My Journey to Self-Care
By way of introduction, my name is Tanya
I decided to start a blog about “Self-Care for Working Mamas” or my life with "Superwoman Syndrome" because that's been my life for 17, soon-to be 18 years in a few short months when my daughter turns 18. By no means do I know everything about motherhood. I was blessed with only one child though my heart desired two, but I’m so thankful for her. I believe in the “show and tell” method so I’ll show and tell you my story. Hopefully by the end you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and why I would like to help you on your journey.
We Mamas have been holding it down since the beginning of time. My intent is to help you find your work-life balance sweet spot, and get some guilt-free me time in the process.
I had been married for eight years when I brought my beautiful baby girl home from the hospital. But without going into too much detail about my marriage, which failed when she was three, I have always been the primary, okay the ONLY caretaker for her. During my marriage all of her care, even taking her to and from daycare fell on me. I didn’t mind and frankly I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I am a criminal defense attorney, and in California where I was practicing at the time, my office and the criminal justice system was very progressive, thus the hours were standard so getting home at a reasonable hour was rarely a problem.
Even before the judge granted my divorce, with my ex-husband's blessing, I had taken my daughter and moved from California to Florida so I could have some support in raising her from my mother and step-father. I was a single mother for approximately seven years. Now in my second marriage to my soulmate, his job keeps him out of town a lot, so daily I still kinda operate as a single mom, but when he’s in town he steps in and helps. I am also a co-parent to his wonderful children in our blended family.
For the five years after my divorce I lived in Florida near my mom and step-father. My mother was a great help for after school pick up, since there was no aftercare at my daughter’s school. But when I left and moved to Texas, I was on my own again without any family support, though I had friends. Therefore, it was on me to rush out of work every day to make it to the aftercare facility on time.
But...one day not long after I started my current job I was in trial and the judge wanted to continue with witness testimony past the time I needed to leave. Shit! I needed someone to get my daughter. I asked my friend and colleague, thankfully she agreed although she had two children of her own. In order for her to pick up my daughter I had to get my administrative assistant to forge my signature on the permission form, since I couldn’t leave the courtroom. Don’t judge us, it was desperate times. I got the judge to agree to a quick recess so I could call the aftercare facility to let them know my friend was picking her up and I was faxing the form.
The problem came when my daughter, who had only met my friend once, almost refused to go with her and was about to raise the “stranger danger flag!” Of course this story is much funnier when my friend acts it out. Suffice it to say my daughter was giving her the serious side eye and just when my daughter’s teacher was about to throw my friend out, my daughter finally admitted she knew her and agreed to go with her. We laugh about it now, but the point is the only one who picked my daughter up was me, and she was not about to go with someone she had only met once.
The first time I held my daughter in my arms, like most moms I had never felt a love so powerful.
Even before she was born, as by belly grew bigger and I felt her moving inside me, I knew I would do anything and everything to make sure she was well loved, well taken care of, and protected. My self-care went out the window. But my self-care had diminished even before then if I’m being honest. When I got married, I believed my role was to be a caretaker for my husband. I cooked and cleaned, but I didn’t mind since I had done those things when I was single. Sure, it was based on archaic roles, but he had a few chores he did around the house and we made it work. When our daughter came along, I was the primary caretaker for her. Like I said, I didn’t mind because I wanted to meet with her care providers when I dropped her off and picked her up. My life revolved around my daughter, my husband, and my job. I was not part of the equation, there was nothing left over for me. I never thought about me, “self-care, shmelf-care.” My daughter went from an infant to a toddler, and by the time she was three my marriage was ending. Divorce was a relief, because we both had been unhappy for a long time anyway, more time to focus on my daughter.
I decided we should move because living in Florida near my parents would likely be better for my daughter so she could have her grandparents. I made the decision to move based solely on what was best for my daughter. I was right, things were amazing for her. She got spoiled everyday by her grandparents especially my mother/her grandmother. We had season passes to Disney World and my mother’s friend worked for Universal Studios, so we got free passes to go there periodically. But things were not great for me because while I loved being in trial, I was overworked and stressed because I was in trial constantly, every two weeks without fail. I was hospitalized twice because I developed high blood pressure. My doctor kept telling me to quit because I was headed for a stroke. After five years we relocated again because I needed a move which would be good for both of us.
The move to Texas was rocky at first, but once we got settled, we both loved living here. Now work was a different story, the criminal justice community definitely did not roll out the welcome mat for me "because I'm not from around these parts." In fact, I’ve felt they’ve been trying to run me out with torches and pitchforks since I arrived, but “I’m still standing!” (in my best Al Pacino “Scarface” imitation).
I met my soulmate, we got married and it has been the married life I always wanted. I had the work-life balance down to a science, or so I thought. But the burden of the daily grind at work and the daily stress, spilled over into my home life, my new marriage. I had gone so long without taking care of myself the daily tension was taking its toll on me. I was way overdue for a self-care/self-love regimen because I had deprived myself of both. I should also mention in my practice as a criminal defense attorney I pour a lot of myself into my clients. Over the years I had given to my ex-husband to no avail, my daughter, and all along I had also been giving to my clients. I was running on empty, so when the daily tension and stress of my current job was added on top, I was severely depleted and coming unglued.
My two good friends at work told me I should go see a counselor, but I refused. I told them I didn’t need to see a counselor because I was fine. They gave “knowing looks to each other” since I was saying this through tears as they had found me crying in my office. I finally took their advice after they found me crying in my office a second time. But only after we had a debate/discussion on the issue that going to see a counselor was nothing to be ashamed about. We had a frank discussion about how people are often afraid to go see a counselor or psychiatrist because they are afraid of being diagnosed with a mental illness. It's clear it's better to know and be treated in order to get better, rather than ignore it and hope it goes away. See Taking the First Step.