To the mom who really wants to buy herself something, but is having second (and third, and fourth, and eighth) thoughts: I see you. I see you because I am you.
I know how it is to be shopping, and see something that catches your eye. Not something the kids need, or the spouse needs, but something that would just be so awesome to have for yourself. We’re accustomed to making our way through the store without being tempted by stuff – our kids do enough asking for something down every aisle – but this thing is just something you really wish you had.
Maybe it’s a shirt, because this one looks like it was tailor-made for you (and you can’t remember the last time you bought one that wasn’t at least 50% off). Or maybe it’s a new beauty product that’s supposed to address those fine lines that age and motherhood have started to etch across your face, or a knickknack that would go perfectly in your living room. You stand there for a moment, wondering if there’s enough wiggle room in the budget to squeeze in this one purchase, contemplating whether you actually need it.
Then, with only a little hesitation, you put it in your cart.
It’s as good as yours, and you’re excited – until you’ve walked around the store for half an hour with it and finally talked yourself out of buying it. If you’re gonna spend that much on something, it should be new pants for the kids, your Mom Guilt admonishes. And did you forget that they’ve got a fundraiser coming up? You’re going to have to buy something from that.
Mom Guilt will do that to you, chip away at your decision like a chisel to an iceberg, until it feels unforgivably selfish to spend money on something you want when there are “better things” to spend it on. No matter how great your desire for the item, your voice of reason is ten times louder. Your must-have item goes back on the shelf, and you ring up the purchases you’ve made on everybody else’s behalf.
You’re the one who tells herself (very convincingly, too) that a practical purchase is just as good as a gift. That you really want a vacuum cleaner instead of a spa treatment or a new book or a pair of awesome shoes. You put these practical items on your wish list, instead of the more “frivolous” things, because yours are going to wear out soon and you may as well kill two birds with one stone: if it’s both a replacement purchase and a birthday present, no one will have to buy both. You tell yourself you’re being frugal, because it takes a little bit of the sting out of being deprived.
You’re the one who gets a gift card from a friend and spends it on groceries, or clothes for your kids instead of for yourself. Because the Mom Guilt bubbles to the surface, then hammers at you: If you spend this gift card on groceries, that’s less you’ll have to take out of the paycheck.
I’m not saying you need to blow a couple hundred bucks on a pair of designer heels you’ll only wear with one outfit, or splurge in a manner that will honestly put your family’s financial wellbeing in jeopardy. And no, you don’t need material possessions to make yourself feel complete. But there’s a reason people call shopping “retail therapy” – buying something for yourself once in a while, something you really want, not just something your family needs – can lift your spirits. Even if you have to save up for it first. And if anybody deserves that, moms, it’s us.
You are the lifeblood of your family, keeping everything afloat, even when you’re sick or stressed or sad. Just the fact that you are willing to sacrifice your own wants in order to put your kids first speaks volumes about how much you deserve to show yourself some damn appreciation. If motherhood were a paying job, one you could apply for, it would no doubt come with some perks considering how grueling it can be on a regular basis. You’d get extra vacation days, maybe, or a bonus. But no: as a mother, you don’t even get a day off, let alone extras. And yet there you are, always showing up, always doing your best no matter what that entails, giving your whole heart to a profession that is often as thankless as it is demanding.
So buy the book, the outfit, the knickknack, the new mascara, the fill-in-the-blank that catches your eye and tickles your fancy. Wear it, read it, display it with pride – and let it serve as your daily reminder that you earned it, and that your happiness is well worth the investment.
And don’t you dare wait for it to go on clearance.