By Leslie Ralph, A Year of Happy
“Good for you. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes,” a well-meaning family member tells me any time I make a decision that isn’t 100% kid-oriented. Like that time I took a nap when I was sick.
Have you ever heard that one?
If you’re anything like me, doing said self-care activity might have been hard to do. Because life. (And the mom guilt.)
Is it meant to be encouraging? Probably. Does it actually feel encouraging? That’s where it really misses the mark for me. Because what it also kind of sounds like is, “Hey, you’re doing something kind of selfish but that’s okay as long as it’s only sometimes.” (Which reinforces the whole guilt thing.)
Selfish means doing something with no regard for others. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like any mother I know. I mean, isn’t that why we feel the mom guilt in the first place?
I also can’t help but wonder what it means when I need alone time every day or when I feel a little lighter getting out of the house by myself more than sometimes. Is that beyond the “okay” limit of selfishness? (And is that really selfish anyway?)
My tendency to put way too much weight on what others think and say aside, we can do better. Like maybe saying, “Look at me and listen. Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish, but it IS 100% necessary,” instead.
That’s right, I said it. Self-care isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong. It isn’t indulgent. And it sure isn’t selfish.
I’m no superwoman, and that means that sometimes I’m not that great to be around. Like when I’m hungry, or extra sleep deprived, or have been running in a thousand different directions all day and can’t answer one more question.
I need to take a minute to breathe.
I need to talk to friends.
I need time outside of the house that involves no kids and no work.
I need to dance to Katy Perry in my pajamas. (Just sometimes.)
We all want need something that is just for us, and that doesn’t make us selfish. It makes us human.
I truly believe that taking care of yourself makes you a better parent/spouse/person. Why? These are the things that help you decompress and take a fresh perspective. These things remind you that you have an identity outside of Mom or whatever they call you at work. (I don’t really want to be “Dr. Ralph” on the weekends, you know what I mean?)
I’m not saying that now we all jet off for a luxury weekend alone every week or stop buying the kids food so that we can have the next designer handbag.
What I am suggesting is that we stop labeling something that is 100% necessary for any human to function (somewhat) normally as selfish – even if it is “okay sometimes.” Because it is ALWAYS okay to take good care of yourself so that you have it in you to read Big Bird Goes to China one more time.
When self-care stops being something-kind-of-bad-that’s-sometimes-okay, it becomes something that you actually plan for and do all the time (if only for 5 minutes).
This brings us to how. What can I say? I like to be practical.
First, you need to know what you need. (Yes, need)
Grab a sheet of paper.
Write it out in big caps: I NEED TO _________________________.
Then think of all the things that make you feel like yourself. Is it running? Kickboxing? A huge cup of coffee? Beyoncé sing-alongs?
Write down as many as you can. No filtering.
Now that it’s on paper and official, schedule at least 3 of these needs for some time in the next week. Even 5 minutes here and there can make a huge difference.
Having trouble finding the time? Try these troubleshooting tips:
If you work, make your lunch break your no work time. Protect it ruthlessly.
Steal time from something else. A few sun salutations may do a lot more good for your spirit than checking Pinterest (again).
Involve your kids. Painting and making sand castles are good for you, too.
Multi-task where it makes sense. There’s no reason you can’t practice Tae Bo while you’re waiting for your coffee to percolate.
Use naptimes for yourself. They are a gift to you, so savor them.
Communicate your needs to your partner and create a system that works for both of you.
Get a babysitter for an hour (or more). Even if all you need to do is put on a facial mask and call up an old friend.
Okay. The needs are named and scheduled. All that is left now is to show up for yourself. Treat your needs as priorities, too.
Still not sure? Try it out for a week and see what happens.
You might just find yourself telling a friend, “Look at me and listen: self-care isn’t selfish. You NEED to take care of yourself.”
Leslie Ralph shows moms how to bust those superwoman myths and bring back the balance and joy with her signature blend of joyful projects, happiness tips, and delicious meditations at A Year of Happy [http://www.ayearofhappy.com]. To get you started, she’s whipped up a 2-minute revitalizing meditation for you to enjoy on the house at http://www.ayearofhappy.com/revitalize.