It bubbled up out of nowhere: I was standing in my kitchen; the dishes were piled high in the sink. My hair was thrown up in a messy bun and my eye makeup from the day before was smeared, raccoon style. Beneath my robe I wore a tank top and red pajama bottoms that had a crusted stain on it that couldn’t be identified.
It was a little after 5 PM and by then I had been up since 5 AM. So basically, I had been awake for a week in dog years.
In about an hour, I was scheduled to interview a noteworthy person for my podcast, and hadn’t even had time to research or prepare. Meanwhile, my one-year-old was busy crawling up my leg, fussing and pleading to be held. My husband was on the couch, studying before his class at 6. In an effort to be in the moment, instead of mentally checking off an impossible to-do list, I picked up the baby while simultaneously bending down to grab one lone sock off the floor.
And that’s when I saw it.
My husband wasn’t studying anymore, he was playing some computer game that looked really stupid. That last little detail probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but in the moment it somehow added insult to injury in a dangerous way. I blew up like a pile of firecrackers, POP POP POPPING off about how my time isn’t valued, how I always get screwed, and how my needs are always on the back burner. I’m the cook! The maid! The grocery shopper! The comforter! The butt wiper! The full-time writer and business owner! AND HAVE YOU EVER MADE A BED A DAY IN YOUR LIFE?!
Honestly, I was filled with so much resentment, I wasn’t even making sense. I was regretting the words pouring out of my mouth almost as instantly as I said them. I was tired, fatigued, run down, frustrated, and sad. I was too overwhelmed to properly process a stockpile of emotions, that I let them spill out over my husband, who merely decided to play a quick game in-between his quizzes as a momentary stress reliever.
We both knew this wouldn’t be easy. I’m a work-from-home mother who writes full time and manages a full-time website. My husband is a full-time nurse, who simultaneously attends a full-time nurse practitioner medical program. In other words, we’re all full time with no time, plus a one-year-old named Lucy. It’s the most joyful period of our lives (littered with moments of getting yelled at by your wife, still in her pajamas wearing yesterday’s makeup).
We predicted the rough terrain, so we agreed to constant communication and planning. When will he work? When will he study? When will he take control of the household so I can work and write? But time has a way of dulling resolutions, and eventually, habits become routines. And because I love to cook and have a shorter tolerance for dishes piling up in a sink, more often than not, I was the one left with the shorter end of the stick.
Soon, my love for my family and desire to nurture them was trumping all — including my ability to nurture myself. In the process, it allowed things that mattered to me — things that gave me purpose and a fire for life — to fall off the cliff. And at every drop, a dust cloud of resentment puffed into the air. Purposeful living began to drown in a sink of sudsy dishwater. My sacrifices no longer felt like a selfless expression of love, but as burdens weighing me down in the pockets of my robe.
As I stood there, apologizing profusely to my husband for blindsiding him with my outburst, something occurred to me: Perhaps what was missing wasn’t actually time. Maybe what was missing was love — love for myself. And, even more shockingly, maybe I needed to love myself more than my family.
But what does that really mean? Just hear me out first.
I can say firsthand that there are few things I so passionately love more than my daughter. Her sweet smile, dimples, and the gap in between her teeth make me weak in the knees. Hearts flutter in my eyes like I’m Pepe Le Pew, relentlessly all day long. I work from home because I long for her so deeply that I want to be home, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude by how fortunate I am that I can choose this lifestyle as an option. And as for my husband — my best friend, my partner, my handsome, loving man — I don’t want to ever imagine a life without him.
So how could I ever possibly love myself more than them? Aren’t they supposed to complete me or something? And doesn’t this mean I have to start loving my thighs or something? Because I’ve tried to positive self-talk my thighs for years and it’s never worked.
And yet; I know I can. I know it isn’t about being selfish, or concerned only with my personal profit or pleasure. I’m not Kanye Westing myself with love, but loving myself enough to realize that when the cabin pressure in our home drops, I put the oxygen mask on myself first. Because if I don’t, I’ll eventually lose the strength and mental capacity to help support and care for the people I love most.
It should go without saying, but still needs to be said: If someone I love is sick or in some kind of distress and needs me, I’m there. In fact, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. Everything else can and will wait, without hesitation. But if I’m fortunate in the moment to have a healthy family, then I feel compelled — obligated, even — to share my gifts in the service of others.
So I write. Writing is my oxygen. And writing requires private me time. It needs to be taken in so it can breathe life into my soul. And maybe I’m going overboard with all the zen talk here, but in my mind, a fulfilled soul is free to love and serve joyfully and abundantly. An emptied soul just roams around in pajama pants, mindlessly completing tasks and picking up lone socks off the floor. (Trust me, I know from experience.)
So, loving myself is officially on the top of the to-do list. It’s non-negotiable, abandoned only in case of emergency. And believe it or not, after putting “love for myself” back on top, no one in my family has even noticed. Weird how that works.
As for right now, though, the writing must stop. I have a baby with dimples and wispy curls who has just woken up, and I have no choice but to smother her with love — preferably Pepe Le Pew-style.More On