When I say “self-care,” you say…?

Last night, I did it. I went OUT. I went out to a real restaurant and drank a real beer and enjoyed the company of friends other adult friends as we watched my husband perform stand-up comedy. We weren’t even gathered together because it was a kid’s birthday party, or we were getting together for a foster mother support group. We went out to be adults, having a good time. After the show, my husband and I even went to a local bar (not downtown, we’d absolutely be the creepy old people with a bunch of college kids in that scene) and had a few drinks and enjoyed one another’s company without interruptions from one or both of the kids. And dare I say it……. I had a damn good time.

I’ve noticed this movement lately on social media, calling for “self-care.” At first glance, I figure self-care is drinking enough water in a day, going for a walk, sticking your face in front of an essential oil diffuser, whatever gets your gears grinding. It seemed a little silly to me, because a) who has time in the day to meditate when there’s laundry to be done, and b) child care isn’t going to wait when your two-year-old has turned into a nudist and is constantly removing her diaper at the blink of an eye. If you miss that, child care turns into floor care, and then there sure as heck isn’t any time for self-anything. But…..

But.

Maybe there is something to be said about this whole “self-care” notion. Last night was FUN. Last night, we weren’t foster parents, trying to think of ways to reform a broken system, and we weren’t on-call when the kids needed to brush their teeth. We enjoyed one another as people, and I left feeling like someone else other than just Mom. “Mom” is such an all-encompassing word these days, a catch-all for planner, accountant, secretary, housekeeper, baby shark soloist, you name it. I love being Mom. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m a damn good mom. Not perfect by any stretch, but damn good at what I do. But let me just say that it was nice being just Sarah again last night, for those few hours. I felt valued by my husband and my friends as a person, not just a Mom. For me, I feel like THAT is the kind of self-care that’s going to keep the energy and motivation flowing for me.

This crazy foster life that we lead…..always changing, always in a state of flux and unknown, it can bring about an odd form of daily stress that’s difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it. The roller coaster of emotions coincides with the roller coasters of case plans that your kids are going through right now. You find yourself wanting to fix everything for them, when in reality the most you can do is hold your breath with them while you hold their hand. With a forever child, plans for longevity are normal and expected. With a foster child, you measure longevity by milestones and accomplishments. There is a certain stress that comes along with that, never knowing if the next milestone will be met. Let me tell you, that can wear on you. I feel like my stress compressor has a little bit more wear and tear on it these days, but it’s still chugging along. It just needs moments like last night, and it needs to be given a reminder that there still is an all-encompassing, multifaceted human underneath it all. Foster parenting does have the ability to become an identity for some of us, just like parenthood in general can be an identity for others. My tip tonight: find your whole self. Let that be your self-care, because that “self” deserves it. And apparently, if you look hard enough, there are ways to make it work where you can find time to step away (this is my usual excuse). There’s that simple saying floating around now: “Just do you.” No, seriously. Do you. You deserve it. We all need to remind ourselves that we’re human sometimes.

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