Blogger: Janis Gaudelli – “Champion of Truths, Unicorns & AWE-tism”
If there is one thing Moms across the globe can agree on, it’s that we suck at self-care. We’re wholly committed to taking care of everyone else in our lives, and so we forget about ourselves. Yep, you know it’s true: it’s like making ourselves a priority is a selfish crime that makes us bad mothers. Well, I am calling bullshit on that judge-y belief system.
In case you missed it, International Women’s Day was last week. That day, I scrolled through countless posts applauding our feminine strength, highlighting our rise in power and the strides toward equality which we have made as a gender. That’s all good and truly empowering, but let’s get real ladies: if we don’t start giving ourselves permission to pause and prioritize our own wellbeing, our rise will come to a screeching halt.
Speaking of rising, did you know that stress levels among women are at an all-time high? More women are being treated for anxiety than men, and it’s been reported that heart attacks among women are on an alarming upswing. Ladies, it’s time to wake the fuck up. Let’s quit trying to kill ourselves to prove how strong we are.
I was raised by a Mom who gave every ounce of herself, every day, to her husband and four kids. So, I grew up to believe that’s what strong Mom’s do, sacrifice their own needs for their loved ones. Since I became a mom and adopted my mother’s selfless path through motherhood, I’ve realized how detrimental it is to my wellbeing. It’s even more evident while navigating parenthood solo and raising a child with Autism. I’ve learned that I cannot give motherhood my all if I am not taking care of myself. Period.
I found this out the hard way a year ago, when I had a full-on, Mom-sized meltdown (experts might refer to it as a panic attack). Unfortunately, I remember it well: I experienced a day of complete and utter fuckery (clients wanting, needing and not appreciating, pulling out my back during CrossFit, my son’s anxiety ramping up at school, etc.), and as I drove home I realized my tank was on empty, not in my car, in myself.
I remember driving up to my house, putting my car in park and just sitting there. I couldn’t get out. I was paralyzed and numb, and unsure of what I needed, but knew I needed something, quick! I had a 6-year-old inside waiting for me to show up and mom hard. But I had no reserves left. So, I sat there in my car, blasted the radio, and emotionally unleashed. It started with tears pouring down my face, then the wails, oh dear God the wails, I could still hear them. Sounds that bubbled up from deep down inside of me, and exited out with such a force, resulting in noises I didn’t know a human was capable of making. I was gripping the steering wheel for dear life, my dear life, which I was severely neglecting. After 15 minutes of breaking down, I knew a change was most definitely in order. I wiped my tear-stained face and got my messy-self together. I marched myself inside, hugged my kid tight, mom-ed as hard as I could, and the next day began my life-saving self-care plan.
If I am being completely honest, that situation in the car, scared the shit out of me. While I live with situational anxiety, I had never gotten to that point. I had ignored every warning sign, every red flag, and every indicator that I was not ok, that I needed a break. All systems shut down. I hit parental rock bottom in the car that night. It was an important wake-up call that I need to be truly conscious of, and prioritize my mental/physical and emotional wellbeing.
Last week, I attended a conference about new alternative techniques to treat children with Autism. I walked in and saw many caring parents who looked incredibly uncared for. Once the audience members began networking with each other, it became clear that my observations were spot-on. They not only looked exhausted but voiced it as well. I knew their exhaustion wasn’t only from lack of sleep (although that’s a legitimate grievance among parents with autistic children), but it was their spirit that was weary as well. It felt all too familiar. To see yourself in another, in that state, is both comforting and truly alarming. Throughout the conference, there were a lot of hugs and numbers exchanged for support. As we took our seats for the last speaker, a slide appeared on the screen. It was the only slide in this speaker’s presentation, and it was a quote:
The speaker’s presentation was about the common stressors of raising a child with autism. We stared at that quote for 45 minutes while he spoke, and we all felt the weight of it. Stress wasn’t unfamiliar to the audience members in that room, but this quote conveyed its magnitude. Throughout the conference, we parents developed amazing new tools to care for our autistic children… but I had secretly hoped one expert would guide us on how to do the same for ourselves. How do we take care of our own special needs?
That conference lit a fire under me to put some plans in place, both for myself and to share with those who might not prioritize their self-care.
Plan #1: Share my story of the motherload meltdown/panic attack, and what I learned from it.
Plan #2: Encourage people to pay attention to themselves and what they need. Share my self-care plan with others who are literally & figuratively “exhausted.” This month on The Daily Feels we’re sparking self-care in our March Me-ness Tournament: all month long we’re posting a daily reminder to take care of yourself with easy ideas of how to follow through.
Plan #3: Do something feel-good for the Autism community. April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month. Each day in April, The Daily Feels will celebrate a hero living with, raising, or in some way supporting those living with Autism. If you know of someone who you would like to honor, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plan #4: Set constant reminders to check in on myself. Here’s the cold, hard truth: you cannot fully show up for your family, if you don’t fully show up for yourself. We have this “Super-Mom” idea all wrong. Super-Mom’s are not sacrificing themselves for their family. Super-Moms are women who prioritize their to-do list to ensure they’re being taken care of as well.
Plan #5: Repeat this mantra daily: You are a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, significant other, employee, etc. when you carve out time to take care of yourself. It isn’t selfish, it’s self-love. It shows everyone in your life that you matter and sets a great example for those watching.
Here’s to you, Super-Mom!
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.