The other night after our bedtime thanksgiving my oldest son asked, “Mom, do you love me?” My response was exactly as he expected and had heard a million times before, “of course!” He went on to ask if I loved every other member of our extended family. Once he had exhausted the list, he broke from the routine and asked, “Mom, do you love yourself?” His eyes gleaming with pride over his clever question.
My answer surprised him almost as much as it surprised me as it was an immediate, “Yes, I love myself very much!” His eyes widened as these words hung in the air and I continued, “And it’s important that you love yourself too.”
To clarify, I’ve never loathed myself, or even disliked myself. However, over the last several years, I was operating in an overall state of being somewhat indifferent towards myself. As soon as the words “I love myself” rolled off my tongue with such confidence and conviction I began to wonder, how did I get here? It wasn’t as if one day, I thought, “You should work on loving yourself more, your kids are watching.”
That night as I lay awake after my own bedtime thanksgiving, I realized, loving myself was in fact a form of self-care. As a mother of two young boys, I take self-care very seriously. After the kids are in bed, it is my “me time,” when I have the opportunity to recharge. For a long time, night after night I would indulge in a glass (or 3) of wine, or a hunk of sea salt dark chocolate, or on the exceptionally tough days…both. All in the name of self-care. This often led to waking up to the sound of their stomping footsteps in the hall feeling tired, groggy and unmotivated.
A little over a year ago I realized this definition of self-care was actually self-destructive and self-defeating. My nightly routine was hindering my growth and my goals. With my 40th birthday looming, I wanted to approach this milestone with confidence. My goals were to be in the best physical shape of my adult life and to be a published writer. However, my outward actions were grossly misaligned. This imbalance conjured a lot of negative self-talk, which only perpetuated the cycle. So I traded my wine for kale, carrot and vinegar smoothies (it’s an acquired taste) and my chocolate for running and yoga, as well as changing up my “me time” from after bedtime to before the kids wake.
These small but mighty changes ignited positivity into every other facet of my life and I’m thriving on the momentum. Not only am I healthier than I’ve been in over a decade, but I’ve started a new career as a writer and was hired by Summit Hill Living magazine (as well as twincitiesmomcollective.com) and I not only trained for, but successfully completed the 2019 Twin Cities marathon.
My new definition of “self-care” includes any positive action that leads to self-improvement and self love. I want my boys to love themselves, and the best way to teach our children to love themselves is to show them that we love ourselves. If my boys see their mother taking time to prioritize her needs, accomplishing her goals, making healthy choices with food and fitness, and just overall trying to be the best me I can be, I can only hope their observations are encouraging a growth mindset for them to model. Actions always speak louder than words.