Look, I know this is the age of self-care. I know this is the era of, “stop overextending yourself” and “it’s okay to just say no”! I know we are trying to learn to “put on our oxygen masks first” and take care of ourselves. But guys, let me be the one with the unpopular opinion here  (but maybe also the one with some long-game strategy): say yes.

Please Say Yes

Hear me out.  I know we all get a lot asked of us. I know most of us are working and parenting and daughtering (that sandwich generation, though) and supporting a lot of things. I know a lot of us have sadly had to realize, if we don’t care for ourselves, no one will.   I know we are all starting to see that sometimes we should say no to the event or the volunteer needs and give ourselves a self-care day.  I don’t know when I had my last self-care day (ever?), but I have a theory that community care is more important than self-care, and long term, that community-care will return to you in the times you can’t care for yourself.

This has been an age of self-reliance, to the point that we need to take care of everything alone: from hiring out child-care (how many have parents, friends or relatives that watch your kids regularly as was common in generations past) to hiring out movers or delivery people (didn’t family members and neighbors used to help people lift things occasionally?) to the point we are even having to focus on ensuring our own “self-care”.

We Are ALL Busy

I work full time, my husband is in Africa.. a lot.

I just moved to the area and volunteered for the local soccer board to make some community connections.

I joined a women’s group for the same reason.

Next thing I know, I’m the PTO president and if I’m honest, due to work and COVID, I’ve never even seen the inside of my son’s new school.  Nor have I been to a PTO meeting in my entire parent career.

I am not a stay-at-home mom, nor do I own a twin-set which I mistakenly thought was a requirement of the role.  I’m tired.  But everyone is tired!  If I can do something to make this elementary school year a year of celebration and reunion for these kids by planning some events and enrichment, I am all in.  If everyone is saying no and caring for themselves, who is going to care for the principal and the teachers and the kids who have been through the most stressful school year ever and need some support?  I am.  And so are some other wonderful parents and guardians and grandparents.  Those other people volunteering with me are people who care.  I can guarantee it.

Those Are the People Who I Want to Spend Time With

Those are people who I want to get to know. Those are the people who I want beside me when I am stressing out about a deadline, and I need to laugh or I’ll cry.  The ones that are going to make sure that this 5th grade class gets their annual camp out, and that the yearbook gets a picture of every kid in it! Those are people who will add festive to the holiday craft fairs and excitement around the book fairs.  The ladies who, in book club, are going to share something that resonates with me to the point our friendship changes and rises to another level.  Those are the people who (I’m willing to bet) will be there if my husband is gone and I am suddenly so sick I can’t drive myself to the hospital, or I’m tied up at work and my son needs to be picked up.  When times like that come around (and they will), I want friends and supporters and people in my network that will care for me when I cannot care for myself.

No mani-pedi self-care day can be compared to a friend showing up with some warm soup when they know you’ve just had an outpatient procedure.

No me-time can compare to a pal who says, “No problem, when should I pick him up” when your kid needs a ride to soccer practice.

If you focus your (albeit minimal) free-time on self-care, who will volunteer to care for you in those most significant times?

This is the Person I am Trying To Be.

This is the person I have moved my entire life to enable myself to become.  My sisters are the same. We are often checking on others, feeding pets when friends leave town, dropping off a costume for a kid to borrow, supporting kids’ fundraisers… and for a while there it was a struggle to find friends who behaved the same way. In this new community, I am finding these friends. In the beginning, it came as a surprise.

“Wait, what? You are offering to water the garden because you know we are going out of town? I’ve never actually had a neighbor offer that!”

“You made plum jam and are just dropping it off… to be nice? I don’t get it?”

And now I am actively seeking them out.  And I am actively going to try to bring others along with me and make it fun, because this is supposed to be fun! It’s about creating community. Having some laughs with others, having someone to cry with, parenting with pride, watching happy kids participate in events.

Please Say “Yes”

No, I have never been to a PTO meeting, but absolutely yes, I will lead this new PTO group into a successful year because I need our kids to have a great year.

No, I have never played soccer, but you can bet I can figure out how to be the registrar for a league so that I can help our kids can finally have a season (although,  honestly they won’t, if we don’t have enough volunteer coaches to support the amount of kids who want to play).

I’ve never belonged to a ladies group, but darn it, I am all about running the book club and game night!

In the meantime, the most important bonus is that through these groups, I am meeting real people who care about others.  Not to say they don’t care about themselves, but that they understand the importance of also caring for others, and in turn I will care for them. That’s my promise to the community, to my friends, to fellow parents.  I hope you think about making that promise too.

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Gia is a native Californian who has lived all over the state from San Diego to Trinity County, plus Washington DC for a short time. She recently relocated to Ventura County with her family to build a compound property together with her sister’s family so that they could always share wardrobes and parenting responsibilities for their 5 combined children at home. Gia graduated from UCSB with a degree in Linguistics (which she thinks entitles her to make up words). It took her just three years, as she was eager to graduate early to go live with her long distance boyfriend and his toddler daughter at the time. That seemed to work out, as the boyfriend got promoted to husband years ago and her step-daughter promoted her to grandmother recently! Gia’s husband is from East Africa and runs their Bed and Breakfast in Tanzania from near and far. Gia is a Human Resources Director who has a major obsession with watermelon and eggnog lattes, depending on the season.

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