As a 27 year old woman, working in the demanding corporate world, I was the epitome of balance and health. Even though my working hours averaged between 10–16 hours, I was healthy, full of energy and whatever stress I encountered never seemed unmanageable.
My mornings started at the gym, junk food was limited to weekends in limited quantities, and a Saturday didn’t begin until I had my morning run. I was healthy, fit and happy. The kind of feeling that makes you certain that whatever challenges come across your way, and in some instances, get hurled at you with Hulk-like force, are surmountable.
Fast forward 5 years and that sensation felt as though it had been a dream like state. A fantasy that I had imagined, as it was so far from the reality that I was experiencing. The 5 years had been a journey of a whirl-wind wedding, a pregnancy and an acrimonious divorce, leaving not only my bank balance depleted, but also my personal well-being.
Juggling being a single mom, and a demanding career, whilst trying to get myself back on my feet post-divorce, left little time for anything else. Raising my son was my priority, and at the time, being a good enough mom meant that I refused to do anything that would compromise the quantity of the time I gave. My daily life was a constant rush of school drop off, work demands, school pick-up, quantity time with my son and more work after my angel was safely sound asleep. I say quantity, as that’s what it was, not quality. My diet consisted of what was quick, not healthy, but quick. My exercise routine meant running after my little one, or running out of energy and patience. I was either exhausted or irritated, and if I dared to take some time for me, I was guilt ridden. The guilt was constant. If I wasn’t with my son, I was experiencing mommy-guilt, if I was spending time with him and had to sideline my work commitment I felt as though I wasn’t a worthy employee, and at night when I switched on my computer I felt resentment. Resentment for the exhaustion and guilt I felt all the time, resentment for the 27 year old woman I had been and the careless choices I made, resulting in my vastly different future.
With my 5.2 foot frame weighing in at 164 lbs, my cholesterol and glucose levels well above the safe zone, whatever my current situation was, my future looked even bleaker unless I made changes. This was made clear to me at my annual health checkup, a wake up call that I am very grateful for. It made me realize that my health mattered, that my downtime to recharge my batteries mattered, and most importantly that quality time with the most important human in my life was more important than quantity of exhausted time.
It wasn’t an overnight change, but the results that I was seeing kept me going. I realized that taking 30 minutes to myself after work to go for a run before I fetch my son is beneficial for both of us. I get to release the day’s stress, and he has time with a mom who is relaxed, and energetic, giving him the attention he deserves. I realized that sometimes switching on my stepping machine, rather than my laptop will make me more productive the next day, and it made me realize that chocolate, in moderate amounts, has benefits I have found difficult to replace.
Now that my son is older we exercise, run and ride bikes together, it is a lifestyle that I encourage in him and am capable of doing so by example.
I may never be the 27 year old woman that has everything balanced, but I will never be the version of myself who believes taking a time out for a recharge is selfish and unimportant. The most important two words I have learned are “I matter”, and taking time out allows me to give so much more of myself to the people who matter the most to me and to excel at a career I had a new found passion for.
Originally published at medium.com