The Selfish Heart

January 23, 2008 Kyron 7 Comments

Dr. Mehmet Oz. You may have seen him on Oprah. You may have read one of his many excellent books. He also does work for Reader’s Digest. I was reading the latter this morning when I saw a little piece that Dr. Oz did on Heart Truths. The one “truth” that caught my eye The Selfish Heart. Dr. Oz says:

The heart doesn’t sacrifice itself. Before it sends blood to the brain, lungs – anywhere – it sends blood to the coronary arteries. It feeds itself first so it’s always there to keep pumping, no matter what. It’s a good lesson for many mothers who sacrifice their own health to benefit their children.

It reminded me of my mother. I remember when she found the lump in her breast and I asked why she hadn’t had a mammography. She told me she knew she should have, but she always seemed to be so busy with something for me or my brother. The cancer had already long since spread and she was gone 8 months later. I know she didn’t tell me that to make me feel guilty, but it did. I swore I’d never have to tell my children that I didn’t take care of my own health because of them.

When I had Katherine that concern kind of got put on the back burner. My life was inundated with things that needed to be done with Katherine, not to mention that financially everything I had was going to her care. It was an error that thankfully neither she nor I have have had to pay for. I now had a sense of why my mother said there were always things that she needed to do for us kids, relaxbook The Selfish Heartrather than take some time to take care of herself. I could see how time could get away from you. I had to resolve to change that however. Katherine even more than her typical sibling needs me to be around for as long as reasonable. At the very least I need to stop taking chances with my own health and get back into the habit of being selfish. Just like my heart.

As part of my Reorganization New Year resolution I’m going to prioritize healthcare for me. Healthcare however for moms needs to be more than just the physical health although I’ll be scheduling a physical and a mammography and gynecological exam. Healthcare needs to include the physical, mental and emotional wellness as well.

Taking care of a special needs child is mentally and emotional draining on top of any physical demand it puts on us as mothers. It’s imperative that we put recharging on our vital to-do list not and not in the category of “when I get around to it”. It will go a long way towards making you a better parent, better able to deal with the demand of a job which is by it’s very nature demanding – even before you add the additional strain of parenting a special needs child. So here’s a list of things you can do to take time and relax and rejuvenate – after you make an appointment with the doctor for a physical.

  • Read – and not a book about your child’s diagnosis – trashy novel or latest bestseller is best
  • Take a long hot bath after the kids are in bed
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Leave your child with the grandparents and have a night out with your husband (or a night in!)
  • Take a walk
  • Join a gym and make it a priority to work out
  • Call a friend and meet at the park or at Starbucks
  • Go get a manicure or pedicure – or BOTH
  • Get a massage
  • Join a book club at the library
  • Find a group that shares a hobby you enjoy and attend their weekly/monthly meets
  • Take a yoga class
  • Put some headphones on and listen to your favorite music
  • Have a cup of green tea – green tea has certain relaxation properties
  • Go to a museum
  • Go to a concert
  • Take an art class
  • Take up knitting, needlepoint or scrapbooking

What sounds like a FUN break for you? Find something and then do it. The key is it has to be for YOU and ONLY you – not your kids. I love seeing my child enjoy something as much as the next – but that’s not the key to getting a break from parenting. Everyone needs one. It doesn’t make you less of a parent. As a matter of fact it makes you a better parent for knowing you need to feed yourself first to be best able to care for the rest. Be selfish. I’m going to try my hand at it more often too.

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Categories : Strategies

Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. Michele says:

    I hear you. I have a doctor’s appointment coming up with a GI Specialist. That happened when I called my doctor’s office for a refill on some medication for my stomach. The doctor called me back and said, “You should have healed by now! You’re going to a specialist.” I honestly didn’t know the meds were supposed to heal – thought they were to treat symptoms, not cure. I can’t remember the last time I had my teeth cleaned – at least 3 years though. I’ve had one haircut in the last year (at a cheepy franchise.) It’s been 2 years since my last gyno, at least 2 since my last skin check. I only go to the doctor if I’m really really sick or injured – but not for the regular upkeep stuff. It’s like – I work, and have to take off for all the kids’ various appointments, therapies, IEP’s, conferences, doctor’s visits – not to mention the “regular” school functions like plays… I feel so guilty about taking any more time off for MY stuff.

  2. Kyron says:


    I find myself doing the same types of things. I just know what the consequences can be. I turn 40 in a few months and my mom passed away just two weeks after she turned 50. I can’t let that be what happens to me. While I spoke specifically of moms I hope ALL parents take this as a wake up call about how important caring for yourself is in being ready to care for your child. Our kids need us around for as long as possible. Totally get the guilt thing. There never, ever seems to be enough time. I know for me I’ve just got to find it for sure.

  3. Deana says:

    I have a friend who, on a nearly weekly basis, emails me and says, “remember to put your oxygen mask on first”. Referring to the instructions on an airplane, when they tell you if you are seated with a child to put your own mask on first before helping the child.

    The idea there is, if you aren’t taken care of, then you can’t take care of your child.

    I have been trying to make a conscious effort to allow others to help, for the sole purpose of giving myself time. I need to make appointments for myself for nearly everything too…but there always seems to be an excuse or appointment more important.

    Thanks for the reminder to “put my mask on first”.

  4. Kyron says:

    It’s funny you mention that line. As an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) you are taught never to go into an scene until you are certain it is safe and secure as you are of no help to anyone if you aren’t safe yourself. Funny how it would never occur to me to run into a domestic violence situation until the scene was secured but I’d not transfer that smart logic to a situation like taking care of myself so I can best care for my children. Hey – it’s ALL a learning process and it’s never too late to learn. :)

  5. Joanne says:

    I so agree about needing to make sure you look after yourself as a mum to special needs children. I know that I can be a better mum to my kids when I’m not too tired and stressed. I’ve been talking recently on my own blog about the need to refuel – you’ve got some good, practical ideas here, thanks.

  6. Kyron says:


    Welcome and thanks for posting here! I am glad that you found the ideas practical – it is certainly what I was striving for. I look forward to checking out your blog as well!


  7. Kim Scott says:

    Until I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 1 1/2 years ago, I always felt guilty if I was sick for longer than a day or 2 & couldn’t keep up with the housework or errands. Now that I know what “it” is, I know that I have to care for myself or I am no good to my “boys” or anyone. I love your list & am trying to at least maintain my monthly hair appointments & allowing myself to enjoy those few hours :)

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