Learning Self-Care While Leaving a Marriage - by Illiah Manger for MotherHustle
“Sometimes, self-care is not a choice, but a necessity. Sometimes, it’s time alone to cry your eyes out.”

Quiet descends on the house like a heavy blanket, and I attempt to make self-care a priority.

Two weekends each month, my girls are home with their dad, and my time is mine.

Sometimes it feels warm and freeing, a respite from constant chatter and invaded space, while other times the minutes feel like a cold, lonely lead blanket. This weekend is no different, except that exactly one year ago to the minute, my ex-husband packed his things and moved out of our home. I knew then that nothing would ever be the same, but I remained hyper-focused on taking care of the girls.

My only goal was to keep our mood light and well, normal.  Typical, right?

Our first thought is more often than not for our children and for our significant other. For our clients and our friends, our peers and our family. This year has taught me that self-care is not a reward, not a gift. It isn’t optional. It isn’t always easy, but taking care of yourself first is essential.

If I had understood this one small fact years ago, I believe my marriage might not be ending.

Rule number one: healthy relationships start with a healthy you. The first step is to learn how to make self-care a practice, then a disciplined routine. This is my struggle. What is self-care exactly?  It isn’t always bubble baths and wine. My first taste of true self-care was suggested a month ago by the girls’ play therapist as a way for them to feel less hesitant to stay overnight with their dad.

It wasn’t about me at all.

When the morning came to bring them to their dad’s,  my skin crawled and my aromatherapy jewelry with “worry free” oil did nothing to reduce stress.

The girls LOVED the seven-minute ride, squished and sitting criss-cross, applesauce in the back seat because I insisted on transporting V’s oversized play kitchen and grill with them. They giggled and laughed. All they cared about was their excitement to show me their new second home with bubblegum pink bunk beds and strings of star lights. Brilliant, sparkly smiles lit their faces as they skipped from the sidewalk to his front steps.

I handed off the play kitchen/grill, 20 minutes late. Leaving them behind was hard, but it was the first time I acknowledged his new home without me. His new separate life. The first time, in 11 months, that I didn’t want him to return home to rebuild.

The first step to moving forward.

Sometimes, self-care is not a choice, but a necessity. Sometimes, it’s time alone to cry your eyes out. I’m learning now that self-care is a daily practice and hopefully one day, a disciplined routine of rest and relaxation, self-expression, companionship and spirituality.


MotherHustle panelist Illiah Manger is the creative mind and chief designer behind C&V, where she collaborates with daring business owners with heart. She is known for creating clarity and focus while allowing her clients to co-pilot the design process. Illiah wholeheartedly believes in brands that are intimate and designed to tell a story. She is also the co-founder of Elevate & Cultivate, an online community for design professionals to strengthen their skills, get feedback on their work and make friendships stronger than Gotham Ultra.

Outside of C&V and Elevate & Cultivate, Illiah is a paper lover, mom of two daughters, earl grey tea drinker, cookie hunter and typography lover. Find her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

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