Self care in the age of having and doing it all

Do you practise self care regularly and what does it look like for you? How often do you take time for yourself, focusing only on you as in a single person, doing something you love and that makes you feel like you are alive? I am not asking for a friend, I am not ashamed to ask. I want to know because self care is something I am notoriously struggling with.

Looking back over my life I have always had issues with just lazing around and doing nothing. Probably instilled by my mother and my grandmother’s work ethic, doing nothing is frowned upon and relaxing only allowed after you have done something truly purposeful. Reading and having a good time before your homework is done? Forget it. Going to see friends or have them round for a play date? Not before all the school tasks have been done, and done properly and with great care. Some of this has certainly helped me to prioritise and make sure I always work hard, no matter what I do, but sitting here, on a weekend, just relaxing on the sofa, watching a film with this kids is not something I can easily do. I have to do something else at the same time (like writing or online research or shopping or reading), otherwise I will get restless.

Another thing I have a problem with is guiltlessly taking time for myself and truly enjoying it. The daily half an hour run is plagued with bad feelings of neglect for my children who are staying behind with my partner (who, by the way, does not mind me going for a run, ever). Still, I feel bad. Run as fast as I can to be back, have the quickest shower in history so I can be available to be Mama again. Mum guilt is something I believe a lot of mothers experience, and I would assume many fathers, too. Somewhere along the line someone told us that having kids is the ultimate privilege and feeling anything but grateful for every moment of our waking and (not so sound) sleeping lives. Before you start tearing into me and calling me all sorts of nasty things, bear with me: Of course I know that this is not the case and of course I know that most of us parents acknowledge the incredible ups but also the exhausting lows of modern parenting. Nevertheless, that niggling feeling that I should just shut up and be bloody happy with my lot doesn’t go away. And hence the guilt. Which naturally follows that I very rarely ever practise self care. Have a long hot bath and indulge in a book? Once a year, maybe. I tend to read far too late at night, cutting my own sleeping pattern, just so I can have a little bit of time to myself. Have a long walk all by myself, an afternoon off, an evening out, dare I say, a weekend away? Barely ever or never. Most attempts of such events are sabotaged by my guilt and lack of time I want to allocate for myself just to relax and unwind.

Before you start feeling sorry for me (or maybe you just find me and my lack of making time for myself pathetic) I do find great pleasure in writing and squeezing in snippets of losing myself in words and sentences, notes and jotting of ideas throughout each day. I often have my nose in my phone typing in the notes app or penning down my next blog on my website. My boyfriend has given up trying to have conversations with me during those moments as I just can’t listen when I write.

I am confident that one day, maybe when the kids are a bit older and more independent, I will find myself searching for that me-time, and, more importantly, granting myself that time, letting myself be, guiltlessly. For now, I am learning to live with the guilt, telling myself that self care is important and that those half hour runs in the morning are my absolute right. We can’t do it all and be it all. One thing at a time.

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