This is how a broken shower, a dodgy internet connection and unused Christmas gifts all contributed to a small revival of the forgotten concept of looking after myself.
Since becoming a mother, I haven’t looked after myself at all. Believing that any time spent caring for me is a waste, self-care has been left, neglected, at the bottom of my ever growing laundry pile. There are always so many other things to be getting on with.
‘The shower’s leaking,’ my husband announced one afternoon. ‘You’ll have to have baths until I fix it.’
Great, I thought. Baths take up more water, more energy and more time that I don’t have. It was years since I had a bath and I was quite grumpy about the whole idea.
The next morning, while my husband was downstairs with the kids, I ran my bath. In my old life I had a whole host of bath-related paraphernalia – scrubs, masks, lotions and oils. Realising I now had nothing but a bottle of value shower gel, I was about to make my way to the bathroom with it when I spied some unused Christmas presents stuffed at the back of my wardrobe.
Rummaging through the forgotten items (most of which were scheduled for re-gifting), I found some lavender essential oil and mocha body scrub. They were bought for me by someone who clearly thought I needed to relax. In defiance, I’d buried them in my wardrobe as part of the ‘things I never get time for’ squad.
But seeing as I was being forced to have a bath, I may as well use them.
A few drops of lavender oil in the bath immediately brought back memories of long lazy days, spas, holidays, yoga sessions and – hot baths. It was nice but also a bit sad as part of my old life drifted in front of me in a lavender haze.
I stepped into the bath and was instantly relaxed by the sensation of the warm water. As I immersed my body, the talk radio I was listening to from the tablet in my bedroom cut out. I always listen to LBC when I’m not listening to the hollers of small children.
Again, I felt annoyed. I was going to have to get out of the bath and run downstairs in a towel to reboot the failing internet box.
Then a rogue thought freed itself in my cluttered mind. Why not sit in silence? It challenged. When do you ever do that?
Since I’ve had children, never. Not ever.
So I laid back and soaked up the unfamiliar sound of silence. I scrubbed my tired, neglected body with the mocha stuff. I inhaled the relaxing lavender fumes. And then I did something I hadn’t done in years.
I used to meditate all the time and the benefits were immense. But then I had a baby and meditation equated to falling asleep and dribbling, until I forgot about it all together.
Twenty minutes. That’s the extent of the time I spent in the bath. I came out feeling rejuvenated, relaxed and energised. For the first time in seven years, I felt worthy of my own attention.
Why I have I left it this long?
With the demands of two young children, housework and other work, self-care has been at the bottom of my list. I know, I know…. It’s impossible to look after others when I don’t look after myself and yes, I’m aware of the oxygen mask analogy… But, in the cold, harsh light of reality, it’s not possible to make self-care the priority it used to be.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t exist at all. This is not an all or nothing situation.
If I don’t look after myself, nobody else is going to. And maybe, by indulging myself now and again, self-care may not be a completely foreign language to me when my children grow and need me less.
Going forward, I’m definitely going to make space for at least ten minutes of meditation every day. And when my husband gets round to fixing the shower, I’m will carry on having baths.
But not too often.