take care of yourself

Of all the things I say to new parents, there is no more useless piece of advice than "take care of yourself." It's like an old filling, or post-Cheesecake Factory vomit - Nobody is psyched when that comes out of your mouth at a cocktail party. And if it were something I could control, believe me, I would.

By the time I get to "yourself," whatever poor new parents I've cornered will already have stopped listening. I don't blame them. In an instant, I've proven myself an amnesiac, a well-intentioned but incompetent backseat parent who doesn't know that she can't remember the freshly-dug trenches of new parenthood.

I've tuned out those windbag parents a million times.

I've written about this before, how totally shite most advice is. In the case of "take care of yourself," while it's important and true, it's also the kind of lesson a person can only teach him or herself, from the bottom of a very deep hole, or possibly rehab.

Like, you will seriously get a fat shitty ticket if you don't buy new tabs, girl. This is not the DMV punking you. New tabs are like having to show ID to buy Sudafed - stupid, but legitimately a real thing.

Or, wait a tick, this guy reminds you of someone... who is it... oh right, every other guy you've dated who has turned out to be an alcoholic. 

Or, stop, no, don't eat that pizza. Seven glasses of champagne will not magically nullify your allergy to tomatoes.

People can tell you that you have daddy issues and food allergies, but if you're like me, you just charge right ahead sans self-esteem and epi-pen, until eventually you get sick of or on yourself, clean out your refrigerator, buy a planner, and begin again.

As a new parent, you have to run yourself into the ground to the point that you can feel the gravel in your teeth before you hear what your friends have been saying when they chide, "take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup."

I always thought, "oh, I see. So you think I'm an empty cup? THANKS."
(Yes, you should pity my husband. Pity all my husbands.)

I always took the self-care speech as a criticism of my showmanship, rather than an acknowledgment of the limits of what a human - ANY human - can do on 6 months of 3-5 hours of sleep a night. Rather than simplify my commitments and rest, I added more grooming and socializing to my daily duties. Rather than actually take care of myself, I slapped on a fresh coat of paint over my chipped and crumbling self, with the cunning use of:

1. Pants
2. Mascara
3. Banter

Think of Amanda Bynes near the end. Yeah, that's basically me after someone says, "you need to take care of yourself."

I hope I've never told you to take care of yourself, and unwittingly made you feel weaker, more scrutinized. Like I'd just added yet another thing to your to-do list that will never get done. If I have, I'm sorry.

I understand how you feel. I'm pretty sure I will always feel that way - overcommitted, underslept, ashamed of the dust on my bookshelves, staring up at the behemoth that is Clean Unfolded Laundry Mountain at 2:47 pm, signing up - with the best of intentions - for another committee. But this one is for children, you guys. What, am I not going to sign up to help children? What, am I some kind of heartless bridge troll? I can do it. I've got more to give.

What happens for me is that I end up taking on so much - children, home, projects, community, volunteer work, worky work, important friendships that span the continent - that I have to choose between the burden of committing to do my work, and the burden of guilt for failing to do my work. Guilt is worse because after I carry it around for long enough that I'm ready to put it down, I still have to do the actual work - heave up my commitment on already-exhausted shoulders, and carry it until it's done.

And then there are the surprises - Hand Foot Mouth, for example! Just to pick something out of thin air! Flooded garages and broken ovens and OH BOY have I got some plans for our backyard!

All of this is to say that the things I actually care about have really been slipping - writing well, listening to my children, seeing friends, exercising, scheduling "quality time" with Ryan (yes, it's a euphemism) (for couples yoga) (which is also a euphemism) (for ballroom dancing) (which is also a euphemism). It's time for me to tell myself what only I can say:

You have to take care of yourself.

This is my goal for this week.

you're toasting the creme brulees this week
i shall now retire
to the drawing room
where i shall lie
in repose
upon a chaise
upholstered in finest mattelasse
which i recently learned
is pronounced
and not


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