School As Self Care

By Jeannie O’Neill, Education Director FLSM

“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself
In a dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hard–so tangled and rough”
-From The Inferno of Dante

Dante’s words recall a time in my life when I felt that I simply could not see a path forward. I felt lost and fearful. I lacked purposefulness. Not that I was depressed or in despair, I was just simply not feeling fulfilled. I woke up every day to the mountains of laundry, grocery lists and a house full of children’s toys and sounds. I loved and cherished my three little people, however, I no longer felt like motherhood was my entire story. I was tired, depleted and disappointed. Furthermore, I worried that once all of my children were in school, I would be sad and lonely. I already had begun to notice that when they were at preschool or a friends house, I literally did not know what to do with myself. I felt alone and lost. I needed time to focus on myself so that I could be present with my children without resentment or exhaustion. Everyone’s solution and helpful advice, was “self care.”

I needed self care. Initially I thought that meant; girls weekends, a night out, a hot bath, chocolate, essential oils. You know, easy self care, a one stop shop that took anywhere from two minutes to an entire weekend. I believed this would reset my life and give me the reboot to once again be a full engaged and nourished mother, wife and friend. I thought this was exactly how I could feel like I had not completely lost myself in mothering. Truthfully, that easy self care worked. But the catch is that it only worked temporarily. I felt revitalized for a short time, but within a couple of days, I noticed I once again felt depleted.

The pattern that came up for me at that point was that I was consistently looking forward to my next opportunity for “me time.” I diligently planned, weekends ahead of time, a moment to slip away and feel nourished. What that meant was, I was not present most of the time. I was counting down days to when I could make time for self care. Which I think is actually quite common. We all see memes and funny online posts such as; “is it Friday yet?” My looking ahead towards self care time, was similar to that feeling of wanting the work week to be over, and seeking the self care of the weekend. Constantly looking ahead was not being mindful or present with my family.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. What I really needed was sustainable self care. Self care that puts a person’s soul work and passion, in an accessible place. This is where nourishment can be long term. Working towards a goal that is connected to purpose and heart’s work is a more sustainable self care practice than any bubble bath or chocolate could ever be. When I thought about it, I acknowledged my need to invest in myself. Going back to school and investing in my future felt like a better long term self care practice. I realized that pursuing a career path and investing in an education was far more valuable than a pedicure that doesn’t last. I could put my time, money and energy towards something that would help my entire life feel meaningful. Education is something that cannot run out or be taken away. Learning and being studious gave me a purposefulness that I am so grateful for. It was the most soulful self care I could have found.  

What a gift I gave myself.