Self-Care (Through the Eyes of My 6-Year Old Daughter)
A few weeks ago my daughter was watching me get ready for a big evening out. I had my hair in clips and was maneuvering the hot iron. Jojo sat on the edge of the bathtub, staring at me intently.
Suddenly, she blurted out: “Mom, you’re so good at taking care of yourself.”
My eyes welled up and I was hit with a big wave of emotion. I was stunned that she translated this brief moment – my going out on the town, putting on a new blue dress, making an out-of-the-ordinary effort with my hair – into an act of self-care. And she was right.
I felt vindicated for all those moments that I chose to listen to and prioritize myself. My health. My interests, My needs. This, despite the other many other things in the mix. Important things. Various wants and needs of family members, running a business, a household.
It’s so incredibly easy, as a busy mom, to put my personal list of important things dead last. This natural inclination to universally take care of everyone else first makes choosing myself such a deliberate act - something that can feel strange, brave or uncertain.
Me: Honey, why did you just say I am good at taking care of myself?
Josephine: Because you just are.
Me: Do you have some examples?
Josephine: Like…. that you eat healthy foods?
Me: Um hmm. True. What else?
Josephine: Or take a nap on the weekends, if you’re really tired.
Me: Those are good examples. How about when I do nice things for myself, like how I just bought myself those beautiful flowers. Because they make me happy. That’s actually me taking care of myself.
Me: Or when I go away for a weekend to see my friends.
Josephine: Like, when you go away without us??!!
Me: Yeah. Can you see how that’s actually me taking care of myself? Because I love them, and having special time with my friends makes my heart so happy.
Josephine: Oh. And you won’t feel cranky after your trip. Because you had fun.
Me: Good point. And you know sometimes I meet a client on the weekend. It’s sad when I have to leave you for a few hours and do work. But my work is special to me. So sometimes I do that. Because it’s taking care of my work, which is also taking care of me.
Josephine: Okay. Can I watch TV now?
Why I Took A Chance on Myself
When my daughter was about two I started reclaiming my physical health, and listening to and expressing what I wanted. I remember one day it felt like I was being hit by a lightning bolt when I realized I desperately wanted to do my coaches training.
I remember telling my husband: “This feels so crazy. That we have a kid and another one in my belly. And it’s already so hard. And I am tired. And what about the money? And what am I thinking? Isn’t it too frivolous to spend all those weekends away from you guys?”
But I wanted to do it. Really badly.
I did it.
Being in that classroom all day Saturdays and Sundays. It felt like a radical act to spend time and money on my own passion. People would ask me if I was so tired. I was. But I was also fulfilled by this new part of life - it was a chapter of my personal journey, there were conversations and moments - they were enriching and they were privately mine. I felt alive.
What I Mean When I Say “Self Care”
I prioritize my own needs because I care about my sanity. Because it feels frantic and exhausting when I don’t. Because when I feel whole, I am a much better mom and partner and coach and friend.
I do it for my kids. Because they are watching me and taking cues.
For me, self-care means naming how I feel, what I am craving, what I think I need. It’s not all massages and mani-pedis. It’s also asking Adam to put the kids down on Thursday nights so I can take that class that I am dying to take. It’s having friends, family members and babysitters I can call on so I can get out and go for a walk or a meal or watch that Sunday matinee.
For me, it’s feeling a part of the world outside the walls of my home. It’s about staying connected to my friends and my city.
I regularly ask for help.
I have (mostly) given up the idea that I can be Superwoman. I know it takes a village. What I won’t give up on is being a super-woman who is compassionate, loving and attentive to herself.
How to Start
Without endless resources at your disposal to clear your schedule, odds are you have to make choices about how to include self-care into your life. Figuring out how to do this can be tricky, especially for those of us with multiple roles and competing demands.
For many of the people I work with – particularly women – it feels impossible at first. But acknowledging and caring for your own needs is completely necessary. It’s worth it.
Here's how you can start:
Begin with the low-hanging fruit.
Ask yourself: “What would be easiest for me to manage?”
Maybe you start with an evening walk while listening to your favourite podcast. Maybe you schedule a call with your best friend every day. You might begin with one yoga class a week. Or decide to budget for extra childcare and gift yourself a few hours to yourself on the weekend. You might spend that time with a book and a latte. You might spend it trying something brand new just because you feel called to.
Start with something. A regular, small gift to yourself. If this is new for you, it will probably make you feel pretty guilty at first. With time, it will start to feel (and become) natural.
In doing so, you get to show up as a more complete, honest, healthier and happier version of yourself. THIS is actually your big-ticket gift for yourself and everyone in your life.
Not only for the holiday season, but for the long haul.
If you want help to better balance your own needs with the needs of others, let me help you! Check out my coaching packages here.