I’ve been preaching self-care since the early 1990’s when I worked in residence life at a local college. I watched student resident assistants working for free room and board in the dorm give all their to care for their fellow students. I knew if they ignored their own needs it wouldn’t be long before they would knock on my office door asking to leave. So their self-care was in my best interest and theirs. Now you can find apps, Websites, life coaches, books, and youtube channels dedicated to facilitating your self-care.
I know self-care. Lack of self-care isn’t what I struggled with when Paul and I became the guardian of my 3-year-old grandson. Paul and I struggled with the care of us as a couple, couple care. We were both great at finding time to care for ourselves, my time is 4:45 am-6:00 am. But finding time for each other, just us, was the struggle. As the grandparents, we don’t have any fallback relatives to help and give us a date night. It is like being young parents, we fall into bed after a long day of work and care and rise early to rinse and repeat. However, our greatest strength has been our “Team Us” philosophy. Now it was in jeopardy.
I found I used every moment my grandson was occupied to scramble and keep up with housework, shopping, cooking, and of course my full-time employment. When my grandson had supervised visits with my daughter I was like the Tasmanian Devil, whirling quickly around to get as much done as possible during the two hours I had. It might mean running through the grocery store(s), literally running, getting my oil changed or checking in on my 86 year-old mother-in-law. But when you make a commitment to a life partner, it ‘s not just about what you give. It’s equally about what you get. Paul is my other half, the breath between each heartbeat. Yes, he is like my oxygen! I can’t just cut him out of my life and live like roommates. We needed couple care.
We created a plan. Every night, no matter how busy the day or late the hour we were collapsing into bed, we kissed goodnight. Every morning before the rest of the house crawled or charged (like a 3-year-old) out of bed we spent a moment hugging and saying, “I love you”. I learned that not everything always needs to be done. We can do without paper napkins for a few days and other minor groceries. We could skip on running to the recycling center for a few days. But we couldn’t skip on each other. We had to make a concentrated effort to care for each other. It meant I couldn’t expect him to read my mind, and he sometimes needed to consciously schedule some time for us. We began using the time my grandson visited his mom, my daughter, for us to have alone time. We took walks. We went out to breakfast or lunch. But most importantly we stopped being task-focused. We became “Team Us” focused. We communicated. I told him exactly what I needed. He told me exactly what he needed. We compromised.
It’s not perfect. It’s not where we last year at this time (we were at a Sandals resort in Exuma, Bahamas celebrating our wedding anniversary). But it is enough to keep our relationship and our “Team Us” philosophy alive. It is also a work in progress. We are learning what more we have to do for us. We still feel impatient with each other. We have moments where we feel lost, but we know they are temporary. We know because we believe. We believe in the power of “Team Us”. We understand our commitment to each other is exactly what this beautiful, little boy in our life needs. He needs to be surrounded by those who love themselves, love each other, and love him. He deserves it and so do we.