8pm. My phone pings. It’s my well-being app. “ITS ME TIME!” it energetically informs me, with emojis of butterflies.
Really. Well, after I’ve washed up, tidied up, put on another load of laundry, let the dog out for a wee and done the school/nursery bags/lunches for tomorrow, maybe I’ll squeeze in a 15 minute bath (which will inevitably be interrupted by a small child having a bad dream) and even sneak in a swift gin.
I’ll have a scroll through Facebook – oh but hang on – I’ve read that good sleep hygiene dictates no screens for 2 hours before bed. So although I’ve coped with the inane chatter of little people all day, and long to assuage this lonely isolation by catching up on adult conversation or even the news (is Brexit happening anymore?!) apparently I’m not supposed to for fear of stimulating the wrong parts of my brain. Oops. Oh and alcohol?! Before bed?! My sleep hypnotherapy app says NO FOOD OR DRINK FOR 4 HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME! Fuck that for a game of soldiers. I’ve got the kids down; the reward is raiding the cupboard for forgotten Christmas chocolate. End of story. I’ve not done any exercise today. Work, pick up kids, chores. So I’m paying for a gym membership I’m only using once a week. Guilt from spending money on something so useless.
Self care? Pah. Self care shouldn’t be berating yourself internally for not doing the things you ‘should’ be doing to care for yourself. Why not do the things that feel fun or like a future-proofing, chaos-minimising, survival tactic to you? Early night? Check. Whizz around the house, cleaning so you don’t come down to utter chaos in the morning? Check. A large gin to help you sleep? Check. IT’S OKAY. Cut yourself some slack.
We need to let go of the perfection myth. It’s perfectly okay to just be doing okay – you don’t have to be hand-blending organic baby puree, running an online start-up business and still finding time for daily yoga and a twelve-step skincare regime. This idea that we can ‘have it all’ is toxic and has become a gilded cage that makes us feel bad for not bossing every area of our lives simultaneously. The truth is, anyone that manages anything even close to this has a huge amount of support, and probably isn’t being honest about how often things slip either. As mothers, we can’t do it alone. We need a great support network, and sometimes our scattered global lives don’t lend themselves to that – we may have moved far away from family and old friends before we started a family. The greatest luxury of self-care is simply to forgive yourself. You don’t have to be all things to everyone – nor should you even try.
One value it is important to take away from the concept of self-care is taking some time to nourish yourself as an individual. It might not be long, but try to find a way to carve out a little chunk of time. And if that means letting something else slip, like having a monster laundry pile one day or not answering work emails past 5pm for once, so be it. Work out what makes you feel good. Some people just want the mental space of sitting quietly with a book without being constantly interrupted. Others like to go for a run and work out their stress. And grab those little pockets of time to boost yourself up – making sure your nails are painted, or even just spotting on that duac acne gel each night and calling it skincare! Don’t hold yourself to anyone else’s standards or expectations. If it makes you happy and gives you that little pick-me-up then never apologise for that. After all, you have to look after yourself before looking after others.
And some cake.