I'm going to let you into a secret; I'm not very good at being good to myself. Never have been. I often read about mums who are - or at least try to be. They're on a constant quest to find that elusive thing often called me-time. These are the mums who prioritise making appointments for facials and manicures or aim, every so often, to get an hour away from the kids with a book, or go for a run or a yoga class, or to the cinema, or to cook themselves a really tasty meal, with vegetables and everything. All of the above appeal to me - but I just don't have the gene, or was never nurtured perhaps, to cultivate that drive to please myself, to do something for myself - to like myself, enough to be kind to myself. It doesn't come naturally to me.
Thank goodness then for my children who just happen to be the perfect excuse for not pursuing the me-time dream. If it weren't for them I might actually have that opportunity which, pre-children, I confess I unhappily experienced. When I had time to answer the 'what should I do to make myself feel happy' question, I was rarely able to do so. I was much better, and indeed happier, looking away from all that. Before becoming a mum, I made myself very busy with big things instead - my career, and studying for my Masters degree, for example. With hindsight, these things did ultimately bring me happiness - but this was not in any way the intention - that would've been being way too nice to myself.
Now that I have children, rather than feeling guilty for wanting yet not having me-time, I am discovering that the pursuit of happiness is actually much easier once removed - through them. I am amazed and delighted to witness how readily my children think of things to do to be happy. Of course, at six and seven years of age playing is their go-to activity. I have always loved how children just naturally play, and now thanks to them, I have an excuse to join in - either organising play-prompts for them, or playing along with them. And as they get older, their idea of what to play is beginning to have lots more in common with things that I consider to be - dare I say it - potential me-time activities like reading, drawing, sewing, dancing, yoga, making, cooking, playing tennis and bike riding. I'm getting to do some lovely things that I would never be nice enough to do for myself. And I'm getting to do them with my children. It feels great.
I don't think I'll ever be a natural at being good to myself, but I desperately want my children to think I am. I want them to know that it's important for them always to be good to themselves; to like themselves, and to always find things to do - things that make them happy - especially as they become teenagers. I recently saw this great visual by Lupytha Hermin which I'm putting here to remind me that learning to love yourself really is the greatest love of all. It will, at the very least, give you a fighting chance in the lifelong pursuit of happiness.