During this wonderful time of year we give our time, love, and a few baked goods to others in our life. Sometimes we forget about ourselves. But we shouldn’t. We are just as important as the people in our lives. And if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others.
I’ve learned a lot as my life has changed over the past 20 years.
I went from a “dual income no kids” duplex to a bustling home with five growing boys. My career as a fundraiser in a non-profit became the role of a CEO in a fast-growing regional organization. I ran for public office. Chaos slowly claimed my calm.
Along the way, I gave up things that were important to me. Rituals, habits, and appointments that were mine were replaced with carpool schedules, business meetings, and volunteer events.
I serve everyone. Except myself.
And then it clicked. If I didn’t take care of myself, what good would I be to my husband, my children, my team at work or the others I serve?
Slowly, I started giving myself gifts. I found these small gifts (or changes) helped save my sanity.
Now, let’s be honest. I had to get over some sort of natural guilt that accompanies many of these gifts. After all, what would my mother-in-law think if she knew someone else helped with my hardwoods? (My own mother, who I very much mirror, advocated that I get outside help years ago, around the same time she told me not to prepare a full breakfast for my dear husband and children each morning.)
And then there’s the whole budget matter. I absolutely own the fact that much of this list is due to financial privilege. My husband and I both work outside the home. We are comfortably middle class, and that allows for much of what I claim for my sanity. Over the years, as we hit budget crunches, we’d sit and talk about my list. Some were negotiable – others not. Besides, everyone in my house knows that the ESPN cable package will go before numbers 1 and 2! Through it all, here are the top gifts I give myself…
1. I Have Help Cleaning My House
Even though the boys are responsible for cleaning the toilets, emptying the trash and folding their own clothes, I have help every two weeks. Nova and Deb make sure my hardwoods are clean and the dust under my furniture is gone. They are like my aunts, and know how stressed I get when my house is dirty. Most importantly, they don’t judge me when they find bags of old Halloween candy behind a bed – in April.
2. I Get a Massage Once a Month
Once I had such a horrible day at work that I called Ashleigh and asked her if I could come lie on her table. And she let me. As caregivers we carry the weight of many on our shoulders. Ashleigh asks me what hurts and then she helps fix the ache. Even if on that particular day it’s in my heart as opposed to my lower back.
3. I Have a Membership to a Yoga Studio and a Gym
I may not look like it, but I recognize the importance of physical activity as it relates to my mental well-being! There have been different workout schedules during different seasons of my life (prior to the twins and before my professional life exploded, I worked out six days a week). I make myself break away for an hour at a time as often as possible. And it’s even better with a friend by my side – that’s called double dipping!
4. I Leave my Children in Aftercare on Friday Afternoon
For years I would leave work early and pick up one, two or three children in carpool line on Friday afternoon. We broke the routine as the older boys transitioned to middle and high school. Frankly, they were happy to take the bus or catch rides and come home to unwind from their own busy week. As the twins started school, I never rebooted the routine. They love playing with their friends in aftercare, and they love the teachers who are with them. I get an extra two hours to run errands, wrap things up at work, or take care of something else on my “gift list.” And the twins have yet to complain!
5. My Saturday Mornings are Sacred
Sleep has never been important to me. I know that may sound odd, but I’ve never wanted to spend a day napping or watching movies in bed. But I love waking up early on weekends, curling up under a blanket next to a window with my cup of coffee in a quiet house, and just being. Sometimes I’ll read the five magazines that piled up over a few busy weeks. Maybe I’ll watch HGTV, Food Network, or other shows five boys would never tolerate any other time of day. If a child (or husband) wakes up early, they know they’re welcome to quietly join me, but they aren’t able to touch the remote or ask for anything … unless, of course, they’re asking if I’d like a refill of coffee.
Your own gifts may be different than mine, but the bottom line is this: we are important. People count on us for an incredible amount of support. We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. And we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed of it.
We deserve our gifts.