Baby,  Essay

self care


I’m experimenting with something new: having two hours to myself, once or twice a week. For Christmas my older brother bought me a two month membership to a nearby gym that has childcare. Um, woah. That was a surprise.

The girls are simultaneously in an almost freakish sweet spot where they are perfectly happy in the care of strangers. Freakish to me, after the scenes I’ve been through with Lux at a younger age, that now I wander out with nary a whimper as the door closes behind me.

I confess that I often think, “I’ll just go sit in the steam room and then take a hot shower for an hour. No one has to know that I never actually exercised.”

The gym is blissful spot really. There’s some kind of waterfall behind the front desk so the first thing you hear when you get off the elevator is the sound of falling water. There are walls of freshly folded white towels. A cafe with all the trendy smoothie add-ons I don’t want in my pantry, but I do want to try: maca root, spirulina, bee pollen. It’s thrumming with Boston’s beautiful people steadily getting more perfect. The first day I walked through the primary gym room to find myself a treadmill, I thought “Jeez you all look great. I think you’re doing fine. Treat yourself to a matinee!”

Yesterday I settled onto a wood bench in the gloriously hot and dry sauna. After a moment I noticed that the woman across from me was doing some kind of calisthenics on her bench. She had the look of someone who was older, but her skin wasn’t showing it. Neither was her hair. This must be her secret, I thought. Calisthenics in the sauna. I bet she’s here everyday.

I admire that kind of self care, but this gift is coming at a time when I’ve almost totally dropped that from my register. I’m more likely to have a strong drink in the evenings than take a soothing bath. More likely to collapse on the couch with my phone than do some stretches on the floor. I get everyone ready in the morning and then I dart around for five minutes getting myself ready. I feed everyone well, but then snack on coffee for myself.

Something that I thought about during my yoga class yesterday is the moment when people grab something to cover themselves, to get a little warmer. There’s something so nice about that movement. When a girl drapes a scarf around her head and snuggles into it. When a blanket gets piled on. Watching a man put on his hat and settle it just so, tugging it down over his ears. When you shrug a sweater over your head and continue on, feeling a little bolstered and braver.

It’s self care at its most immediate. I need a little something extra right now—ah, a blanket. Ok, now I’m ready.

Totally coincidentally I undressed in the locker room next to the exact same 70-something-year-old woman that I had sat next to in yoga. We were both very naked, and discussing the amount of clothing we were about to put on. “The difference between us and them,” she said, referring to the southern states in the midst of a deep freeze, “is that we have the clothes for this.” I looked over my clumsy pile of daily gear–the pilling mittens with useful flaps that fold back, a thin yet warm knit hat, a broad scarf, the long jacket already tipped with salt stains–and felt proud. I’m not doing all the nice things for myself that I could be, like most of the people here. But I’m doing a few of them.


  • bridget


    Your writing is my favorite. Also, add humor writing to the checklist of things you do well.

    I am doing nothing for myself. The other day I put on a fifteen-minute yoga video on the computer and William, Steve, Parker, and myself loped about on the computer room floor half-assing it and I knew that it did not count lest I wanted to try to say, “Oh! I worked out today!” Also, how often I feed Parker and then make myself a plate of scrambled eggs and try to sit down all refined like to eat them only to have him come over and finish the plate. Then, back to the coffee I go for round 2. Good gift from your brother. Sounds nice too (you know, because of the waterfall behind the desk).

  • Susannah Williams

    Love your thoughts on the movement of making ourselves warmer. It’s taken me over four years of motherhood to learn how important self-care is, how it allows for so much more enjoyment in mothering.

  • Blaze

    You are such a beautiful writer! I so enjoy reading your posts & am disappointed when I get to the end!
    Love this, the gym sounds blissful. I’m terrible at self care as well. The only thing I do regularly is visit the chiropractor & that only happens because all four of us see the same lady so we all go together. I’m determined to start doing yoga again, it really shouldn’t be that hard to find an hour and a half to go to a class & yet somehow it is… I hope you get to stick with it!

  • Laura

    This is so beautifully written! I love that blanket-draping moment in yoga class too. I had a teacher who used the words “take rest here” to cue the possibility of child’s pose or something similar, and I love how that sounds – an active choice to let yourself rest. Enjoy these two months!

  • beaktweets

    Beautiful, beautiful. Your write with the most beautiful imagery.

    Self-care is one of my biggest struggles. I always feel selfish, even though goodness knows anyone within a million mile radius of me benefits from my getting some quality time to myself. I am actually touring a YMCA this weekend and, while I doubt it has a waterfall at the entrance, it does have childcare.

  • jolie

    Such a good piece, Rachael. This gym sounds so much more dignified than my YMCA, but then again, I enjoy the frump I encounter at the gym during the early morning. Mostly friendly old people who are there not out of vanity but out of self care. XO

  • CuddlyCacti

    what a beautiful little piece of writing this is!! I’m so happy to have found it through Hannah’s (of The Homesteady) link ups this week. I def am guilty as well of not making “me” time and then realizing i just sat on the computer mindlessly for 45 minutes because i was so tired when i’d earlier decided to not the hot Epsom salt bath my body needed because i was too tired and wanted to sleep. i did that last night actually. it’s such a kind gift of your brother, and it sounds like you’re meeting some amazing people at this gym and having some great experiences : ).

  • Alicia | Jaybird Blog

    Recognizing what you are doing well is one of the best ways to do more of it. Your gym sounds like a calm oasis in the midst of a busy life, and your words are so graceful. Hope you keep enjoying that alone time and are able to incorporate even more self care into your routine. 🙂

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