You’ve seen the Facebook memes spread far and wide — maybe you’ve even shared one yourself. The ones about the moms who look a hot mess at all times and are physically incapable of treating themselves to anything because the dear children are both demanding and deserving. The ones about mothers who do take time to put themselves together and how these women must be vapid and selfish, not spending enough time or money on their children’s needs. And so on.
I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve sat in a group of women demographically so similar to me and yet so far apart on one issue: how we choose, or don’t, to take care of ourselves. I often bite my tongue for fear of being chastised or even just facing wide-eyed confusion that I don’t have the emotional capacity to clear up. But a part of me has to wonder as I hear women of ample means to take their children for fast food treats or monogram their clothing, express how little they do for themselves.
“Self care” has become a hot topic of late, but even still I don’t think enough mothers are taking full advantage. Every post I see in the local Facebook groups about Mom’s needs for makeup, exercise, or clothing tips is prefaced with requests for “drug store brands,” “discount codes,” or “cheap please.” Yet when I run into many of the women in the same groups they’re handing $7 Starbucks drinks to their ten-year-olds or wiping ketchup off pint-sized Ralph Lauren and I just have to wonder — Am I the only one taking care of myself, too?
Here’s the deal: I get why most mothers spend a lot of their disposable income on the kids. I do it, too! I shower my girls in toys, clothes, treats, and trinkets whenever I can (and whenever their behavior has earned it…), but not at the expense of my own joy. Our budget varies month-to-month and my husband I are by no means rolling in the dough, but whatever the “fun” budget is at a given time, I’m spending a decent chunk of it on myself.
And not just for yoga or massages. Self-care is great, for sure. But so are splurges — like momcations and cute outfits to wear on them. Like upgrading to the fancy manicure because your hands are tired from typing and wiping and you want to feel extra pampered. Like pretty pens and not-so-sensible flats. You know, stuff you want.
I put my children first in every circumstance. Their health and safety trump my own sleep and sanity. Their joy and education are my ultimate priorities in life. Their snuggles cut into my alone time with my husband. They’ll only be little for a short while, as everyone loves to remind me. And I want to be present, and positive, for that time.
But completely losing myself and not treating their mother to the things she wants as I do them? No, thanks. I’m all about coupons and savings, but I’m not going to shortchange myself. And you can post as many nasty memes as you want about it — I’m sticking to my guns on this one, and I know it doesn’t make me a bad mom.
Listen. The same women whom I observe constantly lamenting their lack of decent shoes and a skincare routine are often the ones also complaining about the woes of potty training and the fact that they can’t keep their homes organized to save their lives. In my experience, they’re usually the ones feeling run down by the hard parts of parenting, while I’m over here thinking, “Girl, give yourself a night out!”
Some months there isn’t much left over after bills for extras, and I’m not unreasonably out buying myself useless nonsense then — or ever. But I do find that my willingness to fork over discretionary income on things that bring me joy makes me a better mom. I don’t resent my children because they don’t keep me from my old life. It was a learning curve for sure (baby clothes are so cuuuuute!) and it took me a few years of parenting to realize that I deserved nice things, too. Now that I’m there, I can’t ever see myself going back.
Not everyone is into stuff and this point of view shouldn’t be taken as a judgment for those who choose to wear comfy, casual clothes and their trusty old sneaks from college in the day-to-day. You do you. But whatever it is that makes you feel extra-special, try that, too.
Maybe it’s a Saturday afternoon movie or a super fancy coffee or a weekend away with your friends. Maybe it’s opting for the Cable package that includes your guilty pleasure channels, not just their favorite cartoons. Maybe it’s taking a hip hop class instead of just the ho-hum workouts that are included with your gym memberships.
Maybe just do one nice thing for yourself a month, or even two. You might not realize until you start, but momming is a lot more fun when you treat yourself as well as you treat them. Putting it that way, is there any truer definition of “self care?”