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Dear Mama,

I see you. I hear you. You’re tired. Overworked. Under-appreciated. You feel as though you’re being pulled in seventeen different directions and honestly can’t remember the last time you took a shower. Your children need you. Your husband needs you. But all you want to do is sit right where you are and enjoy your coffee while it’s still hot. And there goes something crashing to the ground followed by a child crying. Off you go as you set your mug down to check out the situation.

There that mug will sit until you wash the dinner dishes and decide that it’s just not worth heating back up.

I feel you. We all feel you. You are us. We are you. You are not alone.

Nobody ever prepared us for life as a mother. Looking back, my own mother made it seem so easy and flawless as she wrangled four children and kept the house spotless. As I stood and probably yelled at her relentlessly because I couldn’t find my shoe, or because my brother pulled my hair, I can’t help but suddenly feel everything she must have been feeling. The weight she had on her shoulders is something I wish I could help remove now. Nobody helped mom. We made messes. We complained about the meals we were served. We were rotten to our core and we had no idea. Without fail, there mom was to pick it all up and start over again.

The only time she really took for herself was to make chocolates that she attempted to sell at the locals farmers market in an effort to bring another income into the household. But we ate them. My brothers and I would sneak into the refrigerator and eat them. I didn’t realize what I was doing then, but now I know I was just breaking her down even more. So she gave up on her dream.

I don’t want you to give up. I don’t want you to lose your identity or feel stuck in your own version of Groundhog’s Day. For too long I was there and I could not breathe. I spiraled into the darkest depression of my life, and I hid it. Just like you may be hiding it now. I want you to really smile, mama. You have to get out of the cycle you’re currently living in. You won’t survive.

I know it sounds easier said than done — producing a true smile, that is. Or just feeling human again in general. I have faith you can do it, though. I know you need to do it. Your family needs you to do it.

You may be asking how I propose you make yourself feel human again. After all, there are only so many hours in the day, right? Between cooking, cleaning, child rearing, feeding the pets, and everything else that needs to be done around the house, you may be thinking there simply just isn’t time. I promise there is.

You see, you can’t run on an empty battery. You can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t take care of everyone else while you neglect the very person that’s doing it all. You need to find time to unwind, recharge, breathe. I don’t care if it’s 15 minutes or 15 hours, you need that time to collect yourself as a person so you can tackle whatever is laid out before you.

The first day I walked into my clinician’s office was just a few days after I asked my husband to end my life for me. I was afraid. I was embarrassed. I felt completely helpless. As she started to teach me ways to find Heather again, I thought she was crazy. I didn’t have time, nor motivation, to do anything for myself. The very first thing she told me to do was to go home and write down every single thing I want to accomplish in life and hadn’t. In an attempt to heal myself, I went home and made that list. I stared at it and my heart broke into a million more pieces. I viewed it as a list of all of my failures. The following week I brought it into her office and she had me read it aloud. Then she shocked me even further and instructed me to number them from what will take the least amount of time to what would take years to accomplish. She then told me to do them.

Excuse me? 

The remaining session she helped me make baby steps for the first item on my list. How I get from start to finish without only seeing the finish line. She then asked me what I planned to do to ensure I made time for myself between that session and the next. She had be write down what days I would take time for self-care and what I would do.

And you know what? I did it. I started small. Fifteen minutes before bed reading something other than Dr. Seuss. A half hour soaking in our hot tub without my phone in my hand or a child splashing me in the face with water. By taking time for myself, I felt refreshed. I was more patient with my daughter and husband. I found the time to start tackling some of the goals I had in my life. Just fifteen minutes made me feel like a whole new person. I didn’t take time every day, either. Just once or twice a week to start.

Why am I telling you this? Because you have to take time for yourself. It can be done and it doesn’t need to consist of a solitary vacation in the Caribbean. The time can be found before the little ones wake up or after they go to bed. If you have a partner, let them know you need help looking over things while you take just a few minutes to soak in the tub. I am letting you know it is 100% okay to be selfish!

So, mama, please know you’re seen & heard. Please take a few minutes for you, even if you have to set the little ones down in front of the thousandth episode of Paw Patrol so you can drink that coffee in a little bit of peace.