How a Crisis Taught Me to (Finally) Embrace Self-Care

One week last July, my husband and I separated. The next week, I started a new job. It’s an understatement to say it was an overwhelming time for my family. My kids and I struggled through the stress and tumult, but I’m proud to say we didn’t fall apart. This crisis led me to examine my priorities and make some hard decisions. Here is what I said “no” to (housework), and what I said “yes” to (self-care), to get through the tough time.

Self-care in a crisis

I Said “No” to:

  • Making Lunches

    I used to pride myself on making lunches for my kids. I put little notes in their lunch boxes and researched the best reusable containers. Not this year. My kids have eaten hot lunch every day since the beginning of the year, and I haven’t looked back once. Our mornings are so much easier with one less thing to do and I may never make a bento box again.

  • Housekeeping

    I didn’t give up housekeeping completely, but I really cut back. Dishes accumulate in the sink for a few hours, toys stay strewn around the yard a bit longer, and laundry remains in the basket a day or two longer. Oh, it still gets done, but in order to improve my self-car, I’ve given up the expectation that I’ll maintain a picture-perfect home at all times.

  • Elaborate Meals

    I love cooking sauces from scratch, roasting meat all day, and presenting a restaurant-worthy meal – or I used to. Meals at our house these days are easy to make and simple to clean up. Tuna melts, spaghetti with premade meatballs, and stir fry are all staples at our house this year. As much as I love a gourmet meal, I’m really enjoying how stress-free our evenings are making less time-consuming dinners.

I Said “Yes” to:

  • Board Games, Movie Nights, and Family TV Shows

    With the extra time I’ve saved with simple dinners and fewer housekeeping chores, the kids and I spend more time hanging out. We play hours of Sleeping Queens, Uno, and Castle Panic. We pile on the couch to cuddle and watch movies. Trust me, it’s way better than doing dishes!

  • Asking for Help

    I might have prided myself on “doing it all” in the past, however as a newly single mom, I realized this isn’t an option. Beyond just accepting help, I’m asking for it without guilt. I hired a house cleaner, and I ask my friends and neighbors to take my kids to lessons and pick them up from school. I just can’t be in two places at once and I don’t even try anymore.

  • Self-Care

    I’m not talking pedicures and bubble baths here. On the days my kids are with their dad, I spend it taking care of myself. For me, this looks like counseling, exercise, meditating, long talks with friends, and journaling. This isn’t an indulgence, it’s survival. This is a new phase in my life, and I can’t navigate it if I’m running on empty.

There are times when I might have looked at this list and felt like I was saying no to work and yes to play, but the truth is more complicated than that. Time spent playing with my kids is connecting with them. I’m present in a time when it feels like things are uncertain. I’m not just playing games and watching movies, I’m making sure they know even though lots of things have changed, our relationship hasn’t. It’s important for all of us to remember that.

Self-care prioritizes me. In the past, it might have felt indulgent to go to a yoga class while there were dirty dishes in the sink, but now I see self-care as essential to my survival. I would not have gotten through these hard months if I hadn’t been as strong as I could be – mentally, physically, and emotionally – for myself and my children.

As our family has settled into new routines, I don’t want to forget the lessons I’ve learned in the past few months about prioritizing myself and my relationship with my kids. When our lives return to normal, I want to remember these important lessons that the difficult times have taught me.

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