I am so in awe of our wahine and all the things they contribute to. I am constantly amazed at what they have to do, organise, confront and who they look after in their lifetimes. The women I see today are working full time, bringing up kids, and still running households, committees, businesses, doing study, managing and participating in sports groups, play meetings, school meetings and attending everything they need to, mainly for others, rather than themselves.
While they are strong and committed it does worry me in what I have seen and experienced about looking after each other and ourselves. We are really good at looking after others. We do it all the time, but how well do we look after ourselves? Many of us put ourselves last whether that is in regard to eating or exercising, or just taking time out to do the things we might like, if we even remember what those things are.
My mother was always telling me off for being so busy looking after everyone else’s needs and not my own. Working, studying, tending to stepchildren, my own children, one who was seriously sick for a number or years and was in and out of hospital. While she and my sister tried to make me slow down, to my own detriment I failed to feel, see and hear the warning signs. The warning signs from others and those that were coming from my own body. How many times do we over ride our body and its warning signs? Why do we not listen? You are tired, hungry, need a break, not hungry, need to sit….. the list goes on..
I didn’t listen and it finally caught up. I hit a wall and burnt out to a point where I felt I couldn’t function even in the small things. It was one of the WORST times in my life.
I soon learnt though… I remember a clear warning sign and it was when I was in hospital with my son, I met another Māori mum whose daughter had just come out of brain surgery having tumors removed. When her daughter was bought back to ICU her mother was nowhere to be seen. I found this odd, as it was such a serious operation. The nurses were there, they helped out and after a day or so the daughter was up and trying to walk.
Two days later, at midnight I was in the parent kitchen making coffee… (over riding my tiredness warning sign), when the mum walked in. We talked about her daughter coming out of the operation really well and how amazing it was to see her up out of bed. The mum said to me “I suppose you wondered where I was”. I didn’t respond. She did inform me that she had another daughter up at the oncology ward (as if having one in neurology ward wasn’t bad enough) who had cancer and had an infection and she was up there as they had a short period of time where they may have had to make a decision to pull her off life support. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. I couldn’t even start to imagine having two children seriously sick and certainly not at the same time. One was hard enough. As we got talking, I asked her if she could teach me one thing from her experience what would it be? She said, “Look after yourself first, it will be hard but you need to do it, we as women do not do that enough.” She went on to say “That it’s then, our children and whānau will be ok”.
We definitely need to look after ourselves better and sometimes that does mean putting ourselves first. Easier said than done as this is such a foreign concept especially for the women I know. So many women I associate with have major health issues, are exhausted and on antidepressants. These are amazingly talented and strong women. Many of us make major decisions every day, we manage teams, families, businesses, we travel and too often run on sleep deprivation. Sometimes it’s not until our health or someone else’s close to us is compromised that we learn to slow down. Why does looking after ourselves seem like such a selfish act? And why do we feel so guilty when we finally do it? I constantly hear my friends justifying their actions or over-compensating in some way to make up for doing that little something for themselves
Recently, I was up North with some of my friends. It was New Years so I asked them what their goals were and asked them to name three things they would actively do for themselves this year. Two friends couldn’t answer what their goals were, one friend answered and as we nutted it out further, we realised that it was her husbands goal not hers. After digging deeper I asked these women what their dreams and aspirations were. They could easily answer what they were for their partners, family and children but there were tears as these women struggled to identify even one for themselves. I am no expert in the area but i did struggle to identify once upon a time what my dreams were, heck i couldn’t even tell a friend what my hobbies were outside of family and work. It took me ages to remember that ummm actually i like reading, designing and thats right i use to sew a little bit….We spent three hours writing, reading and discussing to come up with goals, dreams and visions that were their own. Another friend going through a hard time said that she was told some advice that seemed to work for her. That advice was to identify three things that make her happy. She identified good coffee, sunshine and exercise. She was told she needed these things on a regular basis to keep her grounded and happy.
My challenge to our wahine is to give yourself permission to do something just for YOU. Once you identify it, try and make it a regular thing. I did this and it was hard to implement at first but now i can’t go without it. We also need to feel ok about giving ourselves permission NOT to do something as well. Its ok if that washing is not folded right now, and no one will die if the dishes wait 10 minutes so I can just enjoy this cuppa in peace. So what can you do for YOU today? What can you work towards that will make you feel good? What are your three things, wahine mā?