Over the years self care has evolved, changed, shifted and been non-existent. Self care has often felt selfish, exhausting, overwhelming but now…it feels sacred. No matter where I am at with self care, it is always the thing that makes my world feel in total balance or totally out of control.
Every single day is a new mental battle on how I’m going to find balance. When I open my eyes in the morning, I’m immediately thinking about my schedule, William’s schedule, the girls’ schedule and where I’ll fit everything in.
I’ll admit that when my children were young, my understanding of self care was less evolved than it is now. I think I always knew what I needed but the kids always came first and I used that as an excuse to undervalue the importance of making my own mental and physical health a priority. I would sign them up for all sorts of activities, I’d rely on the social time with other moms to fill my cup and I would constantly be signing myself up to take on volunteer roles. Admittedly, I was relying on others for my own personal balance.
Recently, I was with a long-time friend who I met at a community mom group when my children were little and she was telling me about a day when I showed up in my most comfortable items of clothing – comfy leggings, plaid shirt, cozy socks and Birkenstocks. She jokingly said, “You may be comfortable, but your look is not comfortable for the rest of us.” We had a good laugh over my early mama coping strategies – like how I thought wearing every comfortable article of clothing I had despite how alarming it looked was some sort of self care strategy.
One by one the girls made it into elementary school and I found myself alone with William at home most of the time. Bear worked away all week while William was small so it was a lonely time for me.
My days were completely filled with caring for William, going to appointments and then running the girls around to after school activities with William in tow.

Self care was non-existent!
In fact, looking back, my self care was self sabotage – eating whatever was quick and easy, eating out when Bear was home on the weekends, going to bed late because I hated going to bed alone and hyper-focusing on my lack of energy, lack of motivation, challenges with William and how daunting it all was.
I always got out of bed and got through the day but I wasn’t the best version of me during that time. I knew I had to find myself again – challenge accepted.   

My first real step in self care was when I decided to dance again. Josh was now working back on the island which meant he was home in the evening, so for a few years I danced almost every night of the week – hip hop, contemporary, ballet and jazz. My girls danced too but dance for me was the bridge from just being a mom to being a mom and Keely.
My lifelong dreams started to resurface as we started to get a handle on William’s needs which is when the girls and I started riding. It was a huge shift to get into the equestrian world but we loved it and it became our whole world. After the girls moved on from riding, things shifted again but I still find time to mount up. The time outside with Scout keeps me aware of how important it is to make time for myself and to do the things I love and that allow me to connect with myself.
About one year ago, I decided that my physical health needed to be a priority. I wasn’t unhealthy but I wasn’t happy with how I looked or felt in my clothing. William was getting bigger and the realities of his lifelong care was glaring at me. So I committed to getting stronger. I quickly saw and felt myself changing. Total disclosure, I started at about 175 lbs and after three months of dedicated workouts and eating in a way that allowed my body to perform how I needed it to, I had met my first goal of 140 lbs. But the real evolution was completely mental.
Don’t get me wrong, having your nails and toes done, reading a good book, binge watching a new series, eating a meal at a restaurant, cleaning your home, taking a hot bath, going for a walk, watching the sunrise or sunset, chatting with a friend, having your hair done, sleeping in, putting clean sheets on your bed or sitting alone in your car with your favorite treat from the coffee shop are all ways I have refueled – but I have realized that, for me, these are fleeting.

My new-found, personal understanding of self care goes far beyond what I look like or having “me” time. Self care is a balanced state of being which allows me to handle every other piece of my life while remaining balanced emotionally.     

After those first three months, I was less irritable, less likely to panic about things, happier, more motivated, more able to handle the ups and downs that come with parenting a special needs little boy and over all less affected. The daily “work” on myself gives me a sense of personal pride and is anything but fleeting.
Self care isn’t easy! Making yourself a priority and actually knowing what kind of self care you need personally is a challenge in and of itself. Motivating myself to dance was often a struggle at the end of the day. Going into our basement to get my sweat on often requires a lengthy conversation with myself. Getting outside on a rainy day to give Scout some exercise can feel overwhelming.

But the good things in life are worth the effort it takes to achieve them and personal happiness is a good thing so I continue to do the work – I have taken responsibility for my own happiness.

Self care is very personal and this is just the most recent part of my journey to finding balance. I have no doubt that my journey with self care is not over. However, after 15 years of parenting, I am now more aware of its importance, its effects, and its value in how I show up for my husband, my children and myself.

~ Keely

Keely is an author and advocate for children living with disabilities. She lives on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, with her husband, her son William who has cerebral palsy, her two daughters and several four-legged friends.