Today, like many days, has been way too long AND too short. My back hurts from lifting a heavy toddler all day, I feel like I didn’t get enough accomplished and I’m tired. I want chocolate and a hot bath, but fear drowning when I pass out from exhaustion.

As a stay-at-home parent, some days it’s easy to forget who I am (besides “Mommy”). Between chasing my little guy around and staring longingly at his uneaten bite of PB&J, hoping he won’t want it because I’m starving, I start to wonder — who the heck am I? I mean, seriously, do I even remember anymore? And that’s a problem.

Increasingly, we live in a culture that encourages helicopter parenting. The idea is that every moment should be about your children and if you even have a thought about wanting to do something nice for yourself, you should immediately feel guilty because you are most assuredly a terrible person.

Now, let’s be clear. If you are one of the few parents who thinks, “Huh? What is she talking about? I do tons of stuff for myself. All. The. Time!” You are probably either one, married to the most amazing spouse ever; two, someone who has a nanny; three, the healthiest, most self-actualized parent ever (sorry, no way); or four — in denial.

I have a master’s degree in counseling and will happily bore anyone to death talking about life balance and the importance of self-care. And oppositely, how hard it is to do. Like many parents, I come dead-last on my own personal to-do list. This is unfortunate, because regardless of what culture dictates to us, everyone suffers when parents put themselves on the back burner.

Yes, we all love our babies and want them to feel important — after all, they are the greatest blessings in our lives. I’m not saying be selfish and ignore your children. I am saying, from experience, that children need to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them (trust me on this one). When we show our kids that we lead balanced lives, we are showing them how to lead healthy lives. What would you think of someone who has a singular obsession? That they have a problem? Well — we, collectively, do have a problem (and I’m as guilty as the next mom).

So what’s the solution? Perspective. Let’s be honest — while you won’t fondly recall washing yet another load of smelly physical training uniforms years from now, you will be glad you had that much-needed coffee date with a friend. This may come as a shock, but there will be never be a sticker on your big kid chart for organizing your pantry or vacuuming. Ever. Yes, chores are a thankless job. That’s why you should go get a massage. Your family will love it when you are much nicer than usual. See? That massage was really for them.

As a perfectionist of the worst kind, I really struggle with this. I tell myself, “I’ll do something for myself after everything else is done.” The problem is, that moment never comes — and as each day draws to a close, I still didn’t do anything nice for myself and find myself laying in bed, sore and depleted once again.

This year, we have a little garden out back. Naturally, I don’t tend to it as much as I should, because it’s a great form of meditation for me. It’s one of the few things — like reading a really good book or cooking — that completely stills my mind. We also joined a gym and I finally have an outlet, when I can get there (ahem) — a place where I can have an hour to focus on myself.

Because I want a sticker on my happy life chart.

Abbey Sinclair is a veteran and a military spouse.​

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