Is Taking Care of Yourself Selfish?

by Abby on October 24, 2011

shoelacesI have issues, my friends. Specifically, more knots in my neck and shoulders than a classroom full of preschoolers’ sneakers. This is how stress always manifests in my body. It’s been pointed out to me by many massage therapists over the years. One Russian lady said in broken English, “This is not normal.” Another one said, “Oh, honey. You need help.” And several have noted, “You know, you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear those words – which, since I became a mom, is pretty often – I shrug them off. I mean, I would if I could move my shoulders enough to shrug. Yeah, yeah. Who has the time to take care of herself? No mom I know.

I don’t intentionally put myself last, but when I’m tending to the needs of 2 small kids, it’s inevitable. I know I shouldn’t skip breakfast, but I have to find Miles’ library book, water bottle, and other shoe before he’s late to school. Then I have to change Riley’s diaper, get him dressed, find HIS other shoe, and by that time the kids have finished all the cereal and I’ve dulled my hunger pangs with a cup of coffee. It’s not nutritionally advised, but that’s my life.

I know it’s probably not great for my back to carry a 37-lb. child in one arm and 3 bags of groceries in the other, but if it’s raining and I have to go to the bathroom really bad and I don’t want to take the time to splash in every puddle along the sidewalk, that’s what I do.

I know I should go to bed earlier, but when the house is FINALLY quiet in the evenings, I want some time to myself to read or watch TV or veg on the couch before I have to go to bed, get up, and do it all over again.

Besides, it feels self-indulgent and even, yeah, selfish to pamper myself with manicures and facials and naps when there are field trips to pay for and dinners to make. I’m not a Kardashian, you know!

I’m not 100% opposed to taking care of myself, though. For instance, I willingly pay for massages. Not as often as I’d like, but every few months. Maybe because of my messed-up shoulders, but I convince myself that it’s more medical than recreational. For a while, I even had health insurance that covered massage therapy. That was the life. I also have a glass of wine (or 2) nearly every night. And I sleep as much as humanly (or husbandly) possible.

But I allow myself to nap during the day only if I have a newborn or the flu. I feel guilty if I sleep in past 8:30 on weekends, even if it’s my “turn.” I never, ever watch daytime TV (unless I have a newborn or the flu). I do exercise regularly, but if my kids put up a fight about going to the gym daycare or if I have deadlines, my workout is the first thing to get sidelined.

So, yeah, when it comes to self-care, I guess you could say my logic is a little twisted. Kind of like the muscles in my neck. Ouch.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

It's Not Like a Cat October 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I could have written this! I’ve been skipping breakfast too much lately, for all the reasons you list above. As for mani/pedicures and facials, what? When I DO have a little downtime, I feel like I need to be prepping dinner or something or else I’ll fall behind and we’ll risk that horrid 5 p.m. meltdown.

But massage, well, I’m trying to make that a priority, calling it medical (though if I were THAT concerned about my overall health I’d try harder to see my therapist, right??). I figure running makes me happy and to keep running I need to fix a few structural things that are kind of messed up right now, so I might as well work on that so I can run and be happy. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the structural stuff is in part due to the whole childbearin’ thing, so I can kind of convince myself that I’m just recovering. 🙂

Other than that, my self-care is limited to nightly wine or beer and a stash of chocolate in the cabinet above the dishwasher. Chocolate DOES count as self-care, right?


Abby October 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

Chocolate *absolutely* counts! And you’re right, the whole “childbearin’ thing” definitely messes up your body. Usually, when I tell massage therapists I have 2 small kids, they respond, “Enough said.” Yep, that explains it!


Angie October 29, 2011 at 5:51 am

I thought my comment was going to be different, until I read this post. Because you know, I’m a big “take care of you” person. I know what the happy, well-rested me looks like and when I don’t give that version of myself to my family, I feel like I’m cheating them, too. Not just myself.

But I’ve also come to accept that I’ll go hours in the morning and realize I’ve only had coffee. That’s part of the job. Over the years I’ve gotten really okay with that. What you’ve described sounds like you are taking care of you. Being efficient. Cutting corners. Staying up to watch TV because that’s what you need at the moment. So perhaps you can ditch the guilt. And if you figure that one out, lemme know. 🙂


Write On, Jana! November 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm

As a mother of two children who recently left the work world to devote 110% of her time/energy on said offspring, I know all-to-well the effects of considering self-care selfish… As a result, I feel guilty if I recharge my batteries before tackling the tough issues at home (with disastrous results). I love that other moms are talking opening and honestly about self-care. Maybe it will help us learn to ditch the “Mommy Guilt.” Although I agree with Angie… I’d love some advice on achieving that lofty goal! 🙂


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