I'm planning to give my daughter an extra special gift during this holiday season: I'm going to drop some weight.
But the weight I'm planning to lose isn't reflected on any scale. It doesn't involve drastic calorie-cutting measures. Instead, I'll be losing the weight of obligations that no longer fit my life.
It all started about a week and a half ago, when I found myself clapping my hands loudly and shrieking at my children: "Move it. Let's go. We need to go." And when my daughter talked about how stressed out she was and how she just wanted to sit and watch TV with me, prompting her to ask: "Do you have any meetings tonight, mom?" And just a few days ago, when I half-jokingly changed my Facebook status to reflect the fact that I literally needed to be in three places at once.
As it happens to so many women, it all started with the best intentions -- an invitation to serve on this board, to be part of this committee, to head up this task. It's flattering to be asked, and when it's a cause I support, it feels wrong to say no. So I said yes to everything, and here's what happened over time: I'm cranky, I'm stressed out and I feel like I'm not doing anything well.
The situation came to a head earlier this week when I realized that I'd "forgotten" to eat lunch...and that I hadn't been able to make time for a workout in several days. This has been a pattern for me over time; self-care slips to the bottom of my priority list. It was an issue that I worked very hard to overcome during my year as Shape magazine's Weight-Loss Diary columnist. But old habits and behaviors have a way of resurfacing when we don't tend to the root causes. Fortunately, I learned enough during that year to know what has to come next.
I'll be examining all of my volunteer and work commitments, with the goal of focusing my efforts in the places where I feel like my involvement truly makes a difference. So it's yes to the committee that plans and executes projects that make a real difference in the lives of people who need our help. But it's no to the board that just likes to hear itself talk. Yes to the short-term project with visible results. No to meeting after meeting.
I'll be honest: It's a little uncomfortable for me to even write this. It feels selfish. But deep down, I know it has to be done. In another season of my life, there will be time for a deeper level of commitment to causes outside of my family and my work. But I've come to realize that this isn't that season.
Now, back to the beginning...why is my "weight loss" a gift for my daughter? Because she deserves a mom who isn't stressed to the max, for one thing. But more importantly, she deserves a female role model who shows her that making time for herself -- and to take care of herself -- is both important and OK.