“When did I decide I was actually never going to work out?”
I said that to my husband today. I looked him square in the eye because I was hoping he knew the answer.
I didn’t when I asked him. I still don’t.
Of course, I could give the standard troupe about parenthood. But here’s the thing. I do have time to work out. I could easily work out while my son naps on the weekends. I’ve just been choosing my side hustles (or this blog) instead.
No matter how many times I promise myself that I’ll catch the next nap, I can’t seem to do it.
Or I choose not to.
But this isn’t just about working out or not working out. This is about how I’ve made a whole string of choices–organized my life, really–around things other than myself. Even though my goal was the exact opposite.
“Your hair is dark for you.”
What my best friend meant was that my hair is grown out. A lot. It’s not actually dark for me, since it is my hair. The problem is despite the fact that we’ve been friends for more than a decade, she’s never actually seen my hair.
No one has.
Because I dye it. Well, I used to. I haven’t had my hair highlighted since last August. Or maybe it was July.
I never excelled at keeping up with my hair color, but it was streaked blonde on top of a light brown. So I could get away with only going 2 or 3 times a year. Now, though, I’m cresting the 9-month mark.
Initially, I thought maybe I was letting it grow out because I was curious what color my hair actually is. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to spending time at stoplights inspecting my head for grays in the rear view mirror when the light hits my head just right.
But truthfully, I put my hair on the back burner for the same reason that I’ve put myself on the back burner. I’m overwhelmed with Mom Guilt and Money Guilt.
The last time I got my hair highlighted, I was a ball of anxiety. And not just because it appeared that Doogie Howser was my colorist and he made mention of my grays twice. (Honestly, I still can’t see them. I think it was a ploy to get me to actually commit to coloring my hair on a regular basis. Smart. Very smart.)
I felt so guilty because I knew it was time that I could be spending with my son. After all, I’m a working mom. So it’s My Duty to spend my free time with him. I would click open Twitter whenever the guilt got to be too much and Doogie told me it was OK to look down. Scrolling through my feed just made the foils on my hair feel even worse.
It was a splurge. A want. An indulgence. $100 now that would be worth $300 in retirement.
It was also proof that I was kowtowing to arbitrary beauty standards when I should really just focus on embracing my natural self. Didn’t I love me?
That was a painful three hours. No wonder I haven’t been back.
The truth is that I miss getting my hair colored. I miss working out. I miss existing without so much guilt.
An aside: I once snuck into a PG-13 movie with my friends when I was 12. I knew how upset my mom would be if she found out…so I left to get popcorn and called my mom on the payphone instead. I cried until she came to pick me up. Reader, I am no stranger to guilt.
To say that adulthood has exacerbated my anxieties and heightened the guilt that I feel is the finest of understatements. But by neglecting myself, I haven’t actually alleviated any of the guilt. It remains omnipresent like the bags under my eyes, the dark roots on my head, and the final five pounds that I haven’t even attempted to shake.
I let myself go.
And I miss her. I love my baby. I love motherhood. I love my full-time job, and I love my side hustles. I love so many things about my life. But my fear is that I’ve been so busy carrying out roles, reading lines off a script, that I have forgotten how to be myself. Or at least how to enjoy being myself.
I certainly don’t know how to make time for myself anymore.
One of the only goals I set for myself this quarter was to be more selfish, to spend more time caring about me and caring for me.
In the span of just under 90 days, I’ve gone out for coffee with a friend exactly twice (once was this morning!). And I spent 20 minutes getting an $8 haircut at Great Clips in between grocery shopping and picking up dinner.
This is akin to only flossing the day before the dentist.
I’m not sure I’ve ever failed at anything so spectacularly.
Unless you count track that I let my boyfriend talk me into joining sophomore year. Spoiler alert: You get disqualified from a relay if you fall. Even if you fall because the other runner crosses into your lane. Honestly, all these years later, I’m still shocked they actually have rules about falling. I know nothing about running despite a five-month season, but staying upright kind of seems like a given.
Unlike that relay, though, I’m not sure I ever even really attempted this goal. I’m not sure I knew how to attempt it. Because when you fill up all of your free time with more work, you don’t actually have free time. No matter how much you enjoy it or need it or want it.
“Maybe you should buy new jeans.”
I confessed a lot of this to my best friend when we met for coffee today. I even admitted the fact that I was no longer enjoying casual Friday because my favorite pair of jeans has an irreparable hole in the knee.
She suggested that I go shopping. I’m not even sure that I know how.
In my prior life, I shopped not just for enjoyment, but practically for sport. I was either hellbent on scoring the best deal, trying out a trend, or ponying up for a handbag that I had been coveting.
I used to go the mall on vacation. Christmas, spring, and summer breaks, yes. But I’m talking about traveling to far-flung destinations and spending time shopping. Lots of time shopping.
But I’ve tried so hard to double down on frugality and purposeful living that I seem to have forgotten how to just exist. I spent so much time reading (consuming ha!) about the evils of consumption that I seem to have overlooked the fact that I am a consumer. We all are.
Plus, the only thing more awful that shopping for new jeans sounds like shopping for new jeans with a toddler in tow.
Still, I’m going to buy jeans. And I’m going to do a whole host of other things. Because I’m tired of being the tired mom troupe. I’m tired of feeling like a Someecards punchline.
- Go to the doctor. This seems like a no-brainer. But like getting my hair done, I am a pretty terrible patient. I’m supposed to meet with my doctor twice a year to get my thyroid checked, but I usually stretch it until they won’t renew my prescription without an appointment. Mostly because my doctor’s latest appointment slot is 4 PM, and taking a “long lunch” doesn’t exist in my profession.
- Get my hair dyed. Because I want to. Not because I don’t think I wouldn’t be a lovely brunette or because I can’t think of a better use of $100. I just want to, so I will.
- Get a pedicure. My sweet, sweet husband got me a gift certificate for Mother’s Day last year. I’ve just clomped around on hooves since then, but I did notice that the certificate is only valid for a year.
- Work out 3x a week. I have been really good about logging 10,000 steps. For the past 15 months, I’ve missed less than 10 days. But I did an actual workout two days in a row, and I miss that hate-love feeling. (Hate comes first because it’s the stronger of the two emotions that I feel working out, even when I do my Grandma Fitness DVDs.)
- See my friends more. Some of my very best friends are my coworkers, and I spend a ton of time with them. But I’ve neglected my other friends something terrible. I feel so much guilt when I’m drinking coffee (even if I remember my travel mug like I did today!) or doing anything else with them. I can’t help but think I should either be with my son or side hustling.
When Your Goals Have Nothing to Do With Money
It seems weird, almost inappropriate, to write this post. This goal has nothing to do with money. Other than the fact that it requires me to spend it.
But I think that’s exactly why it needs to be written. There’s a spate of information on saving and banning. I already figured out how to do that. What I need to learn how to do is to participate in society and in my own life without feeling guilty.
I’m going to spend time and I’m going to spend money. I’m going to spend it on myself, and I’m going to have to learn to be OK with that.
Woah I love this post! The guilt is real!! My sons are 16 and 18 and I still feel guilty if I’m not with them when they’re home. I know that they’re going to move out one day and I won’t have them around like I do now so every second away from them I feel guilt. It doesn’t matter than much of the time they don’t know I’m in the room, I still feel like I have to be in their space to soak up every ounce of time. We have gym memberships but I don’t go if they don’t…because guilt. Same with spending money on myself. I have a gift certificate sitting here to get my nails done and I don’t want to use it because if I do I know I’ll want to get them done again and have to pay for it. I’m glad you’re doing things for you and I need to do the same I guess.
This is so reassuring to hear from older moms that it isn’t just me not knowing how to Mom Properly.
I say the exact same thing to myself. I have to hold him and let him sit on my lap as much as possible because one day he will outgrow me. Wah!
But when I can be rational about it, I realize that the fact that he is growing up is an important reminder to take care of myself along the way. I can’t just hope to recognize her in 16 or 20 more years!
the Budget Epicurean
You are so right. Penny you are beautiful and kind and worth spending time and money on whatever makes you happy and content. Saying “just don’t be guilty” is akin to saying “just don’t breathe” in today’s world. But at least you’re now conscious of it, which is the first step to setting yourself free.
Thanks, BE! This post actually helped a ton. Since I wrote it two days ago, I actually kept my doctor’s appointment *and* got my hair colored. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that I’ve actually figured out how to have balance in my life, but I am feeling really good about my choices.
And I still played with HP a ton!
Kristine @ Frugasaurus
Wow, what a great post! It is so true that once you start going down a rabbit hole, things can spiral out of control before you realize what is going on. Be that motherhood, frugality or any other new shiny thing we pursue. I especially hear you on the doctor’s appointments. I haven’t been in years, even though I have flextime at work. At least I try to squeeze in a dentist’s appointment every summer!
We do our dentist appointments on summer break and winter break. Do we know how to party or what?! 😉
Most of our goals aren’t really about money, but being financially secure allows us to attain them. For me eating healthier is a goal for me and for my family. My kids do not consider it a goal, they would prefer to eat candy and sugary foods. The weekend before last, hubby filled 9 seedling starter trays with starter mix and With my older son, we seeded tomatoes, peppers, onions and assorted herbs. We have an assortment of fruit trees, berry bushes, and strawberries that are in our garden. I want to expand my planting and hubby took down a few trees to get better sunlight on the expansion area. We eat well in the summer through fall, fresh fruits and vegetables, but my limited canning and freezing runs out. I know what we plant is healthy and nutritious. And my husband loves the fresh produce as do I and my kids, to a certain extent.
Hubby is pursuing his goal of growing better organic fruits and vegetables, he is into doing the composting, soil testing and is going to build a greenhouse this summer for next year. A common goal for us both. He wants to double the number of chickens we keep to sell more eggs and provide more chicken manure for the composting.
I am pretty good on my hair goals. I wanted it long since I was a child, but didn’t realize that goal of growing my hair long unti after I started dating my husband and he became my hair guy. Mine reaches past my elbows and I take a seat every other month to get caped, my hair combed out and my ends trimmed. Hubby doesn’t mind the silver strands, he tells me I am gorgeous and while he is fine with them, he has colored my hair with henna for me. I told him it is part of the job description as my hair guy, you cut it, you color it as well. I have him braid it for me and I had him do more smaller braids yesterday when my hair was wet, so this morning I could take them out and have curls, beats the curling iron, rollers, and there is no way I am going to perm my hair as I was talked into getting at the salon years ago and it fried my hair. Nice thing about hubby cutting my hair versus the salon is he doesn’t try to sell me products, pressure me to cut my hair off or guilt trip me about my silver strands to color my hair.
My goals of seeing my friends more and getting more involved in community activities I do have to balance between my job, teaching music lessons and my gardening.
Hubby is retired, collecting a couple pensions and he did excellent financial planning. So the money is not our big goal, but we aren’t going to spend money like idiots. Hubby does the haircuts in the family and I do manicures and pedicures on everyone, no one does mine. That is pampering I do enjoy. My best friend and I used to do them for each other, last time was over a year ago when she visited and had hubby giver her a haircut. But her schedule has been wacky with her job and family issues. I spoke to her this weekend and we are trying to get together to visit next Saturday afternoon, we will chat, maybe do nails and she asked if hubby was going to be available as she is way overdue for a haircut. I am due for my trim so we can chat while we both get ours cut. I mentioned it to him and he said her ends must be pretty rough, it has been over a year. I agreed, I haven’t seen her hair, but I believe her when she said she needs more than a minimal trim, she really needs a haircut. I get mine trimmed every other month and I notice mine look rough if I go much longer between trims. I can’t imagine going a full year. Not expensive goals, I think I am actually quite frugal with my hair and nails, I consider myself low maintenance.
What rich and lovely goals. I am so thrilled that you shared, and how special that you have those common goals as well. Best of luck to you with the greenhouse!
I am glad others understand it. I am seeing my plants popping through the soil in the trays and I am getting excited. I don’t worry about who is getting a new car and what the latest fashions are. I don’t think they matter, I will be in jeans/coveralls wearing a T-shirt with my hair in a braid wearing a wide brim hat doing my gardening. I see a truck and think about how useful it is for hauling things like wood, stones or equipment. Hubby isn’t interested in fancy cars either, he prefers the utility of his truck. Hubby was looking at designs on the Internet and we were discussing how big and the layout. I told him I wanted room in the greenhouse/potting shed to store tools and supplies, like in a cabinet on on shelves and that I wanted a sliding barn door. He mentioned he was going to do benches on blocks with the metal screening so the water would drain. I want the pipes across the top for hanging baskets for flowers. So I am involved in planning the greenhouse project and excited to see it when we finish it. My best friend asked if I was going to do salad greens, she said they are very popular and hard to find good ones. So maybe that is something we will do as well.
Working in the garden is definitely physical work, but I do want to get back into a regular exercise program. Hubby is retired military, so the gym which is quite nice, on the base near us is free for us to use. He prefers just doing his own thing with the weights and machines, but I like the classes. So we can each do our own thing for fitness, without paying for a membership, he already paid with his military service.
This is an amazing post. I think the pf community sometimes forgets that life isn’t about money. Money is just a tool that helps us live the life we want. Thanks for sharing
You’re welcome, and thank *you*. I need to chant that–“Money is a tool”–every day!
I feel guilty when I’m not working on my blog or trying to create a side hustle. I feel like i too have forgotten how to be myself, to have fun, and enjoy life. I’m glad you shared this
It is a slippery slope! Blogging and side hustling are both wonderful outlets, but I’ve definitely let both take over too much in the past!
Kristen | The Frugal Girl
I started regularly working out (mostly lifting weights) this past summer, and I would have probably said before that I didn’t have time to work out (I have four kids, three of whom live at home, and I’m a homeschool mom.) But somehow, I’ve been fitting in 3 workouts a week since then, mostly without fail. And nothing else in my life seems to have fallen by the wayside.
I wonder if it’s one of those put-the-big-rocks-in things, where if you make time for that big stuff, the other stuff sort of falls into place.
I still mostly feel the hate you mention WHILE I’m working out, but I also get the love you mention later on!
I hope you can find a way to work that into your schedule again.
My teeny tiny workout streak continues. I just finished day four. I know I’ll break the streak, but I’m remembering how much I enjoy the hard work. Plus, since it’s been *a minute* since I worked out regularly, I’m also realizing how little time I need to put in to really feel it. Ha!
SC | MissFunctional Money
Thank you for your honesty, Penny. <3 You've effectively nailed an emotion that is difficult to convey without sounding whiny. That you recognize how much you love different categories of your life, but that you struggle to give them all a balanced amount of attention (because, wow, with what TIME?!) seems incredibly self aware. I hope you achieve the balance you want and deserve!
And don't let anyone tell you otherwise — a good hair day (whatever/however that looks for you) can change your life 😉
I *finally* got my hair done today, and you are spot on. I feel like one of my students — I keep looking at my reflection. HA! It really feels nice to be excited about my hair again.
And thanks for the compliments. I’m pretty sure this is all whining, but I’m glad it didn’t come off that way to you!
… with enough money your personal assistant could arrange for your personal hairdresser and doctor and personal shopper to stop by your house…
HA! I actually snort-laughed. Too true.
Great post! I feel like I could have written so many of the same things. While many of the “things” we need or do involve money; most of them are not ABOUT the money. The value of your own time and what you choose to do with it ultimately provides more peacefulness than what you spend or save.
I think that’s what I keep realizing over and over again. Money is the tool, not the why.
And yet…I keep allowing myself to lose focus on that. Ugh!
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
A completely appropriate topic, IMHO. (I used to blog about everything under the sun because it all tied back to money – spending it, saving it, having it or not having it – that’s just the undercurrent of life and dictates so many of our choices.)
I don’t think I’ll ever understand why moms (and PiC) are overwhelmingly overcome with this guilt but it’s so frequent. We have had multiple conversations about how PiC is no good to us if he’s knocking himself out just for us and never doing the things he needs to recharge his batteries, and aside from that, we NEED to remember how to exist as humans even as we’re raising small humans. I keep thinking how sad it would be if we put our real selves on hold for 18 years and then surface after shipping the kid off to college with no idea how to exist. I had this problem even as a workaholic – I didn’t know how to be a full human after working every waking hour of the day and it took me ages to rebuild some semblance of myself before having JB. It happened again when JB came along and I had a little more practice at rebuilding but I’ve done a little of it.
It’s worth doing because we should be able to at least be whole humans through all the stages of our lives, even if we can’t have “it all” at the same time.
We’ve talked about that a lot lately. We don’t want to be the couple that has to learn how to be a couple all over again. I didn’t used to understand how it happens, but now I see how easy it is to just be totally consumed by parenting.
Don’t get me wrong. I love every second that I’m with my son, mysterious toddler meltdowns and all. But I think it’s good to be a human AND a mom. Thanks for the reminder.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
I should clarify – it’s not because I have a handle on the secret of how to stay a whole human with all the hats I’m wearing.
It’s just that my interests are easily woven into my current existence and I’ve (conveniently? but sadly) already lost all the hobbies I held dear long before parenting came into play so my whole me is already reduced to what I can handle.
We are so alike in so many ways! I also struggle with the mom guilt, the spending guilt. Your “to do” list looks a lot like mine! I don’t really exercise anymore. I don’t make it to the hair salon nearly often enough; my too-long hair and lots of grey are easy to see.
Recently, I started trying to take more time for myself. Whether it was going for a walk, taking a nap, reading a book, or yes, getting a hair cut/color. And it has made a big impact. I realized that being the worn out, exhausted mom who never took care of herself had a negative impact on my whole family. If I was burnt out and resentful, I wasn’t actually being a very good wife or mother!
I hope you stick to your plan to take better care of yourself. I know it’s hard (“I need to be with my kid!” “It will cost us money!”) but it benefits everyone to have a mom/wife/teacher/coworker who is healthy and happy.
I think you’re right.
I know you’re right.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. I need to write that in Sharpie on my forehead.
Friend of a friend blogger
I see you so much on the PG13 movie thing. I’m not a parent, but I can share that my mom not having a career after I was a toddler and not cultivating other relationships drove a wedge between us when I was a teenager through now, 10 years out of college. Take care of yourself the way you need to because no-one can do it for you, and in many ways, no-one else can.
Friend of a friend blogger
*no one else should.
This is a great reminder that I have to do this work myself. And I can enjoy it too 😀
Go do those things and reclaim your SELF 🙂
I took half a day off last weekend for a friend’s 30th and it was glorious.
But most days I don’t brush my hair and I only wear about 3 different outfits ever. #matleavelife
Oh, yes! Maternity leave! This post would have been different had I written it then for sure.
I’m so glad that you were able to take some time with your friends. <3
I have looked my husband in the eyes and said: omg, I don’t know how you do it, I could never work out. It’s just soooo boring.
Maybe today’s Penny isn’t the same Penny as before? There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your kid and your side hustles if that’s what’s most important to YOU right now in this phase of your life (providing you still floss occasionally, go to the dr every couple years and have enough energy for your life).
I am flossing! LOL
And I think you’re absolutely right. I am different, and I am really loving the new me. But I was/am feeling pretty spent, too. Fortunately, this is our spring break and I’ve been treating it as a break. It’s been nice to catch my breath!
Thanks for the reminder that it’s OK to grow and change!
I get this, and I don’t even have mom guilt. It’s just that the beauty salon is almost 20 miles away, which is a lot for my chronic fatigue. And it takes about 4 and a half hours to get a cut and color because I’m dealing with beauty school students (also a lot for my fatigue). And I had so much to contend with with my then-husband’s multiple conditions and our finances and… I’d go 6+ months without getting a cut. Which is a lot for me. Especially here in the desert where my hair has zero body if I don’t keep it trimmed.
I started booking as I leave the salon to make sure I keep on schedule. It’s one way I make sure that I take care of myself now.
As for working out, I just set an arbitrary time (no later than 1 p.m.) and stick to that. A little harder when you have a toddler whose nap time I’m sure isn’t static, but if you just tie your exercise to the nap itself hopefully it’ll have the same effect: you don’t try to put it off for side projects or whatever because it’s a foregone conclusion; the exercise is just going to happen.
I love both of these tips! You also motivate me to work out when I see you tweet about working out yourself 😀 So thanks for the kick in the pants and the inspiration!
Done by Forty
I feel a lot of guilt in my everyday life, too. And the idea of being a little more selfish is something I struggle with, even as I know it might be helpful for me.
For what it’s worth, this is a really beautiful post and I like that it isn’t centered on money.
Oh, God. This is my life. My last haircut was at least two years ago, my clothes all suck, and the only way I work out is by getting up at 5 a.m. so that I can do it before my daughter is up at 6:30. And the time change lined up with a really bad virus in our house followed by an ear infection in the little one. I have struggled and mostly failed at getting up at 5 since then because I’m up and down all night with her.
I feel profoundly guilty for not picking my daughter up from daycare early when I can, because I know she wants me and I don’t see enough of her… but I also feel as if I’m barely surviving weekends these days. It is unrelenting.
I love my daughter passionately and would not trade her for anything. I also miss how easy it was to take care of myself and my career before I had her. There just never seems to be enough time. I always, always feel like I’m failing on at least two fronts.
I feel this in my bones, Grace. I am always looking at the clock wondering where time goes. Hugs to you.