Let me get this out of my system before I begin: I don’t love the term “self-care.” Maybe it’s that whiff of Instagram Influencer that it carries with it (“Mama, Are you practicing self-care? Here are five products you can buy via my affiliate links that will refresh and recharge you”). Or maybe it’s that I don’t want to practice self-care. I want other people to practice Frances-care.
You know what I do love? I love treats. I love occasional self-indulgences that are fun and a little bit selfish. I love a good glass of wine (or two) on Friday and Saturday. I like the occasional wedge of stinky cheese I buy at the co-op every once in a blue moon.
Okay, who am I kidding? “Occasional self-indulgences”? I love daily self-indulgences. A piece of good chocolate after lunch. If not a nightly glass of wine while I cook (because as much as I love wine, recent reports indicate that daily drinking isn’t good for you), then a mocktail made with lime seltzer and ginger. The promise of a Breyer’s Low-Carb ice cream bar after dinner.
And I love weekly self-indulgences as well. Pizza night on Saturdays. A trip to Freeman’s Creative to look at fabric and art supplies. Popping into a bookstore. Buying a new-to-me magazine at the bookstore. One of the nice things about being an empty nester when it comes to taking care of myself is that I have more bandwidth to do it. I was thinking about this on Sunday as I headed over to the Nasher Museum on the Duke University campus, about five minutes from my house. A weekly visit to an art museum by myself (something I aspire to, though it doesn’t always happen) didn’t always make my list when the boys were home.
Sometimes I think I should quit with the daily and weekly indulgences (which by and large aren’t expensive) and save up for something more substantial. But I live a daily life and the anticipation of a treat often pulls me from one side of a day to the other.
Are my little indulgences and small treats a form of self care? I think they are. But because I find the phrase “self care” a little too too, I’m going to flip it and just call it taking care of myself. A lot of women I know (though not all) don’t do a great job taking care of themselves in this way. Instead of practicing real self care (as opposed to, say, retail therapy), they’re all about self-giving. Which, yes, is a beautiful thing, but some women I know can be self-giving to a fault–and I do mean to a fault. Scratch a martyr and nine times out of ten, you reveal a very angry woman.
I have been that very angry woman.
To practice taking care of yourself in little ways can provide a release valve for the steam that builds up after saying yes to one more favor or request for your time, for showing up for the friend who’s always in crisis, for making dinner night after night, for always being the one who takes the dog to the vet or who does the taxes.
It’s also a way to insist (to yourself, at the very least) that you are worth being taken care of. If you’re lucky, it might encourage the people you take care of to practice a little caregiving themselves.
Ouch! I feel like I’ve been that angry woman too. I hadn’t thought of little treats being a steam valve, but I think it’s a perfect analogy.
I agree about treats—I read something once about filling your life with small treats because we rarely get around to the big vacations or fancy dinners out. But a glass of wine, magazine, pedicure, or fancy coffee can make any day feel extra special!
I have become pretty good about treating myself these days. That’s one of the perks of being an empty nester. I’m not running myself ragged getting kids off to school, activities, and keeping everyone fed. The fact that we are a two income household helps as well. I love to grab a latte from Starbucks to keep me company while I run errands. It just makes it more fun! Having lunch with a friend midweek, spending some time alone with a cup of tea and a book, and stitching while watching my beloved cozy mysteries are all treats that give me a little escape from the daily grind.
I used to do this with the kids as well. Whenever I had just one of the with me for some reason, we’d swing by Jamba Juice or the frozen yogurt shop for a treat and a solemn promise not to tell the other kids (they all knew). When I was in the middle of the child-rearing years and started to feel at my breaking point, I’d head out to Barnes & Noble, order a latte and sit in the cafe with a stack of magazines for a couple of hours. Then I’d put all the magazines back and head back home–feeling a bit refreshed.
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a laundromat, because our washing machine broke with a full load of clothes, filled with water. I think it will be a while before the repair guy gets out here, so I’ve lugged the wet clothes plus another load down in the early morning to the laundromat. (All my favorite underwear and exercise clothes were in that load!) In order to make this unpleasant task more pleasurable, after starting the load, I walked down to the closest grocery store and bought a large, hot tea from Starbucks. All of a sudden, sitting in a laundromat for an hour doesn’t seem so bad!
What self-care means to me now has a few different layers. First, it’s making sure that I’m taking care of the basic things that keep me grounded. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water (why is this so hard for me?), and carving out time to read and stitch. I would put journaling in that category as well. I always feel better when I do it. It calms the “monkey brain” in me and often helps me problem-solve.
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, both at work and home. I loathe this feeling of being perpetually behind. So self-care this morning looked like doing a brain dump and getting all those thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It makes such a difference for me! And just today that exercise helped me discover a few action items that are helping with the overwhelm. This layer of self-care is truly about taking care of myself, something that no amount of treats is going to help.
But let’s talk next-level self-care! Beyond the weekly treats that I enjoy, I love a good pamper and get a few pedicures each year. I’d love to do it once a month—but expense-wise it still feels like a luxury. I do manicures much less often, because the results don’t last as long as pedi—but I love to get one once a year or so, just because I love the way they get my cuticles in order and do a much better job of shaping my nails than me!
In fact, I recently had a birthday and instead of “stuff” I asked for pampering experiences. Chloe very thoughtfully picked out some bath bombs from Lush. I’ll get many luxurious baths from that one! Baths are a real treat to me, especially in drough-ridden California. I don’t indulge in a long soak in the tub as often as I’d like.
I also received a nice gift card to a local spa, where I recently had a facial! Oh my, it was an hour of pure bliss! Have you ever had a facial? The soft lights and new age music set the scene. And then it’s different cleansers, scrubs, masks, etc. that the esthetician smooths on your face in the most gentle, relaxing manner. After she put on a special mix of masks perfect for my skin (firming and anti-aging…) she gave me a neck, shoulder, and back massage. Heaven! It also makes me feel good to do something nice for this aging skin. If I were in a different tax bracket, I might indulge in this once a month. But alas, it just may become my new favorite gift to request. And I’ve got a mani/pedi on my radar in the next few weeks.
This level of pampering/treat/self-care isn’t in the schedule or budget to indulge in every day, but it was just what I needed right now. As a matter of fact, I like the fact that it feels special, and not a regular thing–or it wouldn’t be considered a treat!
Where am I going with this? I’m not sure other than the first step in self-care is making sure you are hitting the basics of taking care of yourself (which many women don’t do, even if they are empty nesters). Then, find what seems like a small treat for you and indulge! Life is short!
Readers–take care of yourselves! And let us know if and how you treat yourselves.