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I see you, mama, up at 6 a.m. to wash the soccer socks and find the shin guards that you remembered at 5 a.m. for practice tonight.

I see you planning and spending a small fortune on your kid’s themed birthday party every year. I see you up at the elementary school twice a week, bringing your kids lunch and helping their teachers in the workroom. I see you at PTA meetings and fundraisers and awards banquets.

I see you hauling your kids to art classes and dance classes and scout meetings and soccer practices and games. I see you scheduling playdates with their friends’ moms and planning meals and grocery shopping for healthy foods you think your kid will actually eat. I see you packing lunches and snacks and checking backpacks and emptying folders and filling water bottles. I see you cheering on everyone but yourself.

I see you, mama, struggling to get through the day because you’re not taking care of you.

I see you exhausted and depleted and unfulfilled. You’re not getting enough sleep. You’re not drinking enough water. You’re not remembering to eat lunch every day.

You’re not pausing long enough to remember who you are and what you really love to do, beyond taking care of your family. And guess what? It shows.

Your kids notice. They see you rushing around to take care of them and only them. The world doesn’t revolve around your kids, and, frankly, neither should you. Set limits in your schedule and budget and home so they understand this as they get older and mature into adulthood.

Mama, stop treating your kids better than yourself.

Don’t buy your kids new clothes and shoes every other month and then never refresh your own closet. Don’t run your kid from activity to activity and then neglect your own hobbies and fitness. Don’t pack your kid’s lunch and then forget to eat the next day. Don’t put your kids to bed on time and then stay up until after midnight getting things ready for them. Don’t fix all of their problems for them.

Make your kids choose one activity per season. Teach them how to pack their own lunches. Ask them to carry their dirty hamper to the laundry room when it’s full. Make them put away their own clean clothes. Stop cleaning their rooms for them. If anything, get rid of excess toys so that it’s easier for them to tidy up.

While you’re at it, get rid of your own excess clutter so that it’s easier to clean the rest of the house, too. Pare down your commitments and outsource tasks as much as possible so that you still have time to be you. If you’re married, you need to make time for your marriage, too.

Don’t anticipate and attend to your kids’ every need and then neglect your own mental and physical health or your relationship with your spouse. Eventually, the stress and exhaustion will take its toll on all of you. Pour into yourself so that you can continue to pour into them, too.

The Golden Rule goes both ways. Treating others the way you want to be treated means treating yourself well, too. Love and respect yourself so that you can love and respect them, too.

Self-care that refuels your tank so you can better serve your family and your community is never selfish. Self-care becomes selfish only when it shifts your focus inward and encourages you to only serve you.

Sabbath is critical to service.

Stop treating your kids better than yourself.

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Lauren Flake

Lauren Flake is a wife, mom to two girls, watercolor artist, seventh generation Texan, and early onset Alzheimer's daughter. She is the author and co-illustrator of two award-winning children's books for grieving preschoolers, Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? and Where Did My Sweet Grandpa Go?: A Preschooler's Guide to Losing a Loved One. She loves green tea, dark chocolate, and collecting all things turquoise.

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