I recently returned from delivering a training program in Mexico and was inspired by something that the leader of the team (thank you Roger!) said at the conclusion of the program. He asked each person on his team if they considered themselves to be part of their own family. There had been a lot of discussion over the 2 days of training about taking care of family, being fully present for family, and giving family high quality moments. He reminded them that taking care of themselves first would allow them the ability to then take even better care of their families. A healthier, more energized, and happier individual can better contribute to the group cause. The ‘I’ in family is critical to make it truly complete.
We have all heard this before (put on your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you) and we intellectually understand the concept. The question is whether we actually live this each day of our lives. It is easy to get caught in the whirlwind of immediate demands, deadlines, projects, meetings, calls, emails, reports, and so on. If we have a chance to come up for air then we are shuttling children to activities, running errands, maintaining the household, checking things off of the never-ending to do list, and hopefully doing fun activities with family and friends.
Does that leave any time or space for taking care of the ‘I’? Slowing down, taking deep intentional breaths, eating slowly, exercising every part of our bodies, practicing gratefulness, being mindful, meditating, reflecting on life, sleeping peacefully and sufficiently, and renewing ourselves? We need to make time and space to do these things each day of our lives because you will never be done with all of the other things! Taking care of the ‘I’ should be at the top of the list if you really want to be there with your family making the most of each moment together. When I am at my best, my family gets the best of me!
My wise husband has always reminded me that if something ever happened to me, I could be and would be replaced in the work roles that I had. There would always be someone there to step in and speak, teach, write, lead, travel, innovate, attend meetings and calls, manage, email, plan, and whatever other important things I did at work. And he is right. Someone else is now doing any and all roles and positions that I have ever held in the past. A humbling and sobering realization! However, my dear husband would also remind me in the same breath that NO ONE could ever take my place as a friend, daughter, sister, wife, and mother. This is not a role or position that you simply recruit for and just keep on going.
This is not to say that what we do in our work does not matter. It does! Or that it doesn’t make a difference. It does! Or that we shouldn’t give our best. We should! What it means is that we should not sacrifice ourselves (our families) for the sake of our work. Taking care of the ‘I’ is taking care of our families and should be taken just as seriously as any other work or family commitment or responsibility.
There should not a badge of courage for sacrificing ourselves for the work we do. We should not feel proud of getting insufficient sleep, eating whatever is convenient, not having the time to exercise, feeling overwhelmed and overstressed, having the feeling of just barely keeping our heads above water, and giving our family the ‘rest’ of us instead of the ‘best’ of us. Is this how we want our family to be or feel? Is this what we want our own children to do one day?
Let’s all take care of the ‘I’ the way any precious member of our family should be taken care of. Not once a year on a vacation or at a spa retreat, but everyday. You deserve it, your family deserves it. Your work is important. Your to-do list is important too. But when it is time to leave this world, there will always be work left undone and items left on the to-do list. I don’t know what happens to those things...perhaps someone else will just step in and pick up where you left off or maybe they just stay undone. What I do know is this...no one will be able to step in and be who you are to the most important people in your life. Your fam*ly will never be able to replace the missing ‘I’....do everything you can to make the most of each moment you are given and to accumulate as many special moments as possible!