By Tanu Shree Singh
December reaches us in a blink. One moment you are fretting over the upcoming finals for the kids and the other, you are looking forward to a short Christmas break before the cycle repeats. Well, to be fair, some of us look forward to the vacations ending much more than them starting with the kids now suddenly waking up at unearthly hours and functioning on energy levels previously unknown. For me the end of the year is a time to reflect not just as a mother, a wife, and a home maker but as a woman. In our race to be the best mother, best wife or really ace the game of keeping a magazine cover worthy home, we somewhere forget ourselves. And when we do forget, all the other roles suffer anyway. So today let’s talk about you, the woman. When was the last time you thought about yourself? I was surprised to discover that despite telling everyone to prioritise themselves, I somewhere stopped taking care of me, listening to self and having deeper conversations with self. I stayed in an emergency mode fighting one fire after another. Each day was like a mini battle with coffee with friends thrown in as a respite but there were hardly any breathers.
And then it changed. Recently, I was bullied into going shopping for myself. For once I gave in. Up until now, I had been shopping for myself only when a need cropped up. Else, I would make do with the boys’ tees or the man’s track pants – one of the perks of not being petite. That day was about me. Just me. And when I came back with the man lugging all the bags, the boys beamed and said, “Finally in 18 years you shopped for yourself. And our T-shirts would be ours!” That was the moment realisation hit. I had rarely indulged myself. The minimalists would kill me but that extra pair of jeans that I was forced to buy felt good. I felt good to have taken time out for myself for having indulged. I didn’t rush from one shop to another with a list and two whining teenagers. Neither was it last minute emergency buy for the wedding the next day. It was just indulgence.
Before I get frowned upon for finding happiness in material indulgence, let’s clarify one thing – it wasn’t about what I bought or how much I spent. It was purely the act of letting go of worries for that one day, and thinking just about myself. In our bid to be the best versions of ourselves as a mother somewhere, we take over the kids’ space and lose our own. We take responsibility of situations beyond our control and beat ourselves up over our ‘failures.’ Therefore it becomes essential to slow down. To stop. So how do we regain ourselves? I am at the learner’s seat in the boat myself but these seem to be working for me:
Pamper yourself: The word pamper is usually used as a tag line of many beauty salons out there. In its true sense it stretches way beyond that. Take a day out for yourself, arrange for child care and go. If a facial gives you joy, do it. A lunch with friends, a solitary movie, shopping – whatever rocks your boat, consciously take time out for it.
Meditate: At least a dozen people must have told you this already and you must have scoffed it off. Let me be the lucky thirteenth then. A few weeks ago, I gave a friend a panic call and her first suggestion was to go and eat something decadent (not the best idea) and then download a meditation app (the best idea). There are many meditation apps out there so you don’t have to go looking for a guru. The apps work wonderfully well for a beginner level. Try it. It takes about three minutes to start with.
Holidays: Take a break.Take a break. Take a break. I can not emphasise this enough. In our set ideas of always taking a break with kids sometimes, we let ourselves take the backseat. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Go on an unplanned short vacation even if it is to a place two hours from home. Go alone, go with your husband, wife, or go with your partner. Reconnect and recharge yourself. The challenges that we face as a generation are very different from the previous one. So when you hear them proudly say they never needed a break, do not let guilt cloud your mind. You need a break and that is what matters. Period.
Exercise: So this one I am currently struggling with since I have a big fat lazy backside. But whenever I do end up going for a walk or a swim, I feel exceptionally light. It helps. Even if it is for half an hour a day, go for a quick paced walk around the park with earphones playing your favourite music.
Learn something new: This sounds cliched but try to learn at least one new thing a year. It is liberating to be out, learning and then applying your new found skills. It doesn’t have to be big. This year I learnt the art of making soaps! And the entire household is my guinea pig now.
Just Be. This is the toughest to achieve. Some times we need to let the current carry us rather than flailing our arms about. We need to pick our battles, win some, lose some, and wear the scars with pride. I need to understand that I am not a superhero. That I can get exhausted and that some battles are not mine to win or lose.
As this year draws to a close, keep all your masks and capes aside and discover yourself. Remind yourself that you are the best version of you and that failing one role at some times doesn’t reflect on your report card. You are the best bet your family can ever have. Remember that. You are the best bet you can have. Know that. You are a mother later. First you are you, and you deserve a break.
(The writer has a PhD in Positive Psychology and is a lecturer in psychology. She is also the author of ‘Keep Calm and Mommy On’ and ‘Darkless’. Listen to Season 1 and 2 of Tanu Shree Singh’s podcast Difficult Conversations With Your Kids.)