On this Mother’s Day, I think of how my mother has always cared for me. She always showed unconditional love and still does. And she’s cared for countless others through the years. She and my father took in foster children, adopting five (on top of the five biological children they raised), and guiding others as she led Brownie Troops, baseball teams and more. I’m not saying she was perfect (and she doesn’t say so, either), but she didn’t have very good role models on how to parent, yet, she somehow figured it out and I’ve learned from her how to care for my own children. I’ve learned the role of a mother is just that: to care.
One thing she didn’t teach as a mother was to care for myself first. Yet, that’s a critical part of mothering. My husband often says, “If mama’s not happy, nobody is.” And in a way, he’s right. I learned that best in the past few years while watching my father suffer with cancer. I live eight hours away and it was agonizing being so far away, wondering if my family was giving me the whole story on how he was doing and whether I could get there in time if he wasn’t. My husband and children watched me become another person, stressed out from not being able to do it all, or be there for everyone. It was a lonely place to be, with very few people understanding. And now that my father has passed, I struggle with whether I’m doing enough for my mom, realizing I can’t even do enough for my children. In the end, I’m also suffering, exhausted, yet rarely giving myself permission to stop and get more than five hours of sleep most nights. There’s just too much to do. Yet, I continue to add more.
So, when Leeza Gibbons hosted a call today with several bloggers, she hit close to home as she talked a bit about her book “Take Your Own Oxygen”. It’s a play on the advice you get on an airline—that you can’t put an oxygen mask on your child without first putting it on yourself. You’re no good to others if you’re not functioning at your best abilities. She knows all about it because she lost her mother and grandmother to Alzheimer’s. She quit her job for a bit to help with them and launch “Leeza’s Place”, a non-profit to help the caregivers of those who are ill. On the call, she elaborated, “Because of the illness, we were so frustrated and felt so helpless and we were experiencing all the symptoms families face; stressed, depressed and isolated. My mother said to me. ‘honey, you’ve been a story teller all your life, this is your story, just tell it.’ So, I decided to write a book to support all of those families on this journey and remind them they’re not walking it alone.”
“It’s counterintuitive for women to invest in themselves first but it is the best way to show your love. Once you get back to central you, you can have the resources and the clarity and sanity you need to get through,” she explained. “When an illness or disease breaks into your life, suddenly your picture of how it should go is shattered. When it happens, it’s the way we navigate that makes a difference.”
I asked about her personal journey and whether she ever had to travel or take assignments that required her to be away when she most wanted to be home. She responded, “I found myself in a constant state of concern, worry and guilt. Because I was called out of town a lot, I would worry ‘what if something happened while I was gone?’. Because I had family with them, and we were incredibly close, I could feel greater security, but being a long distance caregiver means you constantly feel you are not enough. It throws our entire auto immune system off, throws our entire balance off, and caregivers get sick. We end up with compassion fatigue. It makes so much sense, you’re depleted. Your system goes into overdrive…you’re revved up from the energy you’re expending, emotional toll.”
Leeza went on to explain how, in the book, they can help with the process with certain tips about journaling, scrapbooking and more.
I’m looking forward to getting a copy and pouring through the pages. I’ll call it my Mothers’ Day treat to myself.