Wellness as a concept is hard to define. Everyone will have a different idea about exactly what it is. For me, the word conjures up images of big green salads, stretching and yoga, and meditation. It includes, perhaps, therapy to address mental health and going to the doctor on a regular schedule to be proactive about your physical health.
All of those things are important, but I’d like to suggest that—especially as a WAHM (work-at-home mom)—the concept of wellness should include a little, dare I say, indulgence.
One evening when my son was a few weeks old, I was struck with a ridiculous craving for a hot dog. I had to order groceries anyway (life hack: grocery delivery is a life-saver for a new mom) so I was sure to add hot dogs to my cart. Later that night, when everyone was sleeping, I stood in my kitchen and prepared my franks. I placed them on toasted potato buns, loaded them up with my toppings, and devoured them with a slight smile on my face.
The next morning, my mother-in-law, who was visiting, asked what I had eaten for dinner. “A couple of hot dogs,” I responded absently. “A couple of hot dogs? Who ever heard of a breastfeeding mother eating hot dogs?!” she replied in dismay. Instead of saying, “That’s what I wanted so that’s what I ate,” I stayed silent because I immediately felt guilty and embarrassed for not making a better choice.
But why was that a “bad” choice? After months of carefully watching what I ate and following all the rules while pregnant, what was wrong with giving in to my hot dog craving? Ok, I admit that even though I chose the uncured, all-natural, preservative- and nitrate-free, organic beef hot dogs, they weren’t the healthiest meal. But it’s not like I was training for this.
My mother-in-law has a beautiful spirit and is a lovely woman. I know that she was only concerned that I kept myself well nourished during those chaotic early days at home with a new infant. She didn’t mean to shame me, but the downward spiral of irrational “mom guilt” had already taken hold. I messed up. I thought of only myself in that moment and not my sweet little boy, who would get his first taste of hot dogs at his next feeding. I would probably ruin his taste buds for life, and instead of being a broccoli-loving angel, he would grow up to be a junk-food-loving freak with a penchant for salty, processed meats. What had I done?
As mothers, as women, we’ve internalized that we are always supposed to take care of everything and everyone else. Our role is so often focused on what other people expect from us that just doing what we want from time to time is seen almost as a revolutionary act. When we actually give in to what we desire, for better or worse, we are almost always judged. Yet denying what we truly want leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction, which surely affects our emotional and mental health. If our job is to show up for our families, we should show up wholly, not as shells of who we were in the years BC (before children).
Drop what you think you should be doing, and incorporate more of what you want and need for yourself—in moderation, of course. By no means am I suggesting you ditch the Iceberg for ice cream and binge on Netflix while the kids run wild and your inbox fills up. What I am advocating, though, is that we create space to enjoy the things and moments in our lives that are all about us, and no one else.
This goes beyond the everyday basics of making time to shower and eat while you’re busy and your mind is buzzing with approximately 5,137 other tasks. As we approach our own wellness, we should consider the things (independent of our kids and families) that bring us joy, pleasure and personal satisfaction, and then do them, even when they don’t align with the expectations others have placed on us.
Now some people do find joy, pleasure and satisfaction in discipline, or waking up early, eating healthy and going to the gym. That’s wonderful. Others might find it indulgent to take an art class, go on a girls’ trip, or read a book in solitude. As long as your selected activity isn’t destructive to yourself or your family, indulge however you see fit.
Some might argue that all of this is just about self-care, which is true. However, depending on how long you’ve been routinely deprioritizing your own desires, simple self-care can feel like indulgence. It doesn’t matter what you call it, just take the time to listen to your inner self, then give her exactly what she wants and don’t make her wait.