Here’s a typical day for Eve: After five hours sleep, she rises, gets her two busy preteens off to school, feeds the new puppy, and drives two hours to her job as an attorney. Once she arrives at home, she helps her kids with homework, then catches up on her own legal work till after midnight. FYI, she’s a single mom, too.
“I’m so stressed, I feel I’m about to have a heart attack,” Eve told me recently. “Actually, that might not be so bad. At least I’d finally get some rest.”
Eve was kidding, of course. But her words struck a chord, perhaps because the story is so familiar. Women tend to focus on others first. But for many of us, the nurturing switch is stuck in the ‘on’ position until a jolt (like getting sick) forces us to attend to our own needs.
We talked about how she might devote some attention to herself-not just to her kids and to her work. “Can you think of ways you could nurture yourself?” I asked.
“Get more sleep, hire a babysitter for a few hours so I could put my feet up, have a girls’ night out with friends,” she said. But would she do it? “I’d feel guilty about neglecting my kids,” Eve admitted.
What we women must learn is to give ourselves TLC, too, while we nurture others. This means accepting, as Parker J. Palmer puts it in his book “Let Your Life Speak”: “Self-care is never a selfish act …. Any time we can listen to our true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
Eve is learning. She still spends evenings with her children, but she has a babysitter for Saturday mornings. And Palmer’s quote reminds her that when she nourishes herself, she generates energy to care for those she cherishes.