Wednesday 26 January 2011

What's top of your priority list?

I have a tendency to put other people first. To say yes to whatever is asked of me. To make myself available. I always make sure my children’s needs are met; I pick up from the bus, drop off at fencing, get up at 6.10am to make bacon butties for breakfast, read stories, listen to them playing the piano (guitar, ukulele, ocarina…) singing, reading out poetry… I’m on hand to help with homework, I provide a shoulder to cry or moan on, I listen to rants and frustrations… you get the picture. I do what needs to be done. And then some. And the same goes for my relationship with my husband. I work at it. I make an effort  (after 24 years together… however much we love each other, it takes work!) so I prioritise spending time with him, having fun, going out, talking, intimacy. I work hard at my job - Beyond Chocolate. I write and and do admin and see clients. I plan and research. I communicate and interview and listen and learn… and then… after all that, if there’s any time left, I have some time for ME! It’s scary how easily I can ignore myself and the things that I love and I want. I feel sad when I think that I wouldn’t dream of letting the people I love down and yet I would let myself down only too easily… I said that’s my tendency… it is. And.. more often than not these days I remember that if I don’t put myself first, at the VERY TOP of my priority list, at some point… in some way… all the rest falls apart! When I give and give and give, I end up depleted and resentful and my relationships suffer. And when I give and give, I eat and eat.

So, these days I put ME first.

I remind myself often of a line from one of my favourite poems…

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul… (Oriah Mountain Dreamer - The Invitation)

I stay true to myself a lot. I do something for myself at least ONCE every day.  In big ways and in small ways. And sometimes that might mean saying no to someone else. It may well mean disappointing another. I make the time to go for walks (this morning at 3 mile walk at 6.45am - impressive eh!) which means I’m not there to see the children off to school. I buy really expensive chocolate, lots of it (and I’m not particularly partial to sharing it, with anyone!)  and I make sure I have a cup of tea in the afternoon and do nothing but stare out of the window and savour my current favourite. I have a bath instead of a shower and take at least 6 deep, slow breaths. I have some special, quiet time and I’m not available to anyone for anything. Crisis or no crisis. I massage my feet with an amazing body oil (a wonderful Christmas present from Fairy Clare) every morning before I put my socks on… and I will not be disturbed! I say no to seeing clients on my day off, even though it would mean earning extra money (which would be a real bonus for the family).

The more I put myself first, the better I feel about myself.

The more I say YES to the things I love, the things that excite me, the things that make me sigh with joy, with relief, with pleasure… the less I eat.

Putting myself first is not selfish, it’s life affirming and sensible. Putting myself first means I am MORE available to do all the things I listed in the first paragraph.. without feeling resentful or saintly or taken for granted.

How do you put yourself first? Are you willing to disappoint another to be true to yourself?
Are you willing to value yourself enough to take notice of what you yearn for?


  1. Good for you! I've always made time for myself and when my children were smaller I'd have 'Uninterrupted Bath Time' every Sunday morning - any problems - refer them to Dad, not me! Since they're more grown up now, I make time to read, to sit and stare as you said, to go for walks by myself - it's definitely worth it.

  2. I have a fulltime job working with young children and then I come home to two young children as well. I started to get so tired I was finding that by the time I got home from school, having been paid to be patient all day, I had none left for my own children.
    I was going through the whole tea, bath, books, bed routine without enjoying it and just getting irritable with them for doing the things small children do (ie not what their mummy tells them!).
    By the time they were in bed I'd have two hours left in the day before getting myself to bed, otherwise I'd be even more grumpy in the morning.
    In those two hours I'd have to get their clothes ready for the next day, snacks for school and nursery, washes on, clothes put away, kitchen tidied, etc etc.
    When husband got home I'd make sure I sat and talked to him for a bit and then he'd watch TV while I finally got onto the email or internet shopping (the chance of actually going to a real shop!? zero.)
    There came a point when both of us said, hang on a minute, this is unsustainable. Something's got to give. So we sat down and thought logically about how we could improve the quality of our daily lives, more specifically mine - with a knock on effect on everyone else by virtue of the fact that I'm the one who holds it altogether. (Don't get me wrong - hubbie isn't one of those husbands, he cooks all his own meals, irons his own shirts, does all the chores I do - when he notices them! But he gets in late from work and sometimes is only good for watching TV).
    After much deliberation we realised that the best way we can improve all our lives is if we all get to bed earlier and I get some time for ME! So we rearranged the kids' bedtime routine so they are in bed by 7.30 instead of 8-8.30, without skimping on the important bits, such as books and cuddles, thereby making my evening feel less rushed. We're training them to put away their own coats, shoes, plates after tea, so it's not all there for me to clear up when they've gone to bed. So by 8 or so I actually get time to sit down and think what I want to do with my evening. I get such a rush of joy at the idea that my evening is my own (even if it is still quite a short one)!
    At the moment my activity of choice is to get into my PJs and read my book (Stewart Lee - How I escaped my certain Fate, he's a genius).
    I try to be lights out by 10.30 and the difference has been amazing - I am no longer grumpy with my kids, I'm no longer hassled in the mornings and leaving the house after some needless bicker with hubbie, I am hunny mummy again (most of the time!) and I feel so much better about myself for it, not to mention my relationships with my family.
    Also as a little aside, I am much less likely to comfort eat if I'm not completely exhausted.
    So, although I haven't reached the point with my kids where I can go for long walks on my own, the little time I do have, I am finally making quality time.
    And with that in mind, I'm off to don the PJs now.
    Night night

  3. i have always said that unless i get my ME time i would be useless to anyone else. there are so many pulls on my time that i couldn't cope any other way.i think they call it the sandwich generation. i have elderly parents on one side and hard working children with children of their own on the other. not to mention all the other stuff!


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