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When You Need to be Selfish. Wednesday July 27, 2016

I had to make a very hard decision last week.

As a family we all sat round the kitchen table and talked about it. For a long time.

The question was, should I go on holiday with the rest of them?

On the face of it, this is simple, isn't it? You're their wife and mother: there's no question. Of course you should go on holiday with them!

Ah, but it's not so simple as that.

On the last family holiday, I fell off a horse and broke my ankle. Okay, so I didn't just break it, I comprehensively smashed it into tiny pieces so it had to be rebuilt with titanium rods and screws (see blogs of 24th February and 1st March). It is still weak and painful and I can't walk more than half a mile on it.

This would not be a problem if the rest of my family enjoyed holidays sitting on a beach or lying around a pool, but they are all terribly active. As we discussed alternative plans it became apparent that, if I were with them, one of three things would happen.

1) They would leave me behind in the cottage or hotel (and we can't afford the kind of plush hotel with spa facilities where I could be pampered) and I would be bored and they would feel guilty.

2) They would leave me behind in a variety of carparks while they went off exploring and walking and I would be bored and they would feel guilty.

3) They would end up doing only those activities that I am able to do and they would be bored and I would feel guilty.

So we took a deep breath and decided to leave me behind.

So, where does the selfishness come into it then?

Because my number one luxury is time to myself. I shall have a wonderful time all on my own. Those of you who are parents (dare I say, mothers especially) will recognise the bliss of not having to organise meals (Mum, what's for dinner?), not having to find lost property (Mum, where's my hairbrush?); not having to sort out squabbles (Mum, tell her to stop doing that!).

I can't help feeling selfish at feeling such joy in the thought of having five days all to myself. And acutely conscious of my good fortune in being able to do this when so many single parents cannot.

But a considerable number of friends have told me I need a break. Tom and Jenny have told me not to be so silly. My eldest daughter tells me, "Mum, don't feel guilty – this is best for everyone."

In the end it was a unanimous decision.

It's best for the mental health of everyone this way.

So I won't feel guilty: I will just enjoy my time alone while they explore the mountains and rivers of North Wales.

And I won't even feel envious!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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April Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 6:45am

I can understand that you have to do what's right for you and if that's not going on holiday that's your decision. I wanted to say though that I am physics disabled and unable to walk more than 100 metres and we have a physically disabled daughter who can't even walk 20 metres but there'd be no way we wouldn't take her on holiday to a cottage and infact we did so last week. If we decided not to take our daughter because she can't walk or join in activities then we'd never go away again. We found things that she could do and the time together away from the phone and doorbell and being together is what really mattered. It's sad if you can't at least be with your family. However it's up to you and you must do what feels right.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 8:32am

April, you are so right. and if my disability were permanent then that's what we would do. I would like to say too, that, in the West, we seem to have this idol of "family". It seems to be some kind of moral failing in me that I do not actually enjoy spending time with my family. I do love them all, but I would so much rather spend time on my own. In fact, I need time on my own to recover from them. And this is where the selfishness comes in. I have to question though,whether attending to one's emotional and mental health is actually selfish...

April Thu, Jul 28th 2016 @ 9:53pm

Hi Mary, I just wanted to check, I didn't say or mention that you were selfish? do you mean you're questioning that yourself? I think a rest is good and as I said you have to do what's right for you. I just have so precious little time with my family and so a week away in a caravan or cottage is what I need for me but not for everyone. What I do need is some respite from caring for my disabled daughter as I get no help and with my disability and mental health needs I feel totally overwhelmed and I so need a break. I hope that your rest is what you need and that you feel refreshed and relaxed. Best wishes April

Hopeful One Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 6:49am

Hi Mary -congratulations in generating a win-win solution from your 'conflict of interest' situation. We all know that that is not always the case more often ending up in tears.

Here is a laugh to blow away the last vestiges of any guilt you might have as you enjoy your precious 'me time'

One night, a police officer was stalking out a particularly rowdy bar waiting to catch any drunk drivers. At closing time, he saw a guy stumble out of the bar, trip on the curb, and try his keys on five different cars before he found his. He then sat in the front seat fumbling around with his keys for several minutes. Everyone left the bar and drove off. Finally, he started his engine and began to pull away. The police officer was waiting for him. He stopped the driver, read him his rights and administered the Breathalyser test. The results showed a reading of 0.0. The puzzled officer demanded to know how that could be. The driver replied, " Officer tonight, I'm the Designated Decoy."

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 8:33am

LOVE IT!!! Thank you for the first real belly laugh of the day!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 8:33am

LOVE IT!!! Thank you for the first real belly laugh of the day!

the room above the garage Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 7:14am

Spooky! Having a different but very similar conversation here. It's complicated though and not so happy (many tears). Our decision remains splurged open on the table like a half eaten bag of crisps. Thank you Mary, will use this as research into... Love ratg X.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 9:11am

Hmmm - we do so want to be able to wave a magic wand and come up with something to make everyone happy, don't we? Sometimes that's just not possible. Dammit!

Orangeblossom Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 7:49am

Hi Mary I was interested to read that you were able to arrive at a difficult decision and do the right thing for you and yours. I hope that your ankle continues to get steadily stronger each day. Hope that you and yours have a good break them in North Wales & you at home just being!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 9:12am

Thank you OB. It wasn't easy. And I am still sensitive to criticism about it. But - oh, the bliss of being by myself.....

Anonymous Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 8:18am

Dear Mary,
Recent research published in The Lancet talks about "behavioural activation", a self-help treatment that focuses on helping people with depression to change the way they act.I am sure that doing what you can to nurture yourself is part and parcel of this coping strategy and guilt should not enter into it.But please do something enjoyable rather than moulder in the family's absence.That way both camps will benefit from the decision you jointly reached.Go well.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 9:16am

Behavioural activation, eh? Sounds interesting. Oh, I won't moulder, believe me! And - I will have a hard time fending off all the friends who think I should not be at home alone! In fact, I am so tempted to see if one of my best friends is available for the week: she is one of the few people I know who can sit in a room in perfect silence with me, without feeling the need to talk or do anything active - just being there. Then I am not alone (nobody will worry) but also I don't have to DO anything.....

Anonymous Thu, Jul 28th 2016 @ 7:14am

Terrific Mary.Go well.

Andrew Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 9:13am

Perfect outcome Mary. All round. Well done for having the courage and fortitude to reach it. That must have been hard.
So firstly you should banish any trace of guilt to the hole in the bottom of the garden where it can suffocate or be devoured by the Black Dogs (that's where mine are buried for now anyway!)
And secondly, have a wonderful, relaxing, liberated break from routine (a real staycation!) and prepare to enjoy hearing about all their adventures and misadventures on their return.

Not selfish at all. Very sensible!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 9:32am

Bless you Andrew! I do really need to hear that!

DAVE Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 9:32am

Mary you needn't feel selfish or guilty, because you're a mum and a mum with a physical disability. You deserve some time this yourself, if you suffer Bipolar, you're sensitive like us all.

But to be able to consistently maintain doing what all Women and Mothers do is something some Men don't understand. Cleaning up, washing their clothes, ironing, shopping, getting them to bed, getting them up for school, ensuring they've got clean clothes on and packing their lunches, getting them to bed on time, reading them stories, getting up in the night when they have nightmares. Then at that point you start looking after their dad ! !

You're entitled the some time time to how do you think you're going to continue to be a good Mother and at their beck and call, if you don't sometimes get wrapped up in your own personal needs. Mary you cannot continue day after'll burn out end up in Hospital and be no good to anyone.

When my wife was in your shoes, Saturday was Dads dad with the three kids I use to enjoy looking after them whilst Mum did her own thing, amongst other things I always did the 3am feeds.

If you feel like you do, as a suggestion, you could be honest with your feelings next time and say exactly what you stated to us, and in so doing you'll retain that inner Self-confidence, and not allow yourself to feel guilty whilst they are away, in so doing REALLY enjoy the freedom that being totally honest offense intended...I'f you understand...


Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:16am

Bless you Dave - always so wise!

Skyblue Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:13am

I am SO with you on this, Mary. A gutsy decision. An experiment! Enjoy it. xx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:16am

Thank you.

Leah Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 11:30am

I think selfish is the wrong word I prefer self caring. I was in the middle of a blog writing about this issue. How people sometimes cll me lazy or selfish but I see it as caring for myself and my health.
Being a mother is complicated and one will always feel guilty.I was lucky that my parents would mind my children so I could have a few days to myself. Mind you my mother always reminded me she never had that luxury!!
An interesting blog. Recharge your batteries and enjoy your solitude.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:08pm

I intend to. Thank you!

Lexi Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 12:24pm

I just spent five days by myself.It.was.glorious.And my mental health hadn't been better in years because of it. enjoy!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:09pm

Wonderful to hear that!

Jul Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 12:31pm

Hi Mary. I am "lucky" that my OH works abroad from time to time so I do have time to myself. But someone suggested to me that he probably values his time away from home too and that threw me initially. Now I realise that we both benefit from our days apart and why not? I think it's brave of you all as a family to reach the decision you have Mary. You have your broken ankle as an excuse and my OH has his job which takes him away but basically we all need a "room of ones own" every now and again. Julxx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:10pm

We do indeed. I confess that I had not thought of my husband enjoying being away from me, but no doubt he will!

The Gardener Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 2:01pm

Mary I don't think it's selfish at all - all good sense. On our travels the miserable families we've seen - mixed groups, mixed interest, Mum martyred, but 'we always go on holiday together'. There come's a stage when you 'do your own thing'. Cartoonists really sum it up - one I remember so well - Thelwell? Husband loaded up with fishing gear and golf clubs - he turns to his wife 'Why on earth do you want your knitting'. Our pathologically mean friend (mentioned often, no longer a friend) spent a fortune on diving holdays - they are expensive in themselves, and the best in expensive locations - often very beautiful but damn all else to do. His wife was highly social - preferred somewhere she could show off her clothes and meet people - but she was enslaved (still is) so instead of saying 'OK, you go to Baru Baru, or whatever, I'm off to Jamaica' she went with him and was bored stiff. Diving, it seems, is like any other form of fishing (or golf) the guy shows off about what the usually did not achieve, gets drunk and goes to sleep. Now, that is seriously waspish - put it down to a very bad night and a series of sick headaches. Go and beat up garden of house for sale - just spent a fortune on country-wide advertising so wish me luck.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 10:12pm

Absolutely luck! I hope your garden appreciated being attacked (they often do). And thank you for your encouragement!

Maria Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 2:31pm

Hi Mary. Self-care is not selfish! I congratulate you on your strength to do what is best for you...and your family. I'm sorry to hear that your ankle still pains you, and I send healing wishes for improvement each day.

Duma Wed, Jul 27th 2016 @ 2:53pm

Worrying your family? Now that sounds selfish! You have made the right decision and the fact that it was a group one is even better. Enjoy your staycation!

Kathy Thu, Jul 28th 2016 @ 10:46am

Dear Mary, hear hear. At the age of 49, I am "célibataire" as they say in France, which is so much nicer than "spinster". I live abroad and I work full-time. In theory I have no one to answer to, not even a cat:) But the reality is, family and friends take my availability for granted 24/7. The stress of being constantly on call (telephone, email, whatsapp, text messages, Skype...), whilst juggling a full-time job, & life, in 2 countries, exhausts me beyond belief. In January this year I starting getting panic attacks again, 20 years after coming out of therapy. I'm the only one in my circle of friends who wants to go home on a Friday night and crash in front of the TV - & yes it would be lovely if there was a cat to keep me company. Reading your blog has made me realize that it is what it is and if we don't take care of ourselves, the dark clouds of despair will. Enjoy your Airbnb break @home.

Claire Sat, Jul 30th 2016 @ 11:16am

Self-care - doing things for yourself for the pure joy that you get from them is not selfish. It is vital to 'fill yourself up', so that you can then serve others from a place of fullness and joy, not from one of depletion. Its brilliant that you had the discussion with all your family members and were all able to choose the option that would work best for all of you. For more on filling yourself up, please visit:

Nicco Wed, Aug 3rd 2016 @ 3:55am

I have the same dilemma, Mary. I admire your decision-making strategies and ability. I thought you might like this:
Best Wishes, Nicco.

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