confession time,  Motherhood

On Putting Myself First . Or Fifty-second.

I suck at putting myself first.

Or second.

Or fifty-second, for that matter.

Is this a mom thing? Or just me.

As I lay on the table at my physical therapy appointment on Wednesday, the therapist attacking my leg (technically, my iliotibial band, which I still haven’t actually located anatomically yet) with what looks like a bumpy rolling-pin stick of evil,

commenting on how this really is one of their more torturous tasks – which I would wholeheartedly agree with if I could get my gritted teeth to separate, instead grunting in agreement – and I had to ask myself:

“How did it come to this?”

From my twenties to mid-thirties, I lived at the gym. I didn’t like it, but I did it.

(Funny, how then I also had a metabolism, so I didn’t need that level of activity nearly as much as I do now.)

I tried, as hard as I could, to get to the gym once I had my kids. It wasn’t easy. I joined Weight-Watchers, lost the weight. Stopped Weight-Watchers, put the weight back on. As you do.

We moved to the UK. I gained some weight (oh, what is this lovely thing – a sausage roll you say? A beef and potato pasty?? Yes, please!) then lost most of it, generally due to dog walking and starting to run because I didn’t care much for the gym.

THEN we returned to the US: Hello, fast food-and-double-stuffed-Oreos-and-food-laden-with-high-fructose-corn-syrup. And I gained more weight.

Also, during all this UK and back-to-the-US time, I developed a little cough. Which turned into a chronic cough. Which I still have. Not quite diagnosed. Maybe asthma, but nothing helps. Maybe silent reflux – but nothing is helping there, either.

I’ve seen the asthma doc. I’ve seen the regular doc. I’ve been given a number of a pulmonologist by one doc, the name of a gastrointestinal doc by another. No one knows which part should get a scope first. Not reassuring.

I haven’t made an appointment with either. Ostensibly, I’m afraid of what they might find. More so, I’m afraid I’ll go through a bunch of nasty tests, and they WON’T find anything.

It’s easy to put things off when you have homework to help with, arguments to referee, tangled dog hair to brush out. Google something. Spend time online researching towns that we might need to relocate to for work, even though we don’t know if we need to move yet.

It’s become easy to put myself last.

So the physical therapist. In February, I went back to the gym. I was going to lose this damn weight. As I worked out with a trainer, my hip started popping. And then it hurt.

Soon, it started to hurt after EVERYTHING. I didn’t go to the doctor.  I stopped going to the gym, instead.


I gained weight while forgetting everything I KNOW about eating healthy. I have a love affair with carbs that is just wrong, wrong. I stay up too late. I don’t drink enough water.

Frankly, I’m doing everything wrong. (Interestingly, this is the best my cholesterol has been in forever. It’s actually back in normal range. So there’s that. But only that. )

I finally got myself to a orthopedist, who took gave me a diagnosis I still don’t understand. There were a lot of fancy terms, and bursitis, and iliotibial and piriformis, but really it all sounds like I have tight hips.

Very wide, tight hips mind you.

Apparently, tight hips are not good.And a tight muscle is snapping across my hipbone like a rubber band. You could say I’m tightly stretched. Or wound. You wouldn’t be wrong. The physical therapist who massages my backside in a less pleasant that you would imagine way is taking care of one bit, but I don’t know how to manage the rest.

I don’t know how to put myself first yet strike a life balance. I know flight attendants always say “put on your own air mask first before assisting others around you” but I don’t know how to do it. I’m sure it sounds odd, but there you go.

Also, I feel as startled and disturbed most days as the woman in the illustration looks.

Yesterday was my birthday. I’m officially in the second half of my forties now, and I can’t keep putting myself last.  I need to take care of myself. I need to do more for myself, and figure out how to do it without feeling selfish (despite the fact that taking care of myself so that I’m around longer is a huge gift to give to my family).

I’m Italian, after all. Guilt weighs heavily in my nature.

Also, with the whole “what do you want for your birthday bit”, I realized that it wasn’t as much that I didn’t want anything – it was that I didn’t feel like I deserved anything.

The latter thought needs to get shaken as much as my hips do in an exercise class.

I’m stretching like a good girl, and my hip pain is starting to ease a bit. I’m starting to move more, and I’m back to the gym – as best as I can with kids who are really too old to go to the “kids club” (aka: nursery). I’m loading up my iPod with good apps like MyFitnessPal and a FitDeck to keep me on track. I’ve been doing “Just Dance” with my daughter to burn extra calories and giggle.

I might actually live on the wild side and make that long overdue appointment for a haircut! Heck, I might even get crazy and book a manicure/pedicure with the gift card I got for Christmas and have been holding onto for a rainy day/when I really deserve it.

After all, I’m not getting any younger.


If you have advice on how to get my shit together and take care of me: fire away.

I’m better at doing things when I’m given permission. Or being told off



  • dedezoomsalot900300623

    Oh, I don’t do this any better, but I totally relate. Hang in there mama and cut yourself some slack. It’s hard to take care of all the people in our lives, but we can’t do it if we’re not here. So do give yourself a little pick-me-up!!

  • Kim

    Jenn, I love the article, as it poses an age old question that I think even our great grandmothers tried to deal with. Women, in general, are nurturers. We want to take care of everyone else and we forget about the most important person of all – ourselves. I still suck at taking care of myself – and I end up being down for the count for several days from the after effects of the seizures that occur when I don’t. I’ve put on weight as well since being a blogger for the past two years, devoting all of my time to my blog and my children (not necessarily in that order) but doing one to take care of the other – its a constant merry-go-round.

    This year I made a promise to myself that I would try to do something for me each day – even if it was just to take a walk by myself for a few minutes – dance around the house like a crazy person – or catch up on a television show that I love and have been missing.

    Baby steps. You’re headed in the right direction. Just remember to take a few minutes – where ever you can find them each day – to pamper yourself, do something special for yourself, and you will soon see that the off kilter becomes the balanced.

    • Jenn

      I like your idea to get SOMETHING in every day.
      Even working up a sweat on “Just Dance” on the kiddos X-Box would be better than nothing!

      Thanks for your comments!

  • Jill

    I can sooo relate to this. I was always an active youth and young adult. 4 kids later, working full time at a job I sit all day, and just plane putting myself last, I can so understand your struggle. I don’t care about being skinny, I just want to be healthy. I want to create a doable plan that I won’t fail out. I am having back problems because of my weight and my eyes are struggling with higher than normal cholesterol. I hear you girl, I need help to. When you figure it out, let me know. In the mean time,thanks for sharing your struggle with us. It is good to know I am not alone in this.

    • Jenn

      Back at ‘cha. It’s easy to fall into the “I’m the only one” mentality.
      Especially with so many 40+ moms in bikinis at my local pool. Aye yi yi.

  • Danielle

    Oh lady, you and me both. Though, I’m not sure what my excuse is because I’m still under 30 (for another 6 months or so). I’ve been fighting this nasty cycle for the last year, ever since we moved. I lost the structure, the routine, the social network, the familiar. That’s my excuse at least.

    Do one thing at a time? Maybe that’ll help, I don’t know. I’m just as bad at this as you are. But, you are lovely, and wonderful. So there’s that. (Happy Belated Birthday- hope to see you in SJ!)

    • Jenn

      Yup. Loss of routine is a HUGE one.
      Actually, I think my problem is more that I haven’t found a routine that I can stick with since we’ve been back. And it’s been a year and a half.

      Like my Slimpod says: “A little big of something is better than nothing.” So baby steps are better than sitting my ass on the sofa. I WILL find you in SJ!!!

      • Danielle

        I know. We moved a year and a half ago too. And in still trying to find routine. It just isn’t coming that easily!

        Yes! I bet we’ll be in similar sessions. Maybe I’ll just stalk your schedule 😉

  • Phyl

    Hi Jenn, it’s a start, going to PT. Glad the hip is feeling better. The gastro and pulmonary tests aren’t that bad. Start with pulmonary. That’s step two.
    I didn’t realize you didn’t deserve a birthday gift. I thought you did; that’s why I sent one. After all, you have just had 5 Belden males in the house for a week. Funny, I heard a lot of praise coming from your guests.

    • Jenn

      Sorry Phyl, I guess that came out wrong! YOU sent a lovely birthday gift, and I really appreciate it!!!! It was generous and thoughtful.

      I meant that I asked for nothing from the kids other than to behave. I felt guilty asking for anything material as we are trying to really limit discretionary spending, and unexpected (and planned) expenses crop up – We need to focus on house repairs and the like, and I’m going to BlogHer. (But I always feel guilty asking for things. Of course we like to get presents, I never feel right expecting them!)

  • Thom Higgins

    This spring when I went in for my own hip issue, my doctor asked why I hadn’t come back in for the cholesterol recheck that he requested. I gave him the old, “I’ve been meaning to. I’ve been busy. Blah, blah, blah.” In a not so polite way he reminded me that it had been three years since that original test. Oops. It is easy to let it slide.

  • menopausalmother

    I can soooo relate to this! I’ve been a gym rat for 30 years but have struggled with a fatty food addiction since the day I was born (What? Gerber doesn’t make pureed french fries? Hmph!). Just this past year I took some nasty spills that bruised my knees up a bit. Now one of them is quite painful and I have to wear a knee brace when I go to my zumba classes. Have I been to the doctor about this? Noooooo….

    • Jenn

      Ah, but at least you keep going to your Zumba classes! I used it as a terrible excuse to stop going to the gym. Its so easy to do, isn’t it, to skip that doctor though!

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