My family is a dog family. My whole life, we’ve always had a pet dog, the same breed actually- a soft coated wheaten terrier. But with a family pet, the responsibility was shared amongst everyone in the family, often mostly falling on my parents. Besides family vacations, you could always count on at least one person being around to take care of the dog. The care of a family dog rarely rested solely on one person.
Working full time at home, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to become a foster home for a dog. Basically I would be giving a dog a much needed break from the often stressful shelter, and in exchange, he would keep me company.
So this is Levi. And he’s been great! But this is the first time in my life that another living being is fully dependent on me and my care of him. He’s not a family pet, he’s solely my responsibility. And while he’s pretty low maintenance and independent and is still a dog and not a human baby for example, taking care of Levi has made me more aware of taking care of my own needs and my diabetes.
If you’ve ever been on a plane, you know that if in an emergency, you secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others, including children. When you’ve constantly put the needs of your children before your own, this may at first seem like a selfish act, but the truth is, you can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself first.
So here’s the situation. Levi is anxious to get outside, it’s clear that he needs to go to the bathroom. I live upstairs so to take him out means bundling up for the cold, putting on the leash, and walking around the apartment complex until hes done his business. Sometimes this is a quick process, other times not so much. Levi is making his needs very clear and as his caretaker, he’s dependent on me. But at this exact moment, my blood sugar is crashing. I’m shaking, lightheaded, feeling weak. I quickly take some fruit snacks, but they still take 10-15 minutes to work before I feel better. Do I make Levi wait?
This situation is new to me. But I know it will be common place in my future when I have kids of my own. As a parent, you often put your children’s needs before your own. But as caring for Levi is showing me, sometimes you have to put your oxygen mask on first. So I made Levi wait until I felt well enough to walk outside with him. After all, how can I care for him if I pass out from low blood sugar?
Self-care isn’t selfish. This phrase first struck me because although I completely agree, I realized that we are often made to feel guilty for taking the time to take care of ourselves. It can be seen as indulgent or a luxury. But self-care is essential. When you don’t take the time to care for yourself and your own needs, what you do give to others is less than your best. You run on empty, emotionally and physically. When you take care of yourself, you are better able to take care of others.
As I write this post on #SelfCareSunday in the second week of January, a time when New Year’s resolutions are fresh in people’s minds, I encourage you to think about your own self-care, and what you can do for yourself that will in turn, help you better serve others.