My birthday came and went, silently and unnoticed. I got a wonderfully sweet birthday card from my husband Diego, a birthday song from Ben, my son, few phone calls from my mum and dad and little brother, and a text from my best friend. I even baked my own cake.

When I was younger I used to plan a whole birthday week, packed with fun activities, parties, and lots and lots of pampering: hairdresser, shopping, late mornings in bed, aperitif in posh cafe’ bars with friends… It’s funny my birthday should fall during self-care week this year, as if to remind me how bad I become at taking care of myself.

Over the last two or three years, I tried to keep my birthdays as quiet as possible. It’s not a matter of been older or grown up, as I don’t necessarily think birthdays are only for kids, it’s because I don’t enjoy all the attentions anymore. I used to love to spoil myself for a full week, it was my week in the spotlights, my moment to shine and have everyone’s eyes on me. Now I feel more like finding a place to hide, and just re-emerge when my birthday has passed.

Today I struggle to find time to do what I like, to look after myself, and to do something just for me. The excuse is that looking after everyone else takes time, but the truth is that I find comfort in keeping myself occupied doing things for other. Why is that? Probably so that I can indulge myself in more cake than I should, in being lazy and avoid any kind of sport, in not having to explain why my hair looks like a lion’s mane most days…

Now that I’m one year older and a bit wiser, I realise that not looking after myself is irresponsible of me. As a mum and a wife, my role is to take care of my family by being a good parent for my son, being supportive of my husband, and be part of a happy family. But it makes no sense being selfless when you are the one who needs help the most. I remember been at the First Aid training and been told what to do in case of an accident: make sure you’re OK first, attend to the other victims after.

I thought I could be everything for everyone every time. It turned out I can’t. Nobody can. Yet it’s difficult for me to shake off the sense of guilt, and believe that self-care is an essential part of taking care of my family, but when I do, things just fall into place naturally. I can only give what I have, and every so often I need to stop and fill up again on patience, positivity, energies, listening skills, hugs and everything else my loved ones need. Once I’m full again, I can go back to my mummy-wife life with plenty more to give.

I won’t go to bed every night before 10, I won’t be joining the daily spin classes at my local gym, nor I will eat kale every day. What I need is not a different life, or to fill up my calendar with activities like a zealous overachieving child. I’ll just need to set aside time for myself, and when I won’t find any, ask for help and for a bit of a break. There’s no shame in that.

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