There’s this phrase that gets thrown around a lot… self-care. Yeah, me neither.
I’m admittedly pretty new to thinking about what it means. I am sure that it’s an area that I need to work on. Coming to that conclusion has been neither easy nor terribly convenient.
You see, I have children (and please understand you could replace “children” with “job I am really into”, “8000 hobbies”, “a desperate need to be busy at all times”, “a major life stressor or tragedy”, or “a puppy”). I have perfect twin reasons to choose not to take care of myself at any time.
The problem with making the choice to care for everyone else and not yourself is NOT just that you don’t get cared for, but the long-term consequences of neglecting your own needs in favor of everyone else’s. There are many long term consequences. The long-term consequence I have faced as my twin tornadoes age and have more gaps between their pressing and immediate needs? I kind of forgot what I needed and wanted to do for myself.
Any time a need or desire presented itself quietly in my head, I swept it aside, deferred it, delayed it, set it aside or even just laughed at the ridiculousness of even thinking about filling my own needs. Yeah. It’s real when you’ve got two dirty diapers, two hungry toddlers, two three year olds who’ve defeated all the security measures their parents have installed. It’s real that there are others who have needs that seem more pressing and that at the very least are EXTREMELY clear. Hard for an increasingly tiny voice calling out for a quiet walk in the park fully showered and dressed in clothes that match to compete with twins wiping diaper cream all over themselves, each other, and the room. That competition can even overcome the opportunities we do get.
A friend offers to spell you, a colleague offers to take a piece of the work off your plate, a deadline gets extended, the puppies get house trained and suddenly there is an opportunity and no clear sense of what to do with it. What do I do given a hour that I don’t have to be in emergency response mode? What do I need? What do I want?
That’s where all the “self-care” advice comes in. There are lots of big ideas about how to administer some self-care. The one I heard the most when the kids were really young was to get a pedicure. Now listen, I have no problem with people getting pedicures. You want a pedicure and it makes you feel good, seriously do that. Personally my little voice has never once asked for a pedicure.
What does my little voice ask for (when I pay attention that is)? More than anything else: sleep. After sleep, fun (i.e. doing something that restores me). After that, a little non-gym related exercise. Other common requests: time alone, time to meditate, time in nature hangin’ with my dog, enough time in the morning to shower and pick clothes that match, time with community, time with family.
For me, the pedicure feels a little like a cheat. Yeah, I got pampered. Yeah, my toes look better, but I’m still tired, overwhelmed, and all the other things I was before the pedicure. I think sometimes self-care is hard not only because it’s hard to remember to take care of ourselves, but because when we have the time, it seems easier to go for the cheat: the pedicure, the shopping trip, the drink. The little voice is not crying out for them and will not be satisfied if they are applied in times of need.
So my next task today, now that everyone else in the house is asleep? Attending to job 1: sleep.
What does self-care mean to you? How much sleep do you get?