I did my birthday right this year. I informed my husband that I’d buy my own presents, told him what kind of cake I wanted (something fun made from Rice Krispie Treats) and picked the restaurant where we dined. The end result? I got exactly what I wanted.
But the best gift I gave myself was when I declared the Sunday before my actual birthday as Me Day, where it was understood by my husband and son that the day would be entirely centered on Me-related things—such as walking to the store (by myself) to get the Sunday NY Times, having the time to actually read the Sunday NY Times, working out on the elliptical, eating Nutella & banana crepes, going Spring skiing with my son, then cooking the kind of healthy dinner I craved, without the grumblings from the meat and potatoes guy I married.
Me Day was nothing fancy or monumental, but as a mom, just knowing I had the freedom to have an entire Sunday to do exactly what I wanted while still hanging out with my family felt like a luxury. And by the end of the day, I was completely filled up.
Which made me realize how seldom we mothers do just that. We let our cups run empty, claiming we’re too busy with kids, life, work, etc., to take care of ourselves, and then we end up feeling constantly depleted.
My family and I recently went to Aruba on vacation, which meant lots of eating out. Personally, I was thrilled by the prospect of not having to cook every night. But for my seven-year-old son—a boy whose average butt-on-the-seat time during dinners at home is about forty-three seconds—it was a challenge. To his credit, he did surprisingly well. Most of the time. But I also recognized what a struggle it was for him to sit still for that long, dinner after three-course dinner, forced to constrain his constantly moving body with parental-imposed “restaurant behavior.” So, when dessert was over, my husband or I would bring him out to the parking lot and let him run around like a Tasmanian Devil. Or on the odd occasion we ate in, we’d let him veg out in front of Cartoon Network while eating mac and cheese.
Basically, I just gave the kid a chance to recharge. But the funny thing is how little we mothers allow ourselves to do the same.
We either fail to prioritize ourselves, or when we do think about carving out some “me time,” it just ends up feeling like another line item on our Sisyphean to-do list. Sometimes, the very act of trying to fill ourselves up can be depleting in and of itself. It takes effort to find a babysitter, make a reservation, or schedule a weekend away. But unless we mothers prioritize self-care, I truly believe everything else suffers. Just like working out, it’s helpful to remind yourself how good it feels when you make the effort to do it and how much you like the results.