Missing: Self-Care!

Can you help me find it?

I have misplaced my self-care; have you seen it? How did self-care get such a bad rap? I have never understood it.  I know that I can’t pour into someone else from an empty glass, so why do I feel so guilty about taking time to care for myself? 

Let me define what I mean when I say “self-care”.

I am not~ 

  • thinking about leaving my family to go off for a week on the Riviera to walk on the beach and relax. 
  • talking about checking into a Bed & Breakfast in town to let someone else cook and clean for me.
  • imagining going on strike and refusing to do any housework for a week.

No, I am merely~

  • talking about closing the door for 20 minutes of uninterrupted time as I soak in a bubble bath. 
  • wishing for an hour to get a pedicure or a massage.
  • trying to schedule a haircut at the salon. 
  • wanting to take a Saturday morning for some at-home spa time to give myself a facial, a warm hair conditioning treatment, or a foot scrub.  

You get the idea. These are simple things that make me happy, help me relax, and make me feel pampered. Somehow, my life is so filled with “must do” things, that I keep pushing the “want to do” items to the bottom of the list.  Before I know it, I am running on fumes.

For me, I think it starts with guilt; I am an educator, and we are notoriously known for being nurturing by nature.  But, when I think about it, most, if not all of the people I know are nurturers. Go look in the mirror.  Who do you see?  Someone who spends a good bit of time caring for others? Yes, I thought so. 

Acts of giving infuse our lives. For starters we care for babies, chase after toddlers, shuffle young children from one activity to another, struggle over homework assignments, lay awake at night worrying about teenagers (yikes!). While all this is going on, in addition to a job, we are planning meals, shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, paying bills, and handling a myriad of other unplanned events. 

We take a big breath when the last one of the children is out of the house and safely on their own, but then find ourselves transitioning immediately into caring for aging parents. Oh, and let’s not forget pets. They need food, walks, clean litter, vet visits. You get the picture.  

I did not perceive any of the things listed about as burdens. Caring for my child, my pets, my parents are all labors of love that leave me with no regrets. I am retired now and blessed by the fact that I had a job that filled me with passion. Yet, I remember feeling like I barely had time to breathe, so when I flopped into bed at the end of the day, I was too tired to even worry about the fact that I didn’t get a bubble bath that day. 

You would think that in retirement I would have more free time and would do a lot better about self-care. Somehow, even in retirement I stay busy. I spend a lot of my day living a digital life, the cooking/cleaning chores still need to get done, I have a 16 year old dog who needs a lot of care. Self-care continues to elude me.  

So why do you think I have such a hard time saying “NO” to everyone except myself? I go and go until I feel tired and cranky. When I allow myself to get to that point, I begin to feel resentment. Resentment is definitely NOT a place I want to spend any emotional time or currency. 

I have thought about this pattern in my life.  Somehow, it seems, I feel I need permission for self-care.  Let’s solve that right now; I grant permission!  See? Wasn’t that easy?  Have you lost track of your self-care? If so, I grant you permission too.  Now, let’s go have that bubble bath! 

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

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