Do y’all feel a little tingle in the air today? A slight rustling in something other than the leaves? Perhaps you are really craving that Pumpkin Spice Latte this morning, and a soft voice from the great unknown is whispering in your ear to go for it. Maybe you’re feeling like throwing caution and responsibility to the wind and using your precious four hours of Mother’s Day Out alone time today to catch up on the Real Housewives shenanigans. Or maybe you have grown tired of your standard colorless, season-less, and soulless mom uniform and are feeling like busting out and buying something in a completely impractical autumnal color . . . like scarlet. Well, well, well—it’s your lucky day because I’m super excited to announce that today is TREAT YO’ SELF DAY!
Treat yo’ self! Treat yo’ self! Treat yo’ self! Think about it. When was the last time you really treated yourself to anything? I’m not talking about slyly sneaking a “selfish” purchase into the ole red shopping cart at Target and then buckling under the crushing guilt and shame about it later. I’m talking about boldly and deliberately setting out on a mission to pamper yourself in a meaningful way and refusing to feel sorry about it before, during, or after the fact.
I’m of the opinion that as moms we really suck at this aspect of life. Or—lest I be criticized as being too judgy or bold in my assertion—how about I declare that I suck at this aspect of life? A few weeks ago, I sent my children back to school a broken woman. I had survived the month of August by the yellow and coffee-stained skin of my teeth. By the time school started on September 6—yes, September 6—I felt like a marathon runner who was limping towards the finish line with a sprained ankle on one leg and an unsavory medley of poop, pee, and menstrual blood dripping down the other. Too graphic? Too bad. That’s how I felt. I was tired y’all. Tired and feeling pretty defeated but determined to keep limping along—dripping feces and all.
But I didn’t like the way I was feeling—or looking. I was snapping at my children. I was waking up in the morning looking like a swamp thing and already thinking about the moment 15 hours later when I could crawl back into the bed I hadn’t even gotten out of yet. I was fantasizing about throwing plates at my husband’s head every time I rushed from our laundry room to the bedroom and saw him casually lounging on the couch out of the corner of my very busy eye. I was bitter that the summer was so unyielding that I hadn’t even had the opportunity to read one US Magazine from cover to cover. I wanted a break. I needed a break. And yet, no break was coming.
This is not going to be a news flash to you, but moms don’t get vacations. We don’t get paid time off. We don’t get sick days. We’re just expected to go, go, go. We know that when we sign up for the job. We accept it and lots of days we love it. But for me, by the time this September rolled around, the love and joy had run dry, and I had reached a breaking point. I was, as they say in the delightful Treat Yo’ Self Parks and Recreation episode, a skinny little rubber band that was about to snap in half.
I began to dream about taking a week off. Not a week of traveling, mind you, because we all know that’s hard to manage on any number of different fronts. And besides, if you’re lucky enough to make it happen, it requires a whole lot of unforeseen logistical work both before and after your trip. No, what I wanted to do was to stay at home and partake in all the little frivolous indulgences that I had categorically denied myself in favor of completing more pressing and “important” tasks. I decided if I ever worked up the nerve to do it, I would call this time my Week of Hedonism.
For clarification purposes, my definition of hedonism is pretty mommy-fied. I’m not talking about wild sexcapades in exotic locales. I’m talking about ignoring the laundry baskets for a few days and focusing my energies instead on things that make ME happy. I’m talking about heating up frozen pizza for dinner and topping it off with some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream . . . several nights in a row. I’m talking about taking a bath in the middle of the day just because it sounds nice and using that nice jar of bubble bath that has started to crystalize at the top because it’s dying of neglect. And I’m definitely talking about watching some TV that doesn’t involve animated figures belting out annoying songs that lodge themselves in your brain and refuse to come out for weeks at a time.
One Sunday in early September, I sat in church and heard God calling my name from the pulpit. My pastor was talking about the concept of margin. The concept has broad application and is simply that we cannot function at our best when we are constantly running full speed ahead. God intended for us to take a rest—to build a margin—from the daily grind so that we could nourish our spirit and our mind. The pastor told us that we needed to intentionally disrupt our patterns of busyness and routine if we wanted to live to the full potential God had intended for us. It was as if he were speaking directly to me. I decided right then and there to take matters into my own hands.
That’s right—my idea to enjoy a week of hedonism had been born outside of church but was officially confirmed, and as far as I’m concerned, ordained, by God right there in His very own sanctuary. And you know what they say: what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. I came home and announced to my husband that, effective immediately, I was entering into my own version of a week of hedonism. And so it was.
That night, I got the kids fed and dressed for bed by 5:30 P.M. I ushered them into the living room with their tablets in hand and told them they could watch any junk they pleased for the next hour. I came back into the kitchen, grabbed a glass of wine, and turned on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. I watched an entire hour’s worth—under my husband’s critical stare and constant commentary that I am the embodiment of what is wrong with the world today—and after we put the kids to bed, I watched a few hours more. Let me not lie—I loved every minute. Do you know how long it has been since I watched that show? Years. It felt like such an indulgence to treat myself to a show that obviously has no redeeming value whatsoever other than to teach me how to improve the pursing of my lips and raising of my eyebrows. It made me deliriously happy.
The next day both of my kids had school, and I had nothing on the agenda. Ordinarily I would’ve used that time to run errands, straighten the house, or do something equally as productive. Instead, I asked my husband out on a lunch date. That morning after drop off, I went to the gym, came home and breezed right by my messy kitchen to freshen up before heading back out the door. The hubs and I enjoyed a lovely and relaxed lunch filled with fully completed thoughts and sentences, and I felt light and happy as a lark when I picked my children up after school. I was surprised by how much more engaged I was able to be with them than I usually was after spending my day rushing from one task to the next.
Over the course of the week, I actively sought out ways to treat myself. I mentally prepared a list of all the things I had been saving for a “special occasion” (that is obviously never happening) and decided to use them. I burned my pricey candles every chance I got. I drank a nice bottle of wine out of my good crystal and ate my special chocolate. I declared myself ruler of the remote control. I used that spa gift certificate (from my previous birthday) that I had told myself every week for a year I would treat myself to “someday soon.” I wore my cute shoes all week long—the ones I ordinarily would save for nicer occasions for fear of getting them dirty and worn out from daily use. I wore clothes that were stylish and made me feel good about myself. I spent a night out with my girlfriends laughing and commiserating as girls like to do. And to cap the week off, my husband and I stole away for a night to spend the night in a hotel downtown to celebrate my 39th birthday.
During this time, I didn’t abandon my housework completely but I also didn’t make it my first priority. The dishes probably sat around a little longer than they usually do, but roaches didn’t stage a coup in my kitchen so I guess that was just fine. My family room kinda looked like a bomb went off but no one fell and broke a leg, so no harm no foul. My kids might have gone longer than a day without a bath and hair wash, but CPS was not notified so they must’ve still been semi-presentable and hygienic.
What did happen during this time is that my bitterness went away. I didn’t feel like I was being shortchanged by not ever having time to watch that TV show or spend time with my girlfriends or go to bed early because I made all of those things happen. I felt a surge of energy and renewed love for my family because I took some time to love myself first. I know as moms we aren’t supposed to take that time—at least not on a regular basis—and we definitely aren’t supposed to be proud of it, but I’m going to have to object to that line of thinking. I think HR departments across the world are really onto something in forcing their employees to take paid time off in order to boost their productivity and morale. I hope to schedule a week of hedonism for myself every year. It will give me something to look forward to and a reassurance that YES—I will get around to doing all the things I’ve wanted to do before another year passes me by.
I’m not totally sure what a squad goal is, or if as a mom, I’m even supposed to have a squad, but if you are a mom reading this and nodding your head in even slight agreement, I’m going to go ahead and count you in as part of my squad. So let’s make a goal together, shall we? That on this blessed day (or a day that works better for you in the near future), we are going to make it a point to treat ourselves unabashedly to at least one thing that we’ve been in the habit of denying. And we aren’t going to hide it and we aren’t going to be sorry. So stop what you’re doing ladies, and get on out there and treat yo’ self. Because YOU’RE WORTH IT!!!