Why I Don’t Practice Self-Care Even Though I Want to

Philosophy: We can only relish the calm if we’ve dared to revel in the chaos.

Ahh, self-care. So elusive for single moms, parents, people in general. If you’re reading this and you’re about 22 with no commitments or little dependents, heed this advice: relish all those quiet, empty seconds you have to read or soak or shop alone.

I used to take it for granted, getting as much time as I wanted in the dairy case to pick out yogurt. Now, I sometimes surprise myself with what I bring home. I didn’t know Yoplait made a Dunkin Donuts flavor, but it’s in my fridge and I guess I bought it. If I get the time to try it before it expires, I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

The lady I used to see for counseling would tsk-tsk that. She was very much about inner-peace and harmony. Namaste. I am too. It’s just a luxury for me to be able to practice it right now.

The thing about self-care is that it’s like everything else. If you wait for there to be time, there never will. You must make time.

I was cursed (blessed?) with a quite vintage-looking tanning bed in my basement. When I moved into my house last November, I had plans of getting rid of it, but I was single a few days after moving and then winter came and then…it just stayed.

It works. Kind of. On its best day, I’d call it broke-down. Some of the bulbs are shot. I replaced the ones I could get to easily and gave it a try one day while Tyler was napping. It was every bit of the guilty pleasure I remembered it to be. It wasn’t quite stealing a plate, but then again, nothing is.

When I was younger and skin care/age spots/harmful rays/SPF 4000 wasn’t as much of a thing as it is now, I tanned all the time. It used to make me feel good. It relieved a little anxiety back when all I had was a little anxiety.

Now that I have a boatload of anxiety, 20 minutes enclosed in some ultra violet light with a Podcast and the white noise of a fan running is just shy of Eden. Forget that the tanning bed is broke-down. It serves its purpose just fiiine.

I’m certainly not promoting laying in the sun and I know all the risks and hazards, and that tanning beds are no-good, very-bad killers. Guess what? It doesn’t stop me. It’s just another one of my many vices.

I think part of the appeal is the process of making the time to get down there and use it. It’s a race against the clock and a challenge to rig everything just right so I can buy the maximum amount of time.

If Elise is playing Barbies in her room, I have at least 45 minutes. I get Jack comfy on the couch with his chocolate milk and set him up to watch his favorite police procedurals on YouTube. Tyler comes downstairs with me to his bassinet once he’s changed and fed.

It took me awhile, but I caught on to Tyler’s fascination with mirrors, so I attached one to the hood of the bassinet. He jabbers to himself if he doesn’t fall asleep. That buys me a good 15 minutes, if he’s awake, before he starts winding up to cry.

Voila. Fifteen minutes of me-time. I only partially wonder what the thud from upstairs was. There’s really very little anticipation of whether the baby’s cooing is slowly turning into crying. Anymore, even if the dog barks, it only takes me a minute or so to talk myself out of wondering if someone is at the front door and whether it’s the UPS guy or a serial killer.

All-in-all, I get about five solid minutes of thoughtless bliss. Maybe it’s more like three because without fail, I feel a hand reaching in to tap my arm. I’d normally be startled, but I see two blue eyes staring back at me through the gap. “Mommy…Sissy took my iPad.”

Two minutes. Two minutes of me-time is enough. Time to shut it all down. I throw on my robe, scoop Tyler up and when I hit the landing, right on cue… “Mommy…the dog drank Jack’s milk and threw up on the carpet. I tried to clean it up but we’re out of paper towels.”

Tyler’s cooing-turned-crying-bordering-on-screaming stops. My shoulder gets warm. Spit up. I go for the paper towels, but…there are none. A dish towel it is. What’s a little more laundry at this point?

The truth is, my “me time” is their time. My self-care is caring for them. That’s the sacrifice I make as a mom. If I’m forced to choose between them and me, I pick them every time.

 One day, I’ll have all the peace and quiet one person can stand and I’ll hate every minute of it. It’s not that I don’t want a half hour every now and then, it’s just that things rarely work out so I can take that time for myself. That’s just how it is right now.  

Maybe I’ll get rid of my broke-down tanning bed. Maybe I can make a few minutes to go the store alone this week. Maybe while I’m there I’ll get some sunscreen and call that self-care. Maybe I’ll remember the paper towels this time.

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