“Mommy, get up. We need to go to school!” I could see from my sleeping fog, the precious faces of my two children looking down at me. Worry had written his ugly signature across their young faces and I felt helpless to erase his message. I did not like my life and they couldn’t begin to understand that I no longer wanted to live.

“Mommy’s getting up babies,” I said as I struggled to lift myself. I felt heavy because I was heavy. I had always struggled with my weight but now, things were getting out of hand. And I did not care; that is, until I took a closer look at their faces and heard the desperation in their little voices. They could see that I was leaving and they needed their mother!

I had my first child, Joshua at 41. I was told that I would never have children so it was a shock when I discovered that I was pregnant. But instead of gaining weight, I was almost 2 pounds lighter the day I delivered him than when I first discovered I was pregnant. Having him liberated me because I had gotten pregnant against the odds. No more behind the back jokes about me being unable to have children. No more whispering about my past from family members who knew my secrets and embellished my pain.

Then it happened. I discovered I was pregnant again at age 42! My daughter Gabrielle was born shortly before my 43rd birthday and I was delighted. I wanted a fellow female to share in my passion of fashion. She has not disappointed, but that is another story! But when she was born, that was it for me. I asked the doctors to “unhook” me so I wouldn’t be back at age 45 with another child.

Things seemed good but I had not learned a vital lesson in all my years on this earth. I had never learned about self care. As the first born daughter of seven children, it had been driven into me that the needs of others always came before my own needs. I had spent my entire life serving others and learning how to “work with” the leftovers. Sure, I understood about getting my hair done, manicures, pedicures and make up. By profession, I am an Image Consultant so I fully understood that world. I have even written two books on image. But what I did not know nor understand was the true meaning of self care. I was about to learn.

What happened that morning when my babies woke me up to help them prepare for school was becoming a pattern. I was very unhappy in my marriage and so I ate chocolate by the pound to ease my pain. I always took something to help me sleep. All I did was create a revolving door of self destruction. I ate chocolate in the morning, noon, and at night to give me a sugar rush; along with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ballooned up to a size 20 W. My back and knees hurt and I had very little energy but because of the caffeine in the chocolate, I had trouble falling asleep. I was a walking, talking time bomb of self neglect. All I did was care for the family and set in motion an unhealthy rhythm that was destined to take me out…early!

My father passed away from complications from diabetes and hypertension. He was a dialysis patient at the time of his death. As he was passing away, he called my two younger brothers to his bedside and told them to “take care” of themselves. He said nothing to their five older sisters. Within just a few years of his passing, both brothers were on dialysis. I am the first born of seven and my brothers are numbers six and seven. Simple reasoning would say that this health thing was going to circle back around and I was next in line. It did not hit me but it did hit my younger sister. I’ll explain why.

My children waking me up that morning hit me hard. I could see and smell their fear. I was like a drug addict; addicted to food and a sleeping supplement and there appeared to be nothing to stop my vicious cycle…not until that morning. I let my babies stay home with me that day. I jumped up from my fog, showered, made breakfast and loved my children. I just had to figure out how to love me. I understood that nothing was going to change unless I changed. I did not want another woman raising the children I had hoped for and prayed for. I had to make a decision.

I decided to cut back on eating chocolate and to limit my sugar and carbohydrate intake. Six months later, I was in a size 12! I have maintained this for over ten years now. Sure, I have played around and gained and lost the same ten pounds a few times but I always get back on track.

I am so thankful for my children awakening me from my neglectful slumber. They are now young adults and we have so much fun together! Their precious faces helped me to learn the true meaning of self care. Yes, I still eat chocolate but it is not longer tied to a self destructive pattern. I eat a few pieces and then stop! I love myself enough to change my world through what I say and what I think about myself. I look in the mirror every day and talk to and love that woman called me. I’m glad she found her way out of the fog. I’m glad she decided to stand up, take her place in the world and listen to her new voice.


  • Dr. Gail Hayes

    Dr. Gail Hayes

    The Handle Your Business Girl Empowerment Zone

    Dr. Gail Hayes is a Thought Leader, Executive Leadership Coach and international communicator who has also been called an Executive Whisperer. Her writing has appeared in countless publications to include, Essence Magazine, MSNBC's The Griot, and The Huffington Post. She is an award winning author of numerous books including The Conduct of Queens, The Conduct of Kings, One Minute Success Secrets for Women, The Power of a Woman Who Leads, and The Power of a Parent Who Leads. Although she has lived on three continents, she is quick to let others know that her favorite place on earth is wherever she and her children Joshua and Gabrielle can laugh and love.