Movember: Parenting and Putting Yourself Last
Parenthood is like nothing else that I have ever experienced. The joy of bringing home my children for the first time and experiencing their firsts is something that I will never forget. From the first time that they smiled, rolled over, crawled, walked, got a hit in baseball, lost a tooth, and so much more. These little human beings have become my everything. I strive to provide for them, help them learn to be good people, and most of all protect them.
When you bring a new baby home, you earn the pleasure of taking care of their every need. Things that are both a blessing and miserable. From getting comfortable, eating, going to the bathroom, falling asleep, and my favorite – holding up their head, you do everything for your child. While some things change as my kids have gotten older, some things remain the same.
I have wiped more butts than I wish to remember… and not just when they were learning to go to the bathroom. Do you know how hard it is to carry a 60 pound nine year old inside from falling asleep in the car every night? Just ask my wife. How many times have I not even taken a bite of my dinner before my son asks for more food? The times are too many to even remember.
Through it all, I have loved every moment of these experiences because they are my kids and I love them. I would do anything for them especially when they experience pain.
From the little cries of being tired or hungry, to the nightmares, to the walking “later” than other kids, to breaking their first bone, to the first surgery, to being diagnosed with celiac disease, to not being liked at school, my kids pains are my pains. I would give anything for them not to experience the pains of “life”… but that isn’t reality. I have to pick them up, brush off their scraped knees, and teach them to use these painful experiences to help shape who they are.
The only problem is that like many parents, I put my kids needs before my own needs.
Doctor’s appointments? If a child gets sick or hurt, we drop everything to take them in and get checked out.
If we get sick ourselves? We try to power through it.
A hungry child at 4:45 p.m.? Of course we can make their meals now and eat later ourselves.
A tantrum in the store or restaurant? We will take our food to go or come back and get all of those groceries another time.
A child not sleeping through the night? We do all of the tests to see what it could be. Sleep apnea tests? Check. Tonsils and adenoids removed? Check. Test him for celiac disease? Check.
My own sleep problems? They will resolve themselves.
The reality is that I can do everything in the world for my children but if I don’t take care of my own health needs, what good am I to them?
The number of times that I have gone to the doctor and dentist over the last nine years is something that I am not proud of. There was always something more important to do. Whether it be a work conflict or trying to get home to give my wife a break from the kids, my health has taken a back seat. I thought, “I’ll take care of those things when my kids get older.”
For myself, I have watched as my depression and anxiety have grown over the last three years but it wasn’t a priority. I needed to help my son navigate the challenges of school and being diagnosed with celiac disease. I needed to support my wife through the sensory challenges my daughter is experiencing. I needed to remain strong at work so that we could financially cover the extra costs of OT, PT, and GI doctors.
Until six months ago, I thought that I could power through all of it. I am young, in moderately good health, have had minor teeth issues, and kids to keep me on my toes. This all changed when a family member experienced an emergency out of nowhere. From hospital rooms, to rehab, I have watched as this person I care deeply about has had their life turned upside down. While they are on the road to recovery, I saw that I had to change my own way of handling my health needs.
I can no longer put my health (physical or mental needs) last anymore. None of us can. Life can change in a blink of an eye.
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