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Since when did well-being become optional?

I’m not different from lots and lots of other women my age. When I hit my forties, all of the things that I’ve been whinging about for years but haven’t done anything about seem to be that much more important. Losing weight becomes more about creaky knees and health as opposed to fitting into my pre-baby jeans. Finding time for yoga is about managing stress and becoming more flexible, as opposed to ‘finding myself’. Time sitting alone in a cafe with a cup of chai tea and a novel has gone from just what I do to an absolute luxury to something I need to feel good.

Moving out of my thirties brings its own challenges, but I can see space being carved out for taking better care of myself. My kids are currently 9 and 5. They can entertain themselves or play with neighbourhood friends with less input from me. They can get themselves drinks, pour themselves a bowl of muesli, let themselves into the back garden, scoot down our cul-de-sac, put on a DVD, all without me needing to hover.

At work I’m just now becoming senior enough where I can say no to almost anything without worrying about how it might affect my promotion prospects. I’m just about to get a PA, an unheard of luxury for today’s academics, and won’t have to spend time managing my diary, booking my travel or dealing with my massive stack of expense claims. I’ll be working with a number of research assistants who will help me publish more with less effort, while I help them develop their own academic careers. Although I’ll have much more responsibility than I’ve ever had before, I’ll also have a lot more support and autonomy.

In short, all the reasons excuses I’ve made for not taking better care of myself for the last ten years are disappearing, but the stakes for doing so are higher. My 89 year old grandmother may still be with us, but she’s not able to move very well, and many years of inactivity have taken their toll. My 64 year old mother has many hobbies in her (early) retirement, but she’s less able to do things than she’d hoped because she’s too tired and too achy. I don’t plan on being like that. My own daughter is only five years old, but she’s already body conscious, and the best thing I can do for her is to model good behaviour.