Oh, last summer was rough, really rough. It was our second summer in Vermont. We moved here from Alabama during the height of the COVID lockdown in 2020 with our five little kids- ages eight and under, and a trailer. We had been dreaming of the homestead life and were able to close on our home in Birmingham, and our new home in the Northeast Kingdon of Vermont before the housing market spiked.
Despite the pandemic, that first year was all sunshine and rainbows experiencing every Vermont season for the first time. We relished the tasty fall apples, cozy winter fires, and yummy maple syrup in the spring. When our second summer came around, we were ready for chicks, lambs, seedlings, and all the sunshine.
I was not prepared for the lesson our new homestead had in store for me. You have to rescue yourself, it whispered in a voice too quiet to hear. But some messages repeat themselves until you learn.
Life was going as planned when my usually energetic and hard-working husband started falling asleep mid-afternoons. He complained of his knee hurting until one day it swelled and he couldn’t walk. After a trip to the ER, he was diagnosed with Lyme. We are vigilant about tick checking, wearing the appropriate gear, and even using chemicals when necessary, yet we never saw a tick or a bite. Thankfully, the antibiotics showed signs of progress right away, but it was two weeks before he was able to get around like himself.
Those were the longest two weeks of my life. Not only was it July when it feels like the sun rises at 4:00 am and sets at 10:00 pm, but my five energetic children were awake for all of it.
Keeping up with them was a full-time job. My boys, 7 and 4, take apart everything so I would find them unscrewing doorknobs, or randomly changing out light bulbs. They’d make concoctions in the kitchen and forget to put anything away or clean up. One of my daughters (she’s 4, yes, that’s 4-year-old twins, heaven help us) wrote in permanent marker on her bunk bed, and my 7-year-old son had an infected tooth that we had to get pulled. At one point, my 8-year-old accidentally left the electric fence powered off. The sheep got out and ran back to the neighbors’ where they came from. We spotted them down the hill and then saw a mama bear heading straight for them! It was like watching a National Geographic film. We were able to scare her away, but it was the last straw for me. My nerves were shot.
The weight of my husband’s Lyme infection, managing our household, the property, and caring for the animals was all on me. I was wearing the hero badge. I believed I needed to sacrifice myself for the good of everything and everyone else so that we could make it through this tough time, but something inside was growing angry and resentful. I was irritable with my children.
I had forgotten my own basic needs like water, vitamins, and showering. The thought of taking a moment for myself felt selfish, and I couldn’t conceive of “wasting time” on the things that keep me grounded and joyful, like yoga and meditation. I was neglecting myself.
One morning I woke up and it was like someone spoke aloud in my ear, “Kasii, no one is going to rescue you, but you. You have to rescue yourself.”
Oh my GOD. You’re right! No one is going to notice that I’m running myself ragged and say, “Oh dear, you look tired, why don’t you lie down and take a rest?” There is no one to grant permission, step in to do the chores, hold my crying 4-year-old, or listen to my 8-year-old’s chicken story. No one is going to hand me a cup of water or make a salad for me.
It’s me! I have to rescue myself!
So I marched my empowered mama bootie to the chalkboard in my kitchen and wrote out these words:
Mamas, sometimes you have to rescue yourself. You see, we don’t have to give ourselves away for everyone and everything.
Caring for our people and property is a beautiful responsibility, but neglecting our own needs in the hopes that it will do others good, is just, well, a lie.
We deserve to be taken care of. And we don’t need to look to others to do it. No one is going to rescue us, but us. What basic needs have you been neglecting recently? Go write it down somewhere obvious, and let’s take care of ourselves!
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