This morning I found myself sitting on my new back porch, warm cup of coffee and listening to the morning silence around me. The sun danced off the moss draped trees behind our house and I found myself full of gratitude.
My spirit is renewed and my cup is refilled after spending a week doing the work I love in a place that is so special to me. The week was packed with speaking events, scale smashes and meetings and not a minute of it felt like work. Because it is not work, it is my life’s mission and passion.
There is always that special person, question or moment that I carry with me after events. This past week was filled with special moments, but there was one question in particular I found myself thinking about this morning.
On Thursday, I found myself sitting amongst a group of parents whose children were being treated at Veritas Collaborative, an adolescent eating disorder treatment center. These parents were amazing and I can’t imagine the ache in their heart as they watched their children suffer from such a horrific disease.
And while I clearly expressed I could not understand what it was like having a child with an eating disorder, I could empathize with that hopeless feeling of watching as your child suffers. I briefly told them about Marjorie’s battle with cancer, which quickly prompted the question that remains in my heart today:
“How do you do it? How are you here? How do you leave her to come?”
The question came from a mother buried under a pile of yarn. She put down her knitting needles and went on to explain she had three children who each required special care.
I looked this mother in the eyes and responded without hesitation,
“I leave because I have to take off that hat. I have to remove my mom hat, my cancer mom hat and do something that fills me up. My recovery has taught me that in order to take care of my family, I have to take care of myself first. For me, this means kissing my children goodbye and going to do the work that fills my spirit and renews my soul.”
Now, do I always do this perfectly? If you have read any of my writing, you know the answer to that would be a resounding, “HELL NO.” I get lost in my children. I get lost in being a mom. I get lost in the many hats I wear and have worn throughout my life. But my eating disorder recovery has given me the ability to be aware when I am lost in a hat.
I have given every fiber of my soul to my Marjorie and my family the past 365 days and I would not change a single second of it. And I also know, that now is the time for me to give back to myself. I need to fill my cup back up, not just for me, but for my family too.
We all wear a thousand different hats. The hats pile up and fall over our eyes, blinding us from seeing what we really need for ourselves. As moms it can be challenging to take off the hats and take time for ourselves without feeling guilty or selfish.
I just spent five nights away from my family and not a single second felt selfish because I know that is what I needed to take care of myself and get back to doing what I love. I am thankful to also have a husband and family that supports me in this.
Last Monday I drove off the island heading to North Carolina, taking off every hat and tucking them away for when I returned. It felt so freeing to remove the hats: mom, cook, maid, cancer mom, accountant, truck mom, dog groomer, wife, PreK mom and the list goes on. I took them all off and let my hair down. No, literally, I actually had time to shower uninterrupted, straighten and wear my hair down.
It never fails that I leave Veritas with a full heart. While I will never adjust to seeing children with feeding tubes, I am able to see beyond the tubes and into the heart of the fighter beneath. These kids and their parents are courageous, vulnerable and simply inspiring. I find myself honored to be in their presence and grateful for the clinicians and staff supporting them.
I hope those Veritas parents are able to take the eating disorder parent hat off and find time for themselves. I also pray they know how absolutely amazing I think they are.
Today, my hats are back on, but they are no longer weighing me down. I couldn’t wait to put that momma hat back on and squeeze my babies.
Whatever hat you are wearing today, I challenge you to take it off. Not just for yourself, but for your family. It is not selfish to take time for ourselves, to fill our cups back up. Taking off the mom hat is not selfish, it is just another way we can give back to our family.