The fact that I had the idea to write this on the Fourth of July and we are now on the last day of the second week of school should give you some sort of an idea how busy my life is. Two elementary-aged kids, a husband, a pretty demanding job, Girl Scout troop leader, cheer team mom… well you get the idea. In fact, I’m sure it sounds a lot like your life too, or maybe a life that is very familiar to you.
On top of all that, I really love to entertain. My house is not the biggest (or the cleanest), but I genuinely love throwing parties and inviting people over. But there is nothing that quite compares to the stress of hearing your doorbell ring when your first guests arrive before you’re ready.
Without fail, no matter what time I start getting everything in order, I spend at least 45 minutes after guests arrive trying to finish the appetizers or blow dry my hair, which leads to me barking at my husband and feeling like a bad hostess and wondering why I continue to put myself through this.
So this year as I was getting ready for our Fourth of July parade and party I was starting to feel that pressure of not being able to get it all done before people were scheduled to show up at 9 AM. I had to get the food out, set up the drink station, drive around the neighborhood marking the parade route (all while trying to stay in a festive mood) when it hit me… when was I supposed to get myself ready?
We’ve all heard the expert advice about self-care and putting our own needs first, but I am really bad about this. It’s just habit to get the kids ready, make sure the dogs are fed, get husband out the door, then go blasting out onto the street, screaming like a banshee as the school bus approaches. And don’t even get me started on the topic of wellness… I don’t think I’ve exercised consistently in about nine years. I’ve just accepted that this is what moms are supposed to do.
So on this holiday morning, I made the decision to do things backwards. I put down the patriotic decorations and empty platters, ran upstairs and took a shower. That’s right… I took a shower. The kids weren’t dressed yet and the dogs were hungry, but I was taking care of ME!
I used my time in the shower to plan out how I wanted the rest of the morning to go, and once my hair was dry and makeup just right I went back downstairs to focus on the party. I couldn’t believe how much easier everything seemed to happen! Not only was I calm, cool and collected when the first guests arrived, I had been anxiously waiting for the doorbell to ring for 10 minutes.
I couldn’t stop thinking what an important example this needed to be in my life. We’ve heard it from all of the experts, and we preach it to our friends, but when do we actually stop and make a conscious effort to take care of ourselves first?
So I’m going to invite you to give it a try, and you don’t even have to be hosting a party to put it into practice. The next time you feel a situation coming on that is giving you any kind of stress or anxiety, stop and ask yourself “what do I need to do to be best prepared to meet this head on?” Some days it might be getting dressed before you make yourself available to anyone else in your family. Other days it might be dropping off your kids with a friend so you can spend some time sketching out a plan or getting your thoughts in order (or even taking a nap!).
You will never be able to get ahead of a situation if you feel like you’re behind the ball.
So how about you? What tips and tricks do you have for putting yourself first?
Rebecca Latham began her career as an on-air radio personality in Tampa, Florida. She relocated to New Mexico in 2003 and fell in love with the Southwest, and was later appointed as the Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department by Governor Susana Martinez in 2015. Rebecca was named National Mother of the Year® in 2017 and assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer for American Mothers in January 2019.