So many people have caring responsibilities, whether for children or elderly parents, or in some cases both. But even those who don't have such responsibilities often have other people to think about than themselves. A few years ago I went to a women's development event where we were all asked to draw a picture of a train which represented our lives. On the train we should put everything in our lives that we cared about.
There were over 200 women in the room, all highly intelligent and employed in well paid, responsible, professional jobs. Over half of them did not appear on their own trains at all. Those who did were almost all spending their journey running up and down making sure everyone else was comfortable and had enough snacks. Even after someone asked if they were allowed to be driving the train (as if they needed permission), only two women were. One was lying on the tracks in front of her train.
What does this tell us? That women, perhaps the overwhelming majority of women, pay more attention to their families, friends, pets and even random strangers than they do to themselves. More importantly, they don't see anything wrong with that - in fact, they think it's how it should be.
Let me just add here that I'm aware there are men who do some or all of this, either because they want to or because they have to. I'm by no means denying that; this isn't a misogynistic rant. If you or your life partner are a man who spends more time caring for others than you do for yourself, I'm talking to you too. Nor am I suggesting that caring for others is a bad thing. The problem comes when that takes priority over, or replaces, care for yourself.
There have been a lot of articles popping up on Facebook and elsewhere just recently about self-care and how important it is. Verywell Mind says that ' We are all less able to handle the stresses that come our way when we're already depleted by physical and emotional exhaustion. Or, put in a more positive way, we are more resilient and more able to handle life's stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally.' They say that taking time out for self-care makes you not only healthier emotionally and physically, but also a better caregiver. The National Alliance on Mental Health says ' To be able to care for the people you love, you must first take care of yourself... a valid goal on its own, and it helps you support the people you love.'
Self-care doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. A hot bath or reading a good book can be enough. But for those of us who have demanding children, pets and life partners in the house, it can be important to get away from home for your self-care. The comments on 'Peter and Jane' make it fairly clear that there are a lot of us out there who can't even have a quiet wee without children and/or partners demanding something from us. But even Mummy thinks 'it’s OK to be you again; to take time for yourself if you can; to do things that you enjoy. This isn’t selfish, it’s sensible, because the happier you are, the happier your baby will be.'
You've probably guessed by now that I'm heading rapidly towards recommending that you try Bowen therapy as your own personal kind of self-care. It's ok if you want to do something else. But why not try Bowen? It's great for relaxation, soothes the aches and pains that come from carrying babies, children, bags of shopping, baskets of laundry and piles of washing up, realigns your hormones, makes you look younger, discourages your body from getting sick and helps you sleep.
'I can't justify spending £40 on myself'. A hard working, full-time employed mother said this to me only the other day. I get that for some of us £40 is a lot of money. A few days later, however, this same woman was telling me about the new shoes, dress and jewellery she had just bought for her young daughter in preparation for a Big Night Out. It wasn't spending £40 that was the problem, it was spending it on herself. And yet who is to say that she didn't need £40 worth of Bowen therapy far more than her daughter needed £40 worth of new clothes? In fact knowing this woman as I do, I'd say she definitely did.
So give yourselves a break. £40 and an hour a month is not much to spend on improved mental and physical health, better sleep and reduced stress. Your child probably doesn't need another toy or pair of shoes any more than you need some you-time. In fact they probably need them much less. So spend the money on yourself and be damned. And when you've had a nice relaxing Bowen treatment you'll be able to ignore the shoe-deprivation tantrum far more easily anyway.