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?
I attended a blogging event hosted by Boots last week where we were told that research suggests women are particularly likely to put their own needs last in a family. The event was promoting a new website called Boots Treat Street (long story, but you can collect loyalty points by shopping online and – crucially – there are loads of exclusive discounts including 20% off at Joules and 40% off at Waterstones).
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 indulging ourselves more?
Boots did some research into loyalty schemes and found that when women receive vouchers and cash back from loyalty schemes, they are likely to turn the money over to the ‘family’ budget whereas if we get points then we are more likely to keep them and swap them for products for our own use. Quite right too, I say.
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 so many of us so bad at 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?
[Disclosure: my travel expenses to attend the Boots Treat Street event were paid for by Boots]