I was chatting with a friend online this week and they were explaining to me why an upcoming night away from home for a social event is such a big deal for them. She said to me: “It’s the first time I’ve been away and done something by myself that didn’t involve a hospital stay since I had children.”
This from a woman whose eldest child is old enough to vote.
I nodded understandingly because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do but what I wanted to do was shake her by the shoulders, give her a quick slap and shout “GET A LIFE” very loudly.
Here’s the thing: life’s a precious and incredibly finite resource and it’s a bit late to explore your interest in French cinema or take a long weekend break in London when you’re dead. So why are we not doing more to indulge ourselves now?
Research suggests women are particularly likely to put their own needs last in a family. Although I suspect there are a growing number of men in exactly the same boat.
I’m not criticising anyone who nurtures their family or indulges their kids from time to time – but are we getting into a bad habit of indulging other people at our own expense? Should we be offering ourselves more self-care?
One retailer did some research into its card-based loyalty scheme and found that if women receive vouchers and cash back from loyalty schemes, they are likely to turn the money over to the ‘family’ budget. However, if we receive “points” we are more likely to swap them for items we will use ourselves. Isn’t that interesting? We are reluctant to use these items for our own benefit if it’s hard cash or a voucher.
I think we should use all the vouchers and all the points because we are perfectly entitled to a bit of self-care, in whatever form that takes. And even if it’s not self-care, why not have a gorgeous bath product or hair mask? It’s not like your kids are going to appreciate a new bubble bath more than you would.
This isn’t to say that self-care is all about buying cosmetics or whatever. Self-care is simply giving yourself the time and space to do something that supports your wellbeing. That might be a spa day, but equally it could be going for a run, reading a book, or visiting a friend for coffee.
It’s all too easy as parents to fall into a rut of taking care of other people, putting their needs first, and spending the whole day saying, “Oh, don’t mind me,” until we collapse in a heap on the sofa at 7pm, too brain dead for anything more than a bowl of pasta and an episode of Come Dine With Me.
As a single parent I wonder if it’s easier for me to carve out ‘me time’ because I don’t have to justify my actions to anyone. If I choose to take a day off to meet a friend or go to the cinema, I don’t have anyone asking, “What did you do today?” when I get home. Either way, I consider that time tremendously important and I will always prioritise it over other things like laundry or housework.
I want Flea to understand that life’s out there to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck, not something you put off until everything else on your to-do list gets ticked off. I think having outside interests and showing Flea that sometimes I get to choose what we do helps her to see that I think I’m important – and I think that makes me a good role model. Of course, this could just be a convenient theory to justify my cinema habit…
What I wonder is why are we so bad at self care, treating ourselves well and putting ourselves first?
Is it about not having supportive childcare, employers or partners? Is it about lack of time, or money? Sometimes do we secretly like being the martyr who sacrifices it all to please everyone else? Or is it something else entirely?