The seven components of self-care, part seven: Superfluities

Welcome to the seventh in my series of the Components of Self-Care. (If you missed the previous parts in the series, the links are below. You can read them in any order.)

Each Sunday I blog about a different aspect of self-care. I use the hashtag #sundayselfcare on Twitter and Instagram and would love it if you’d join me. If you’d like to join the conversation on your own blog, you can grab the blog badge here.

health, wellness, treats, self-care, adoption, families, adoptive, parents, parenting, adopted, children

Yes, I’m stretching the alliteration again, using ‘superfluities’ (unnecessary extras) to mean treats. Rewards, if you like. The fun stuff.

If, when I collect them from school,  I tell my children that I have got a treat for them waiting at home, their first thought is almost always that it will be something edible. I may in theory be a grown-up, but the word ‘treat’ also has the same effect on me.

There is an adoption professional of my acquaintance who delivered some training I was on last summer. In the part of the training on self-care we were all asked to identify a treat and draw it on our name badges. Mine (notwithstanding my limited artistic abilities) looked like this:

chocolate, treats, self-care, adoption, families, adoptive, parents, parenting, adopted, children

Image credit: yum9me

Several group members drew gardening-related things on their badges. I respect that. I’m not sure it falls into the ‘treat’ category for me, but I can see how that works as a relaxing activity. The course leader, however, said that her idea of a treat was a luxury shower gel. I’m sorry, but no.

I don’t care if it smells of unicorn breath and ultra-rare Himalayan orchids. It is soap. Thus, shower gel is not a treat. Tweet: I don't care if it smells of unicorn breath and himalayan orchids. Shower gel is *soap*, not a treat. @hlmeadows

I get that a bath is a treat for some, mainly because it equals warmth, solitude and book-reading time. I can totally get on board with that even though I prefer showers myself. But a shower gel? I am still shaking my head in disbelief at that one.

What constitutes a treat?
So having established that shower gel does not qualify, what is a treat? And what types of treats work best as forms of self-care?

Though I like to talk about chocolate and obviously like to eat it (duh), it’s not the greatest example of a treat because it’s not overwhelmingly healthy and therefore undermines the idea of taking care of yourself (see this post on sustenance). I guess if you’re the sort of person who is good at stopping eating chocolate after a couple of squares then fine. I admire your self-control. I am rubbish at that, so I’d go for safer options. Things I’d put in the treat category include massages, haircuts, spa days, trips to the cinema, books, CDs/music downloads, things that make you happy and won’t have a negative impact on your health, your amount of sleep, etc.

Hardcore parenting needs proper hardcore treats. Ideally whole weekends of treatfulness at a time, like taking up residence in a spa, but I do live in the real world, so maybe spending a few quid for someone else to do a chore you hate (ironing, cleaning the car, etc) while you sit in Starbucks and read would work for you (it does for me, every time).

The point is that self-care shouldn’t be the light at the end of the tunnel that we’re going to reward ourselves with once we get through the current struggle. It should be something we build into our daily/weekly/monthly routines as part of the process of dealing with the challenges of adoptive parenting. I know this doesn’t come easily to many people. We are told repeatedly during our training as prospective adopters that the children come first and it is all about them. This is right and proper and appropriate, of course. But if their care is paramount, then their carers’ wellbeing and ability to provide the well-regulated, loving care that the children need is also vital to a healthy adoptive family life.

The best post-adoption support recognises the needs of both children and parents and helps the whole familyTweet: The best PAS recognises the needs of children *and* parents, and helps the *whole family*. @hlmeadows

Why treats matter
Adoptive parenting is a long haul. It’s not possible to live in full-on therapeutic wonderparent mode all day, every day until your child leaves home aged 18/21/30/whatever. It is vital to build in self-care as a regular ‘way of being’ in order to avoid burnout, and treats are a helpful part of that. And by, treats, remember, we don’t mean shower gel. Or lunch (unless it’s a really nice lunch, perhaps). Writer Kristin Wong explains it succinctly:

‘Rewarding yourself with an indulgence is one thing. But using your basic comfort and sanity as a reward can be problematic, and many times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. For example, when I’m in the middle of work, I’ll often postpone eating lunch, even if I’m very hungry. I don’t call nourishment a “reward,” but that’s what it becomes. The carrot at the end of the stick. But if I took the time to refuel myself, work would probably come a lot easier.’ (Source: Lifehacker)

Kristin’s point applies to parenting as much as to writing. If I am looking after the girls for a weekend when Pete is away (as I am at the moment), I will make sure I build in a trip to a soft play place where I can get a decent coffee and read a book, for example. Little oases of sanity-saving self-care help me to regroup and come back to the task of parenting with a clearer head.

Gretchen Rubin (one of my favourite authors, whose book Better Than Before
I’m reading at the moment) explains the importance of treats:

‘Treats give us greater vitality, which boosts self-control, which helps us maintain our healthy habits. When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which in turn boosts self-command. When we don’t get any treats, we feel depleted, resentful, and angry, and we feel justified in self-indulgence.’

So giving ourselves treats helps us feel in control. Feeling in control, as adoptive parents all know, is helpful to being emotionally regulated, and being emotionally regulated is a vital part of theapeutic parenting as we try to pass theat state on to frequently disregulated children. Therefore treating ourselves is a really helpful part of parenting our children well. Showing oursleves that care and respect is also a great model for our children of everone’s intrinsic value and ‘treat-deservedness’.

Works for me. Pass the shower gel.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the importance of treats to your own self-care. Are they something you are making a deliberate part of your life, or an ad-hoc afterthought?  Are there particular treats you find helpful as an adoptive parent? Please share your comments below and join in the conversation on Twitter with the #sundayselfcare hashtag.

Sunday self-care blog badgeYou’ll have noticed that this was the seventh of the seven components of self-care. (If you missed any of them, the links are all below.) You may be throwing up your hands in dismay that we have reached the end of the series (unlikely, but play along for the sake of my self-esteem, if you would). Fear not, for next week is still a self-care Sunday. I’ll be interviewing the marvellous Al Coates, adoptive parent, social worker, and blogger at The misadventures of an adoptive dad, and asking him about what self-care means to him. Please do come and join us for that.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to join in the conversation on your own blog, you can grab the blog badge here.

Have a great week.

Further reading
Gretchen Rubin on the psychology of rewarding yourself with treats
The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica Turner (about self-care in general)

If you missed them, here’s where you can find the previous posts:
The seven components of self-care, part one: sleep
The seven components of self-care, part two: support
The seven components of self-care, part three: sports
The seven components of self-care, part four: sustenance
The seven components of self-care, part five: space
The seven components of self-care, part six: spirituality



  1. Three Pink Diamonds
    23 March 2015 / 9:26 pm

    Hey, I really enjoyed reading this post. I didn’t realise you were doing this series on self-care. When I’m finished writing this I am going to make my way through your other 6 posts and I look forward to reading your interview with Al Coates.

    I think the importance of self-care is key when parenting adoptive children (or any children for that matter). It’s nice to connect with other adopters who recognise that & encourage the care of one another. I too love chocolate, spa days and hair cuts!!! Fantastic treats!!

    I don’t know if you are aware of the #takingcare100 challenge that a few of us are taking part in. For 100 days we are sharing pictures of one thing a day that we have done (usually ate) to care for ourselves. It’s a bit of fun and it’s great to connect!

    • 23 March 2015 / 9:31 pm

      Yes, I’ve been enjoying seeing everyone’s #takingcare pictures. I’m not great at sticking to daily challenges like that myself, which is why #sundayselfcare works for me – I can manage once a week! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting – it’s appreciated. Hope you like the rest of the series.

  2. Three Pink Diamonds
    23 March 2015 / 9:34 pm

    I understand – I have missed a day here and there! These posts are excellent though. If you would like to join them up to the #takingcare100 please do.

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