Go to the Dentist Already! and other notes on the importance of taking care of yourself

I always said I wouldn’t “let myself go.” I would stay healthy. Stay in shape. Keep up my appearance. Keep my wardrobe age-appropriately on trend. Get regular check-ups. Do things to stay happy and satisfied. Age gracefully.

Growing up, or perhaps starting in the teenage years when I started to pay more attention, I noticed that my mom often put herself last. While I seemed to have some unconscious recognition of the fact that this was a non-deliberate sign of her love for all of us, I nevertheless felt it was unjust. And so for her birthday, my siblings and I would often get her things to help her de-stress and pamper herself–bath salts, spa treatments, etc.

"Spa in Bali" by Exotissimo Travel on Flickr

“Spa in Bali” by Exotissimo Travel on Flickr

While I would certainly not say that my mother “let herself go” (seriously, she’s gorgeous), I decided that I would be more attentive to my adult self.

Well, now as an adult and mother, I have an even greater appreciation for how easy it is to unintentionally develop a routine of putting others’ needs–those of the kids, the spouse, the home, etc–before my own. And though motherhood compounds the problem, it’s not just motherhood. This slide into self-neglect happened long before having Linden–the result of the increase in time and financial constraints that comes with adulthood.

Here’s a big confession: prior to this past week, I hadn’t been to the dentist since 2005. Yup. 9 whole years. (And before you decide I’m disgusting, I’m happy to report that I barely had the start of one cavity–my first ever–and I’m certain that it was the result of post-baby changes rather than poor dental hygiene, about which I have always been rather fastidious especially given my infrequent dentist visits).

But yes, in the past week I visited the dentist twice, got a haircut (it’d been 8 or 9 months since one of those), made a somewhat expensive trip to “Gap Parents” where I only purchased things for myself, and I started meditating. As a result, I have taken more selfies than I had in the previous 4 years of smartphone ownership, and I am now in talks with Paper Magazine so that I may share with the world my uncanny ability to balance unwieldily objects on my finger tips.

Seriously, I can balance pretty much anything on my fingers.  Photo by Emily Chastain.

My actual hand. Seriously, I can balance pretty much anything on my fingers.
Photo by Emily Chastain.

But seriously, it feels good to pamper myself a bit. It’s a nice pick-me-up and I highly recommend everyone do it at least a couple of times per year.

I’m also happy to report that my mom has become the slightest bit more selfish now that my siblings and I are out of the house. She goes to the spa of her own volition, gets massages, and even purchased a brand new (not just “new-to-her”) car a couple of years ago. Of course, I’m very grateful for her example of motherly selflessness, and while I’m committed to taking care of myself, I ultimately see greater value in the example she set for me.

But it’s important to maintain a balance. A common mommy-mantra I often hear is “happy mom, happy baby,” underscoring the importance of taking care of oneself in order to be an effective caregiver to the family. Simply put, but harder to implement!


New Haircut, New Clothes!


Have you experienced this decline in self-attention as an adult or parent? How do you maintain a balance?

9 responses to “Go to the Dentist Already! and other notes on the importance of taking care of yourself

  1. This is so true of us Moms. I have spent my entire life taking care of everyone but me. I know I should be the priority, and was blessed to be reminded of this by a fabulous group of friends.

    • That’s great that you have some friends looking out for you! It’s just good to remember that we can’t take care of everyone else well if we’re sick/run-down/depressed, etc. I’m glad you’ve found some better balance!

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