It’s one of those irritating Internet buzzwords that’s been making the rounds in the world of health and wellness for the last few years. Every time I read another article encouraging me to make time for me, I end in feeling ever-so-slightly down, as I contemplate how I’m possibly not only failing my children and family in the care department, but clearly, I’m also disappointing myself, by never getting going on that daily yoga practice. (Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way.)
In a world of endless tasks and to-do lists, self-care feels like yet another thing to worry about completing. From what I understand, the argument goes that unless we take time out for ourselves, we won’t have the energy or motivation to care properly for others, with the knock-on effect being that we won’t perform as well at work or at home with the kids.
That sounds reasonable, but it also seems that there’s this pervasive feeling in our culture that we must be able to do it all: create and maintain a wonderful, fulfilling career; be the perfect Pinterest-parent, with an orderly, crafty home full of fresh baked goods; sustain a loving and affectionate relationship with our partners; and nurture our friendships so as to retain some semblance of a social life.
Then, on top of all those things, if you aren’t tired from just reading that list, you’re supposed to invest the rest of your free time (ha!) in taking care of yourself; with, I dunno, daily meditation sessions, green smoothies and luxurious trips to the spa fortnightly.
Forget about the long, solo walks in the woods and wellness retreats. Let’s start with the basics: eating and sleeping. I’m definitely eating. Well? Not so much. As for so many parents to young ones, sleep continues to elude me. There are two reasons for this, the first of which is my own bad habit of staying up too late. Judging by conversations that I’ve had with friends, this is a pretty common problem. The comment I hear over and over is, I stay up too late because I just want some time to myself at the end of the day. This may be true, but it’s also true that many of us end up in a Netflix vortex as we binge-watch our latest favourite until far past an appropriate bed-time. The second reason that I fail to sleep enough is that my darling girl still wakes in the night, and then thinks 5:30 is a pretty good hour to get cracking. At both ends of the night, not to mention the middle, I’m not clocking enough hours in my bed.
My main issue with this self-care business is time. Generally, I despise the lame excuse of I don’t have enough time to do that. Yes, we are all insanely busy, but often how we spend our time is about making choices, right? Yes, but. There is also the truth that when you spend your days with small children, you don’t get to choose how you spend your time. Well, I mean you can try to squeeze in those extra me-moments, but you may find that a very vocal little person has differing opinions. Hands up if you’ve ever tried to buy jeans with the kids in tow? It’s okay, I know how entirely impossible item-specific shopping is. Getting stuff done with a super sidekick or two is just fraught with difficulty, so, if you’re like me, you end in deferring many tasks until the kids are asleep, when you can tackle them in peace and quiet.
Let’s return to our self-care basics. Showering. Bathing is a essential human right – isn’t it in there in the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or something? I have to say though, that in a life with littles, a daily shower starts to feel ambitious. This is because my toddler doesn’t want to be separated from me for the eternity of 10 minutes whilst I practice normal human hygiene. The usual scene at my house is me frantically rinsing shampoo out of my hair while my daughter cries and bangs on the glass shower door saying, “All done, mummy, all done.” At that point, my son decides this is a good time to come in and talk to me about something that is very important to him. Meanwhile, I’m in there like, “What? Hon, I can’t hear… okay baby, two more minutes…” I don’t know where my husband is while all this is going on, but I can tell you that the kids are nowhere to be seen while he’s in the shower. It’s a calm oasis of pixie dust and unicorns for him.
When fundamental grooming tasks start to feel like a luxury, forget about the waxing and facials.
Apart from time, the other spanner in the works is my old buddy, guilt. If I actually slot that yoga class into the schedule, going off to do it care-free poses problems, as I have to leave my toddler sobbing at the door and screaming, “Mama!” at the top of her lungs. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes I want to turn around and go back. Like most mums, I tend to put my kids’ needs first, and my own on the back burner – the back burner of a stove-top that is 1 sq km in area. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t had my hair done in 4 months.
This is exactly the point of all these self-care fanatics though, that we should be doing what we need to do to feel recharged, without the guilt or panic for time lost. I guess there’s something to it.
So from this day forth, I intend to care for myself as much as humanly possible. You won’t believe the amount of self-care that’ll be going on around here. I’ll be eating, sleeping and showering with the best of them. That weekly yoga class is happening. Who knows? I might even sneak in a hair appointment. Shoot for the stars, right?
What’s at the top of your self-care list? Feel free to comment.