Friday, July 15, 2011

The Journey to "Me"

“Well, Mandi, you have a long road on a dental journey ahead of you”.
This sentence was single handedly the worst sentence I have heard all year.  There I was sitting in my dentist's office, gums sore from a long overdue cleaning, and now I was being told I was about to embark on whatever a “dental journey” is. My dentist, with his friendly smile (probably due to the fact I was going to finance some nice vacations for him this year), looked at my dental x-rays puzzled.

“I’m not sure where we are going to start…but we’ll fix you up”.
I was then given my “itinerary” for the dental journey. My x-rays showed 4 large cavities; cavities which appear to be leaning toward root canals. I also had swelling along my gum line, which of course the hygenist had to show me through the tiny circle mirror.  Yeah like I really wanted to see that.

"All of this is reversible Mandi, you just aren't brushing long enough, and you aren't flossing everyday. You just aren't taking time for your dental health".

Time? I instantly got a flash vision of me in my bathroom on a typical morning. There I am toothbrush in hand, trying to hurry and get to a 8:30 a.m. deposition, being pulled by the hand by my son H,  hearing my daughter call from the other room.... "Mommy, I need you to help me find my earphones", and hearing my husband mumble under his breath because he can't find L's shoes.

So, being a defense attorney, I am naturally defensive and I launched into my argument: "I work a crazy schedule"; “I never had cavities as a kid”, “My teeth are all nice and white”, “I brush my teeth all the time”, “I don’t have any pain in the teeth you are showing”. 
My dentist smiled and patted me on the shoulder as if to say "Oh you poor stupid, plaque filled, poor flosser, dental diseased girl". He said “Oh, Mandi, you are a Mom. Moms never put themselves first. But now its time for you to put you first for awhile”.

It’s funny how this comment, roughly interpreted in the dental world to mean “Just take time to floss or your teeth will fall out”, really struck a cord inside of me. I left the dental office with a roll of dental appointments and a lot to think about.

My dentist is completely 100% right, and about more than my lackluster attempt at daily flossing.  I am completely guilty of never putting myself first. Since my children have been born, I became Mommy and left Mandi somewhere behind (and apparently somewhere without floss).  

I have always put my children first, and hardly ever take time for myself. Let me put it this way, you know when you fly in an airplane and they do the safety demonstration and tell you that if you lose oxygen put your mask on first and then help your child? Umm…I’d be dead if this happened because not only would I put all three of my children’s masks on first, I’d make sure my husband did it right before finally looking to myself!

 I see examples all over my life, some of which I've mentioned before here on the blog. My children are dressed in the newest, trendiest clothes, while I am seriously wearing pants I owned in law school. I had to switch to coloring my hair brown, because I don’t have time to make my 8 week hair highlighting appointments that kept my dishwater blonde hair, light blonde. I am rarely seen without my children, and the dust collecting on my treadmill in my basement probably weighs more than the added weight I have no time to lose.

Now it may seem like it, but I’m not complaining. I LOVE my life as a Mom and therefore I prefer to be in that role. So I do this to myself, because my life revolves around my kids. But, what I wish I could see more is that my kids can be the center of my life, and I can still put myself first from time to time. Like so many other things, it's a balance. A balance I need to focus on.  A balance I am trying to get better at.  I see so many Moms out there with book clubs, exercise time, nicely highlighted hair, beautiful manicured nails…and you know what? They are excellent Moms. The fact that they take time out to put themselves first every now and then has not affected their parenting ability in the slightest.

I need to take lessons from these Moms.

As you know from my previous blog posts, finding Me Time has been one of my top priorities in the past year and something I'm trying to work on. Now, I certainly have improved over this past year. I've recognized the fact I never do stuff for myself long before the dental hygenist got out her scary pick tool. So, I've started on my own little journey. A journey to let "Mandi" out every now and then. This year,  I treated myself to a few shopping sprees, started reading again (and not just Dr. Suess), and have made time for more girls nights out and more date nights with my husband. I have sought to reconnect with old friends, and started making time for my hobbies.

“When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”, you see it on cheesy t-shirts and bumper stickers, but it’s actually true. Taking time for yourself is not only good for you, its imperative. Putting yourself first, from time to time, not only can improve your overall well-being, but it will make you a better Mom. I have noticed that the times I do take an afternoon and head to the salon, or spend an evening scrapbooking while my husband plays with the kids actually refreshes me, gets my mind in gear, and makes me the best Mom I can be.

My dental problems were merely a reminder, and a painful reminder at that.  I have to take more time for me. I have to remember that in addition to the role I am most comfortable in, i.e. Mommy, I am also just Mandi. And Mandi needs to take care of herself too.


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