How Nail Shellac Allows Me to Live a Fantasy and Other Self Care Strategies

Self care: so elusive for parents. It’s like the Northern Lights or Haley’s Comet. Especially when there are so many things competing for our self care time, which comes along as often as Haley’s Comet. Here are some self care practices I’ve engaged in over the past year and my thoughts about their effectiveness when it comes to caring for my “self.”

Exercise. I need it but there is something so defeating about changing my clothes and then sweating and then cleaning up…ugh. And there is no immediate gratification. I am a mother. I am pressed for time. I need to see muscles building and fat melting off my body pronto.

Fancy coffee. For awhile, I was buying it almost daily, convincing myself that I deserved it because my life is so stressful. It is painful financially and I really don’t need to add muff to my muffin top with unnecessary calories.

Waxing. Physically painful and expensive.

Massage. Expensive. When I switched over to less expensive options (the late night Chinese massage parlors), I just happened to choose one that was the target of a recent police raid.

Reading a book. These days I am in between “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” and “The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living.” Somehow these books directly contradict the purpose of self care.

Cooking. I really love to cook Indian food. Chopping up vegetables into tiny pieces and mixing several different spices that come together in a symphony of flavor in the end. Not to mention that the fragrance of Indian cooking indicates hard work in the kitchen. You cannot produce those kinds of smells without doing some serious cooking. I try to do it a couple times a month but it is time intensive and clean-up takes a long time.

Doing laundry. Is this really showing up in my self care list? Yes. There is something deeply satisfying about watching the overflow of laundry from the basket slowly creep back under the lid and dwindle down to 3 or 4 items that I will never wash because a) it is an infant’s wool mitten or b) a burlap shopping bag or c) a scarf that is dry clean only that I always forget to fish out and bring to the cleaners. The bottom of the laundry basket is for those forgotten or homeless items, not for actual washing. When I do enough laundry to make it down to these items, I feel gratification.

Nail shellac. There is no doubt that this is my most powerful and delightfully deceiving self care practice. I don’t do it frequently. About once a year, I go through a phase where I will maintain nail shellac for a period of 2 months or so. I have found that I look at my hands and fingers several times a day. When I am typing, washing my hands, sitting in meetings, talking on the phone, etc. I feel my nails best describe the state of my life. Sometimes they all manage to look long and pretty. And then one breaks, or I handle something that stains a couple of them (i.e. turmeric during my Indian cooking nights). Sometimes they are all different lengths and crazy looking. Getting them done creates the illusion for me of “having it all together.” When doing any of the tasks mentioned above, I simply glance at them and their shellaced message is that I have it all together. I am graceful, punctual, accomplished, my children are well behaved and my home is tidy. While this is one of the more expensive and time consuming self care practices I’ve engaged in, it certainly has been satisfying.

That is all I’ve got for the moment. Sure, there are other things like watering my trees and cleaning my refrigerator that didn’t make the list. Self care has certainly taken on a different meaning since becoming a parent.

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