I haven’t been so great at self-care or making myself a priority for most of my adult life. In fact, up until the past year and a bit, I viewed people (especially parents) that regularly took time for themselves as selfish.
I grew up with hard work being valued… valued beyond health and happiness. Don’t feel well? Nothing that requires a day off! People need to work. No time to stop and take care of ourselves. Feeling miserable? Grin and bear it! There is work to do… there is always work to do!
Long story short, I have had a major change of heart on this! I had received sign after sign that my well-being had to take more of a priority. Finally, I was told bluntly by a health care professional and decided to listen.
Finding Humor in the Situation:
My husband has prioritized himself throughout our marriage. Therefore, I’ve actually considered him to be super selfish at times. After all, how could he ensure he took time to golf, play hockey, go for massages, book family vacations, etc.? Aside from the family vacations, his ‘selfishness’ was a quality that I admittedly resented at times. I didn’t feel that I had time to do things I enjoy. How was it that he had the time?
Oddly enough, I even felt embarrassed on occasion by the time he took for his own well-being. After all, who had time for this self-care stuff? From the way I grew up, only people who didn’t know what a good hard day’s work is had time for these things!
Fun Fact: My husband works on a peak time schedule. He earns a decent living and isn’t scared of work. He has just never believed in working himself to the bone to earn a living. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. When it isn’t, shut it off and focus on living. Is it any wonder that our younger children viewed him as the fun one for so long?!?
My Experience with Self-Care
Once the necessity of having to take some time for me became so in my face evident, I requested some time off of work… initially just 4 months. I started connecting with people who enjoy life without getting dragged down by their work. I took online courses, learned new skills, and started hobbies.
Basically, I took time to do things I enjoy such as reading books and having epsom salt baths. I also went for regular massages. This all may or may not sound like much, but it was all a big deal for me!
In the process, I discovered energy and happiness within me I thought had been lost. I allowed the light that had been dimmed within me to start shining a little. I crafted, painted, went out more, and simply took time for me. Basically, I started filling my own cup more and more. Suddenly, I was beginning to have moments in which I was comfortable with prioritizing myself!
The Lesson that Smacked Me in the Face!
After 3 months of being off of work, I sat down with my kids and asked what they thought of me returning to work the following month. Each was super clear: They love the ‘new’ me better. You know, that version of me that decided I could come first on occasion.
Wow, talk about an eye opener. My children loved the version of me that took care of myself more than the version of me that didn’t! Let that sink in for a moment! I didn’t know if I should take that as a slap in the face or as the moment of awakening I needed for it to be!
I since have reflected on this a lot. What do I want for my children as they grow? Do I want for them to value work above all else OR do I want for them to value THEMSELVES above all else? I definitely don’t want my children to be arrogant or lazy. However, I do want my children to be happy, healthy and to have self-love. This way, they are able to give more love and share more happiness with others.
With my husband’s and children’s support, I took an entire year off. The year is one I now look back on and know it was one of the best years of my life!
Where do our children learn self-care? Where is it modeled?
What a revelation when I came to realize that if self-care is going to be valued within my children’s lives, they would benefit from having me model it for them.
One of the things I did for self-care in my year off was attend a 3 day workshop. Practicing self-care while working was an area I had (and still have) a lot to learn about! During the workshop, Harry Chapin’s song Cat’s in the Cradle was played. There is a powerful message in this song! I encourage you to have a listen and to really allow the lyrics to sink in:
What is it with so many of us parents believing hard work is the only way to pave the road ahead for our children? Will we truly be content if our children turn out just like us?
The Harsh Reality
Here is the harsh reality: It doesn’t matter who we are. Whether we lead a country, are working an executive job, or are working in any other employee role on the planet, we would easily be replaced within 2 weeks should something happen to us. This even applies to self-employed people. Someone else would take over where needed should the entrepreneur of a successful business pass away or become seriously ill.
Would the replacement do a better job? Maybe. Would the replacement do a worse job? Maybe. Whether the replacement would be better or worse is not our concern. Either way, the position would be filled.
However, unlike the ease of being easily replaceable at work, there is one area that we are forever irreplaceable. Where?
At home with our families!
Someone will always willingly step into our shoes at a career or job. No one can step into them at home… no one!
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So where do I go from here?
I must continue to ensure I am taking time for myself! Now that I am back teaching full-time, I run the risk of falling into my old patterns in which I was not making myself a priority resulting in my health as well as my family suffering because of it! Therefore, my promise to myself is this. I will:
Model self-care at home:
What do I want for my own children? Do I want to watch them focus on work above all else or do I want children who work, but don’t forget to live in the process? If I model self-care, they will learn to make it a priority. The entire family benefits! Even when working, it is easier to be more productive and positive at work when time is taken to take care of ourselves.
Learn a new skill:
Put simply, I feel creative and alive when I learn new things. Painting is something I discovered that I love doing! I feel completely relaxed when painting or creating. I plan to take some courses on Craftsy. With more than 1,000 courses all taught by crafting professionals at very reasonable prices, I definitely intend to check some out! There is also a Bluprint option in which I can get daily inspiration and watch unlimited videos from crafting pros should I have time to check out more than just the odd course here and there in the future! I can purchase any needed supplies from them as well.
Read material I choose for myself every day!
Even if it is just for a few minutes or 1 page of text, I am committed to read. I love reading! My nightstand has a number of books on it on any given day. I tend to reach for the book that goes with my mood at the time.
Write down things I am grateful for:
In her book What I Know For Sure, Oprah Winfrey mentions how she stopped her ritual of writing out five things she was grateful for every day even though she had journaled this for over a decade. Life became increasingly busy and she stopped writing in her gratitude journal. The result? She stopped feeling the joy in simple moments. Page 76 of What I Know For Sure, she states, “Sometimes we get so focused on the difficulty of our climb that we lose sight of being grateful for simply having a mountain to climb.”
I jumped in a pile of leaves with my daughters the other day. Each time I do things such as this, I ask myself why I don’t do it more often. It truly feels great! I will allow myself to enjoy these moments.
Go for a daily walk outside no matter the weather:
This one I have been exceptionally good about for nearly 2 years now. It is amazing what some daily fresh air and movement does!
Have regular date nights and family time:
I am blessed to have a husband that ensures we have fairly regular date nights. I didn’t always see the beauty in this, but definitely do today! These nights must remain a priority.
I also love going on outings or doing things as a family. I promise to work towards making these family events increasingly consistent, whether they happen within our home or outside of it. My 4 children pictured below couldn’t be more worth it!
Focus on people that support me:
For too long, I tried to please everyone. The problem was, I was neglecting to please myself in the process. I now focus on the people who support me and am cognizant of time spent with people who don’t.
Trust my gut and try new things:
For a long time, I had quite a fear of failure. I didn’t like to do anything wrong, so I stuck to the safe path in most things that I did. This is definitely still an area that I’m working on, but I don’t view failure as a bad thing anymore. I much prefer Sara Blakely’s definition of failure in that failure is just not trying.
Stop striving for perfection:
I was recently watching Shark Tank. The product was great! However, the entrepreneur was hesitant to let some control go for fear that quality in the product would be lost. Mark Cuban’s response was noteworthy! With passion, he said,
“Perfection is the enemy of profitability!”
If we want to run a profitable household in which everyone benefits, we have to let go of the idea of perfection. I personally find striving for it all of the time to be equivalent to placing myself in a chokehold. It truly is restricting! Rather than striving to be perfect, I will simply strive to be the best version of me I can put forward in the moment.
I need to be comfortable in my own skin. This is what I desire for my own children. This is what I desire for me!
This is still all a work in progress for me. In fact, I write it after having a few people point out to me just in this past week that they are concerned about me slipping into a non self-care path again now that I have returned to work.
This truth I now know for sure: Taking time for ourselves is NOT selfish at all! In fact, it benefits not only us but everyone around us.
What about you?
Where are you on the spectrum? Do you believe or have you ever believed that people who take time to take care of themselves are selfish? What are some ways you ensure that you are taking care of yourself? What are some benefits seen by modelling self-care for your family or other loved ones? Was self-care modeled by your parents? Please share in the comments below.