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Life Stories: Serving Up a Bit of Life

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Story by Mary-Helen McCulloch

Tennis. I never thought I would play tennis. Let alone love it. And looking back on it, I’m not sure why I didn’t start earlier.  Well, I actually do see it pretty clearly in hindsight, and I think the self-perpetuating cycle I was stuck in, and comfortably uncomfortable with, is probably similar to many modern era working moms.  

Having children changes things for many women (another long chapter book for another time!) and the last three years have undoubtedly brought a tremendous amount of pressure to parents.  We were expected to be everything to our kids- school counselor, lunch lady, teacher, sports coach. I personally didn’t excel in any of those. Then, many of us had jobs we had to maintain, be a spouse, keep the house together, and then engage in “self-care”. I can’t even stand the phrase self-care. (As it has applied to my life for as long as I can recall) What a joke! 

But isn’t that the problem? When did women spontaneously, willingly and completely relegate even their most basic needs to non-existent?  Particularly, working moms.  And why did we do it, and who let us? Let me clarify that I am NOT a psychologist, educator, or influencer. I have zero professional or clinical back up for anything I am saying. But when did we start believing in winning awards for being martyrs?  I could outline in a full play-by-play manual how I got here, but ultimately; I think we all have gone somewhere down this path over the last few years. 

I had ENOUGH.  

I am a mother of three. I work full-time out of the house. My family is not local. And I am most certainly not a superhero.  But what I am, is a woman who is no longer going to let their life pass by in a blur as I wallow in how hard it is just to get by.  I started raising the bar for myself while also giving myself grace for the days I don’t overachieve, or when I yell at the kids, or microwave bagel bites, AGAIN.  I do not settle.  That is not in my nature. I strive for the best for myself, my kids, loved ones, and the organization for which I work. 

But I also play tennis now.  And I let myself enjoy it.  I will never go back to only making sure that everyone else around me is ok.  If you have to ask or wonder about my priorities or the care I give my children, first, that’s on you (not me), second, I am a better mother, friend, daughter, and employee, now that I prioritize my physical and mental health, and third, I encourage you to do the same. 

By the way, none of us “have the time”.  I can certainly assure you that I don’t.  But when I found that I was passionate about something that ultimately benefited much more than just myself in the long run, I rearranged my schedule, worked with individuals who understood my situation and were flexible, and (gasp!) occasionally asked a friend to watch my kids for an hour. 

And you know how I started with my tennis endeavor? I didn’t make a big plan, or buy a new planner to map it out, or ruminate over what hobby I was going to take up to “find myself”. 

I showed up. I showed up to a beginner’s clinic I saw stapled on a bulletin board. 

It was horrible. I had never played. But then I showed up again. 

I kept going. 

And my slow but steady, not-quite-amazing acquisition of tennis has paralleled every other area of my life:  Sometimes inconvenient, a little intimidating, challenging, fun, and a bit messy.  

But I’m doing it.  

I am playing tennis and serving up a bit of life as a result.

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