undesirable trait. I’m also far from the only one who has figured out that regarding self-care in that way doesn’t really work.

On the one hand, there’s that old saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, then ain’t nobody happy.” Despite the deplorable grammar, the saying rings true. As a caregiver, our moods and emotions impact (either positively or negatively) those we take care of. Of course, the same could be said of either parent, regardless of their role (caregiver/financial provider/both), and could be said of those who are being taken care of, too. In a family, the moods and emotions of each individual family member affects the family unit as a whole. Therefore, if the goal is to provide one’s family with a happy, stable, healthy home environment, then it is important to meet the needs of every member of the family.

However, this brings us back to the difficulty of changing someone’s worldview and belief system, even when that someone is yourself. While it’s easier to change one’s own worldview and belief system than it is to force someone else to change theirs, it can still be an immense struggle to change what you believe, even when you have a reason not to believe it any longer.

For me, it has to do with the holistic nature of the way my mind works. Learning something that throws my ideas out of balance—that proves that something I’ve held as true isn’t true after all—creates a need to have a true replacement that fits with everything else before I can have a stable whole once again. Something as fundamental as the essential nature of my priorities is intertwined with just about everything else I know and think. In order to reassess and reassert my priorities, I need a whole philosophy that incorporates the new information.

I’m still working on that. For the next while, that is what my self-care posts will be about