A friend of mine re-posted this article today about what mothers need to give themselves. I could not agree more with the general principle, but it made me realize that I may be a little weirder than I thought. (I know you’re not surprised. I’m okay with that.) Anyway, what I realized is this: I don’t care at all about half the things she thinks are really important for taking care of yourself. And the things that are most important for me to care for myself don’t even make her list.
Take showers, for instance, which Mama Birth puts at the top of her list. Me? I don’t shower very often. I intentionally wait as long as possible, because frankly showering feels like a chore, and I really don’t care how clean I am until my hair starts to get greasy, and even then I would rather put it up for a few days. I hate taking quick showers, because really, what’s the point if you’re not going to wash your hair and shave? And it’s so much more fun when you can take your time and enjoy it. Taking a shower, for me, isn’t about getting clean–it’s about the whole experience.
Although I could argue that my three year old’s propensity to sneak outside and visit the neighbors while I’m in the shower is a factor in my decision, really, I think it’s just that showers aren’t such a high priority. I really don’t stink (I don’t think. Do I? You can be honest), but I guess I’m more of a hippie than I thought.
Then there’s exercise. I love being outside and walking, but I don’t consider that exercise. In my mind, it’s not exercise until you start panting and sweating, and somewhere around the point where it becomes exercise is the point where I stop enjoying it. I miss hiking and camping, though, which used to be a big part of my life and have definitely gone by the wayside since I had a baby. I do walk a lot, but like I said, I don’t count that as exercise. I do it more because I hate driving and I need to get my kid out of the house, not because I need to exercise.
Having friend and spending time with my husband are priorities for me too. But some of the things that are top of my list for caring for myself are things she doesn’t even mention. So, just for contrast, here’s my list of the things I absolutely have to do to take care of myself.
1. Read. Fun books. Novels, mostly young adult sci-fi and fantasy. And classics. I discovered my freshman year of college that I get stressed and miserable anytime I’m not in the middle of a good book. I just finished reading The Magician King (twice, because it was awesome) and Vanity Fair, so right this second I am not in the middle of a book. This is a serious situation that needs to be rectified asap. I just have to decide what to read next. Feel free to offer recommendations in the comments.
2. Write. I have a love/hate relationship with writing, and most of the time I’m doing it for money as much as I’m doing it for fun, but it’s definitely become a priority for me. The more I write, the more I need to write. Like reading, it’s addictive.
4. Spend time with my husband, without our kid. We have been going on weekly dates for a while now, and I love this. I love getting out of the house with him and talking about the kinds of things we talked about when we were dating. It reminds me that I enjoy him, and not just because he’s a great dad and a sweet husband. I enjoy him as a person. If you get too caught up with kids, you can forget that.
5. Talk with friends and family. Especially my mom and my sister, both of whom I call every day. It’s actually something I really enjoy about being a full-time mom: having time to talk on the phone. And, of course, I love my mom friends. I’m actually enjoying my group of friends now more than any group I’ve been part of in a long time.
6. Have a project. Any project. I need something to think about that has nothing to do with my kids or my family. The best projects for me are ones that involve a lot of collaboration with other people. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it has to be changing the world for the better, at least in a small way. This is something I can put aside for a little while, but not for long. I need to be doing something that’s part of a big picture, something bigger than myself or my family. It’s part of who I am, and when I don’t have that, I’m never satisfied with my life.
Now that I’ve written it out, I can see it’s a pretty long list, and a most of it is a lot time consuming than taking a shower. Some of these things will probably go by the wayside for a little while when I have a new baby, but I’ll work to get them all back in my life as fast as possible. Because they really are things I need for myself.
But my point is this. Everybody is different. When you’re a mom, more than any other time in your life, you need to know what stuff you absolutely have to maintain in your life in order to stay happy. You need to know what you need to make a priority. And it need to be personal for you. Because you can shower every day, but if that’s not what feeds your soul, then you’ll still feel like you do nothing but take care of other people. And you’ll go nuts. For me, reading is the one thing I won’t ever let go. I go crazy if I’m not reading something I enjoy. Showers? I’ll get to that. Eventually. Around the time I get around to folding the laundry, probably.