My wife, Mel, asked me the other day if I was comfortable with her buying a treadmill.
We looked at our budget together, how much we had in savings, and read through consumer reports to find a quality treadmill that fit within our budget. But even with all that homework, Mel dragged her feet when it came to actually ordering it. And when I asked her why, she responded with a shrug and a few hesitant “ummms.”
“I don’t see the problem,” I said. “We have the money.”
She got quiet again, so I probed a little more. Finally she admitted, “I just feel guilty spending this kind of money on myself.”
It’s funny, really. Mel gives so much to our family, and it’s only been in the past year or so that she’s started to focus on her own self-care, and running has been a huge part of that. But the cost associated with it has always just been a pair of quality running shoes or some new running pants, so I will admit, this treadmill was a pretty large purchase by comparison. It was just over $1,000 and she would be the only one using it. I’m a pretty avid cyclist, but I have a bad knee, so running isn’t all that enjoyable anymore.
As I looked at the conflict in her eyes, I realized I had a few choices.
I could talk her out of it as a way to save money, which wouldn’t have been hard to do; she already didn’t feel like she deserved to spend that kind of money on herself. Not that how she was feeling was true, but that’s the thing with Mel — and in a lot of cases, moms in general. They get so used to giving everything, from time, to money, to mental labor to their family, that doing something for themselves, even when they have the available money or time, feels selfish.
I could shoot down the middle, and say “It’s up to you,” which would probably have the same effect as the first choice considering she was already fighting with herself over it. I don’t think it would have taken much more than a room-temperature response to get her to change her mind about buying the treadmill.
Or I could get excited and push her toward buying it because frankly, she deserved it, and I know for a fact that if the situation was reversed, she’d have done the same for me.
So I took the latter. I told her I wanted her to buy it because it’s something she loves and sure, I want her to be happy, but I also want her to feel good about investing in herself.
Self-care takes a lot of forms: it could be a book club, or hiking, or cycling (that’s my jam), or cooking, or gardening, or sewing, or CrossFit, or reading, or whatever your partner uses as a means to care for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Whatever it is, it’s important that we support the hell out of our spouse, because an investment in each other’s self-care really is an investment in a happy and healthy marriage.
So this is directed to the partners: Take all that guilt a mother feels for spending time and money on herself off the table, and replace it with reassurance. View the time and money as an investment in your spouse, your marriage, and your family, because that’s exactly what it is. And don’t wait until she’s about to crack. Don’t wait until she’s slamming doors, or angrily stomping around the house, or standing over the stove, silent and fuming. Take the initiative now, and suggest she take time out for herself. Schedule that time with her. Don’t expect anything in return. It will change the dynamics of your marriage in a positive way. I assure you.
So back to Mel and the treadmill. I stood across from her in the kitchen, and said, “Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but it’s also an investment in something you love, and I don’t feel bad about that at all. And I don’t think you should either.”
She gave me a half grin, and it seemed like the tension, the conflict, all the feelings she was struggling with about this whole treadmill situation went out of her body. She sat down at the table, opened her laptop, and ordered the treadmill. It will arrive in about a month — longer than expected, but hey, that’s COVID shipping.
And I’ve already caught her excitedly checking the tracking number.