mom

What A Stray Cat Taught Me About Self-Care

by Kristen Hewitt

It was a quick conversation with a wonderful woman, but it changed my life: We were buying kitten food at the pet store and she brought in a mama cat with two kittens that were still nursing. The mom, not even a year old, was skin and bones.

She was so beautiful, yet starving and scared, and needed to nourish her babies. I asked the worker if I could buy a can of wet food and feed it to the mama cat, which desperately needed it. She let me feed her, and we watched as mama cat inhaled the entire can. When her 7-week-old kittens tried to taste the new food, she pushed them away.

The worker watched smiling and said, “Good job mama, that’s your food.”

“It’s not good for the kittens to eat it?” I asked. “No it’s fine, but mama needs to take care of herself.

And that my friends was my “aha moment.” Of course she does.

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How many times have we heard this? Moms need to put themselves first, or moms need to take care of themselves. It’s common sense really, but let’s be real, how often do any of us do this?

This one brief moment in a pet store, as I was racing to car line was when I realized after nearly seven years of being a mom, I needed to take care of myself. Now. After all, that’s how Mother Nature intended it.

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Mama cat wasn’t feeling guilty that her babies were hungry, and she wasn’t worried they might not like the specs of green in the food. She knew she needed to survive, she needed to eat, and she needed to live.

It’s a basic instinct, and for some reason one I’ve suppressed for far too long. I’ve been trying to be everything for everyone, and in the process neglecting my own well-being, my health, and my happiness.

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But then as I was driving to school the how crept in. How do we take care of ourselves when the responsibilities are mounting? How do we find the time to seek joy when our kids are calling for us? How do we finally quiet our minds and actually listen to our inner voice?

One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “When things don’t add up, it’s time to subtract.” That’s the answer to the question how.

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When you feel that life is becoming overwhelming, the waves crashing over your head, and the pressure and the weight of the world on your shoulders, that’s the moment you know it’s time to subtract. It’s time to eliminate something out of your life to make time for you.

Some of us use a schedule, so look at it. And if you don’t have one, make one. What is the one thing you can do less of to make time for you? Is it less volunteering at school? Less time at work? Less time cleaning your house? What can you remove today to find an hour a day for yourself?

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Next, ask for what you need. Tell your spouse, a friend, a family member, that you need this one hour to make room for something that brings you joy. Then do it!

Find the time to take care of yourself, and enjoy it. Savor the quiet, the peace, the stillness. Don’t think about what you’re not doing, be fully present in what you are doing. When and if the thoughts of guilt creep in, change your thoughts, if possible, and your emotions will follow.

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It’s funny how life, the universe, God, or whatever we believe in presents these life lessons to us. Lately I’ve been seeing several signs. A spiritual book that is normally on my bookshelves lands on my nightstand. (And no, I didn’t put it there.) An affirmation card of Louise Hay’s normally in my nightstand drawer turns up on the kitchen island. Sure, my kids probably found them, thought they were pretty and brought them out. Still, they were there. Lastly, this brief moment in a pet store. A reminder that in life, no matter what species, all moms need to nourish themselves first. I’m finally listening. Are you?

For more from Kristen Hewitt visit her blog mommy in SPORTS, her Facebook page, or Twitter and don’t forget to SHARE!