More than a few of my friends have told me that one of their commitments this year is to do better in the area of self-care. It’s not news that women, especially women with families, are more likely to put others before themselves. Anyone with an inkling of feminist awareness has long known that self-sacrifice is one of the feminine virtues. Sometimes we dress it up as “nurturing.”
Call it what you will, it means that many women need to actively assert themselves to draw lines around the time they protect for self-care. I consider this a significant feminist issue because it has an disproportionate impact on women. And one area that goes by the wayside when we’re feeling pressed for time and pulled in lots of directions is physical activity.
I see this tendency towards guilt in myself sometimes when I’m trying to schedule my activities. In the fall, I went into a new schedule of working out (since changed) that had me out of the house by 6 most weekday mornings. Mornings used to be times spent in bed chatting about this and that with my partner. So when I began to duck out for workouts and swims instead, I felt kind of guilty.
That feminine guilt (I know we don’t all have it, but anecdotally I know quite a few women who do) when we do things that might disappoint other people or let them down in some way sometimes makes us decide against doing those things that are just for us. As it turned out, my partner didn’t care one way or the other. He just stayed warm and cozy in bed while I went to the gym or the pool.
Now things have changed and we’re working out together at home twice a week and going to yoga together once a week. But that feeling crept back when I decided to join a 10K training group that began last week (in frigid winter weather!). Around my house, we usually have dinner together around 6:30 p.m. But now my training group runs on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. So the usual dinner schedule is disrupted.
We also used to do something together on Sunday mornings, but now my training group goes for its long runs on Sunday mornings. The guilt snapped at my heels again when I signed up. But this time I was able to push it away.
Activity is part of what I do to look after myself and confirm not just to myself but to those around me that I’m not endlessly available for others. I’m a much more effective and pleasant friend, partner, daughter, step-mom, and sister when I get in what I like to call my “T-time.” It’s a cliché but the fact is, I do have more to give to others when I’m staying on top of my self-care.
As in all things, balance is good. I know lots of people who find the balance by doing active things with their partners and children. But that doesn’t always work in all areas. I love triathlon, and my partner, Renald, doesn’t run, swim, or bike. We do a bit of yoga together and are now doing our resistance training together again, but he’s big into tennis. Me, not so much.
And while it’s great to spend time with family and partners, I think that all too often women feel pressure to avoid things that do not include their families or partners. The risk of doing things on our own, of claiming our “T-time” or “me-time,” is that we’ll be called selfish.
I’ve always been fairly good at claiming my space in the world and doing what makes me happy. But sometimes I feel badly about it. I’m turning 50 this year. And you know what? This is my year not to feel guilty when I do all that stuff that looks like it’s just for me!
I’d love you to join me!