Looking Out For Number One

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Generally, when we hear the phrase “looking out for number one”, we think of selfish, self-centered behavior. We envision individuals who will step over or step on anyone who stands in the way of their desires and goals.  I’ve come to realize that looking out for oneself is not always a bad thing and can in fact be the best thing to do in some situations.

Women are known to be caregivers, it’s in our nature. We take responsibility for our home and everyone in it. We are the maids, cooks, dishwashers and laundry service providers. We are the chauffeurs for and biggest fans of the little league soccer team. We are nurses and counselors for our children (and husbands as well). We will sacrifice and forego things that we need so that those we love can have what they want.

All these qualities are commendable of course. But what happens when break down? Who can we turn to when we are sick, injured, sad or just overwhelmed?  Often, we are so busy looking out for everyone else, we forget to take care of ourselves.  It’s much like washing your car every week, but never changing the oil. You wind up with a beautiful car with a blown engine that is of no use to anyone. As I told a friend of mine recently – her doctor had just told her she is well on her way to a stroke if she doesn’t let some things go – stress is a killer.

When Our Children Are No Longer Children

A lot of women in my circle of friends spend entirely too much time agonizing over their children who are now in their late teens to early 20’s. While I know it is our nature to want to take care of our children forever, at some point we have to let them grow up (or make them grow up).  We have to recognize that we, as parents, have taught them as well as we could. It is now time for them to start making their own choices, be they good ones or bad ones.

It’s wonderful when we are in a financial position to lend our children a hand when they need it. Times are hard for everyone right now, so they may need our help. However, when our children are constantly at our front door asking for a handout; when our daughters spend the rent money getting their hair and nails done and buying a new outfit; when our sons have to have the latest car, but need to borrow money from us for gas…. Well, it’s time to put our collective foot down. We cannot continue to put ourselves in a whole in order to help people who insist on being financially irresponsible and trying to live beyond their means. That includes our children.

When “Girlfriend” Brings the Drama…. ALL THE TIME!

We’ve all got one; the friend who always has family problems, job problems, money problems, man problems. Unfortunately, it’s you she always wants to run to when she needs a shoulder to cry on, which seems to be several times a week. She shows up at your doorstep at 10:00 at night, mascara running down her face, to tell you of her latest woes. You’ve been friends since elementary school, so you can’t just turn her away. Or can you?

How many nights have you cried with this woman, prayed with this woman, gave her the advice she asked for and never once followed; only to have her show up crying “I should have listened to you”  when things worked out badly once again? Can you now tell your dear friend not to ask your opinion if she doesn’t want it, not to ask your advice if she’s not going to consider it, and to please grow up and recognize that she needs to think before she acts? ABSOLUTELY!

A Little Help Here?

If you’re like most women these days, you work outside the home. I personally have a job that takes 40-50 hours of my life each week. I am the first to leave the house in the morning, and the last to get back each evening. I come in through the kitchen door and try to find a spot to sit my purse on a table that is otherwise piled with junk mail, bags of unopened chips and cookies that never found their way to the cupboard, and various other odds and ends.

I would love to prepare dinner, as three or four days during the week I have evening choir rehearsals or church meetings that will soon have me running back out the door, but the sink is full of dishes that mysteriously piled up since after dinner the night before. On the stove are two pans my husband used to prepare his breakfast and a pot my teenage daughter used to prepare her lunch. And where are the two culprits? My husband planted firmly on the sofa watching television, the teenager planted equally firmly in front of her laptop perusing My Space with a phone glued to one ear. To make matters worse, one of them (or both) will ask me any second now what we are having for dinner and when it will be ready. My answer will be that it would be half done already if I didn’t have to clean the kitchen before I could start cooking.

Going On Strike

This all led me to a great idea a few years back. I decided to go on strike. Three or four weekends a year, I simply disappear for a few days and leave everyone in my life to fend for themselves. I pack up a bag on Thursday night and take it to work with me on Friday. I check myself into an inexpensive but comfortable hotel and stay for the weekend. I don’t take calls (though I do check messages just in case there is an emergency) and I only tell my mother where I’m going. I use this time to relax and rejuvenate. If my finances allow, I treat myself to a spa day – hair style, manicure and pedicure and massage… ahh!  If not, I settle for a good book or rent a few movies to take along with my portable DVD player. When the weather is nice, I take long walks and admire the sights around town.

If this seems a bit too pricey for your wallet, consider making plans with a good (drama-free) girlfriend. Maybe the two of you can foot the bill together or, if she’s single, maybe she will let you crash at her place for the weekend. Whatever you do, make sure to give yourself some “me time” occasionally. You need it to de-stress from the hectic everyday routine that most of us have found ourselves in. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for number one when you look at it this way.  In fact, it is probably the best thing you can do to make sure you are in the best possible shape, physically and mentally, to go back to doing what you do best – caring for those you love.

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