I go to karate classes almost every week and almost every week I walk away with more than a martial arts lesson. Often my instructor says something that makes my ears perk up and my brain start humming because what he said is something directly related to what he is teaching, but it’s also totally applicable to everyday life.
At one class during a kicking drill he said, “If you can see the kick coming in time for you to back up, you can see it coming in time for you to move forward. You are moving backward out of habit, now make yourself go forward.” A light bulb went off in my head. I wasn’t sure how it related to regular, everyday life, but I knew it did.
It took me a few days of chewing on my instructor’s words to figure out what it meant beyond ‘hit your opponent in the head before they kick you,’ and ultimately, I think his words can be bent to mean all sorts of things. I’m choosing to interpret them in regard to self care and guilt.
I know a lot of women who back away from doing things to take care of themselves because they feel enormous guilt. I’ve talked to them and they know doing something to physically or spiritually feed themselves will let them have more to give back, but they just can’t get over the guilt of actually taking the time away from caring for others to care for themselves. This is not a horrible position to be in because if you can see that guilt is where you get stuck, you can look at it as an opponent and make a strategy to get past it.
Many of my friends get to this spot then ask me for advice because they see that I’ve carved out time for myself on a weekly basis and they want to know how I manage it. My “advice” gets a little harsh because when someone says they know the pros of doing something for themselves, but they can’t because they would feel guilty. I say, “Just do it already. Why are you choosing to let guilt rule your life? What message are you sending your children? That mothers should give up everything they want to do? That they should have no time for themselves? Or if they do take time for themselves, they should feel horrible about it? Bullshit! Plus, you know that doing something just for you will make you a better mother and/or partner and ward off the resentment that will surely fester if you give up everything for everyone else.” Then I apologize for my ever increasing volume and hand them a tissue. Oh, I’m kidding. I don’t make people cry.
My stance on moms taking time for themselves on a regular basis does not make people cry, but it has made my children cry in the past. I’m not going to lie. When I went back to karate after a four-year pregnancy/breastfeeding/couch potato hiatus, my girls both cried and begged me to stay home. I told them going to karate is like them going to the park or over to a friend’s house for a play date. It’s my fun time where I get to do what I like, and it makes me happy. I also reminded them that a happy mommy is less likely to turn into Pirate Mommy (no one likes her, she is very cranky). This placated them a bit, but I found a drawing on my pillow when I came home of the three of us, me wearing a karate uniform and them with huge tears pouring out of carefully drawn eyes. There was also a message saying, “We missed you mommy and we wished you stayed home.” Did this make me feel bad? Nope. I thought Wow, they are really pouring it on and I kind of admired their commitment to making sure I knew how they felt. In the morning I hugged them and told them how much fun I’d had. Basically, my kids’ words and actions were the kick and I had to choose between backing up or moving forward to score a point for myself. The current tally is is Mommy:1, Guilt:0.
P.S. Since that first class back, which was a few years ago, my kids do not bat an eyelash at me when I come downstairs in my karate uniform. Their parting words are always “Bye. Have fun and drive safely.” So really the tally is Mommy:1000 and Guilt has asked to be removed from the scoreboard because of her poor showing.
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