Looking after No 1 (Book extract from Housework Blues)

 

Women are instinctive nurturers and carers. Historically, we are the caretakers of the species. Even in recent times, women who work full-time still tend to be the ones who make a house a home, administer TLC and know/care how each family member likes their breakfast. Regardless of who has the earning power, it’s usually the Lady of the House who manages the everyday comings and goings. She-Who-Knows-Where-The-Clean-Socks-Are. (Or aren’t, perhaps)


Now, we may not like this idea, but it’s in our genes (though admittedly stronger in some women than others…) In any home, the family-support-mechanism tends to stem from the resident female.

Consequently, we often find ourselves at the beck and call of the others. In demand. Needed. This is obviously important in the raising of infants, but when and wherre do we draw the line? At what point should we say, “What about my needs? Where do they rank?’ A common female tendency is to put our own needs ‘on hold’. The trouble is, they often get pushed so far down the list that they get neglected or forgotten completely.

But this selflessness could be doing a disservice to both ourselves and those who rely on us. Firstly, self-interest is human nature. In stifling our wants and needs, we’re inhibiting a basic human urge. Ultimately, suppressing what you want from life is a recipe for disaster. We each have personal desires and goals – to bury these will inevitably lead to resentment. Resentment is not only unhealthy, it can only be tolerated for so long. Sooner or later, it will rear it’s head – and that probably won’t be pretty.

Even Buddhism, which is renowned for its charitable philosophies, concedes that we should have moderation in all. Although we’ve been taught to think of others – and compassion, empathy and kindness undoubtedly play a part in a good life – it ought not to be at the total exclusion of our own needs. By all means, take care of those you love. If it makes you happy to do things for people, go ahead. Just make sure you’re not always bottom of the list.

Secondly, as Mother Nature, success gurus, even air-hostesses all know – self-preservation is vital. It is the first law of nature. Your first responsibility involves keeping yourself alive – you cannot help anybody else, if you don’t achieve this. To do justice to yourself, others and society as a whole, you need to meet your own basic needs first.

Even beyond basic survival, you will be so much better placed to take care of your home and family if you are fit and well, full of energy and joy. The pleasure you get from occasionally meeting your own needs will make you much more willing to give of yourself. In this way, being selfish is a selfless act!

However this self-maintenance takes work, or at least time and effort. If you’re not used to prioritising what you want, you might feel uneasy – at first – but it is worth persevering. Make a commitment to dedicate some space in your life for your self-care. There will be a time-cost and you may feel that you’re denying your family some of their needs, but this reasoning is short-term. If you don’t do these vital, nurturing things (for yourself), there will come a time when you aren’t in a position to help your family – or lack the inclination to do so. Neither scenario is in their best interests.

Eating well, getting enough sleep, staying healthy, finding calm, doing activities that bring you joy – all these things involve a commitment to you but it is one that will reap benefits for everybody. So make you a priority. It is not a selfish endeavor – you are actually investing in your long-term ability to help and serve others. Happily.

Plus, one of the many benefits of proper self-care is energy, so it’s a win-win situation. By prioritising your me-time, you are far more likely to have the energy to provide a care and support for the ones you love. In looking after No. 1, you are ensuring you’ll have the energy to be there for those who need you.

But I don’t have time…

When time is limited, we only make time for whatever is most important – but what could be more important than your health? If your main concern is taking care of a home and family, you will fare so much better if you are in optimum health. All the other skills required to run a home are worthless without the health to administer them. For this reason alone, health should be top of the list of things you make time for.

Admittedly, in our busy modern lives, it can be easy to neglect our physical and mental well-being, at least until something goes awry. But prevention is always preferable to cure, so timetable your health needs if nothing else. Make time for them. And this includes your mental well-being, too. If you need regular R&R to feel good, schedule it in! It’s not indulgent. R&R is a basic human need – not a luxury. If you deny yourself this, I guarantee those around you will feel it.

So prioritise your wellness. If you need convincing to meet your own needs – see it as an a ct of giving. Making time to look after yourself will result in a more fulfilled and healthful version of you, which is truly a gift to those around you – and the world beyond.

Energy and self-esteem

Your self-esteem and your energy levels are closely related. You seldom find people with low self-esteem to be full of vivacious energy. So in our bid to boost your energy – check in with your self-esteem.

How do you value yourself? Sometimes (though not always) a desire to run around after everybody else is linked to low self-worth – as if everybody else’s need are more important than yours. If this is the case, by valuing yourself more (ie, prioritising your self-care), you will benefit doubly from increased energy. As you begin to take better care of yourself, you will feel more energetic. But a side-effect will be improved self-esteem and as this increases – your energy will too!

You can also expect another happy side-effect: When we acknowledge our own worth, others will do the same. When you respect and honour yourself, others respond with renewed respect. So, if you feel unappreciated and undervalued, start appreciating and valuing yourself! Other people are often a mirror of how we view ourselves, so you have to value yourself first, before you can expect others to.

Also, a sense of being unappreciated is a negative emotion. Negativity drains your natural vibrancy and sparkle, so by releasing this, you get yet another boost to your energy levels!

Meeting your own needs and desires is one way of recognising your own worth and bringing about all these benefits of improved self-esteem. Plus it’s fun! Indeed, some would argue that’s why we are here – to have a joyful and fulfilling experience!

So, add ‘Me’ to your list of things that matter! Your self-esteem and generosity will increase, your energy levels will rise and your family will value and appreciate this new, vivacious you. All this just by looking after No1! Not the most unpleasant sacrifice you could make…

Now for the fun bit…

Now that we’ve established that it’s an essential, worthy and selfless act to take care of yourself, we can explore the joy in what that entails!

How would you like to book yourself a massage? A manicure? An exercise class? A shopping trip? A holiday all by yourself? How would you like to curl up with a book? Or watch a film? Or go out dancing? Do it! Do them all! Being happy and fulfilled is good for you. It keeps you fit and well and generous of spirit – it can even keep you young!

Do more of what you love to do, whatever that may be. You’ll be amazed at how the time and resources ‘miraculously’ become available once you decide that it’s the right thing to do. Men know it! They don’t have this tendency to suppress their own needs. Of course, many men are loving and giving to their families – but generally speaking, they’re pretty good at making sure they get their fair share of fun. And it’s only right. Regardless of your responsibilities and commitments, you also matter! As much as anybody else.

So keep the self-sacrificing in check and get down to some serious ‘me-time’.

You really are worth it.


Danielle

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Housework Blues is available now in paperback and ebook formats. Click here for more details.



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