Yesterday, I slept in. When I say I “slept in,” I mean I slept in — until after 8 am (which might as well be noon for me).
Even after I had finished the sleeping part of “sleeping in,” I laid in my bed reading, nude but for my underwear, swaddled in the softness of the white linen sheets I saved my pennies to buy (and still agonized over the expense of). I looked out the French doors into the forest, lush and green with spring growth. I watched a gentle rain fall. I waited for the sun’s rays to peek through the redwood trees towering above our little bungalow. I luxuriated in the total absence of responsibility.
At about 9 am, I started to feel guilty.
The children were playing (mostly) quietly (my five-year-old was hitting our drum set as hard as he possibly could, but he was occupied, if noisy). I knew my husband was probably reading the news on the phone or doing some work on his laptop. There was no real pressing reason for me to leave the comfort and peace of the bed, but the guilt began to creep in.
Why should I get to lay here while he is up with them? What if they haven’t had breakfast? What if he thinks I’m being lazy?
In truth, I solo-parented all last week while he was away from home for work. I am juggling work and kids and the emotional labor that inevitably comes with running a household — especially when one parent is often absent. I’m recovering from the flu which didn’t kill me, but only barely. I was tired. So I slept.
And then I felt bad about it.
This afternoon, I got an email from my friend and platonic life-partner Jes Baker. The email was simple enough, a request for the three qualities that come to mind when I think of her — her “superpowers.” My answer was immediate: Passion. Loyalty. Self-awareness. I didn’t take more than a minute to think about my response; I didn’t have to. I’ve known well for Jes a few years — more than enough years to be able to summarize the essence of a person, especially one as dynamic and incredible as Jes.
You Might Also Like: Sleep Hygiene: 11 Tips For Improving Your (VERY Important) Sleep
Jes responded to me within a minute of my email. She thanked me for helping her with a hard thing. She asked me why it’s so hard to ask for things from people. And this article was born.
Because, why is it so hard to ask for things?
I’ll tell you why, and the answer will probably not surprise you.
Because we fundamentally do not believe we deserve nice things.
For Valentine's Day this (and every) year, I tell my husband I do not want a gift. I tell him it's a capitalist holiday created to benefit corporate America, not couples. I've been telling him this for nine years. I've made him believe I really hate the celebration of love.
I'll tell you a secret, I want a gift. Not just a gift, but something meaningful. I want a tangible reminder of his love for me that he thoughtfully picked out, something I did not buy for myself or put on an Amazon wishlist or send him in a series of hint-dropping texts. I want it every year but I have never asked for it.
Because I fundamentally do not believe I deserve nice things. I do not want to be an inconvenience. I don't want to be any trouble. I don't want to be too much of something or not enough of something else.
And neither do you.
Right down to our very core, in a place we can't even touch because it's buried so deep in our psyche, we do not believe that we should be allowed to have things that are nice. The earliest messages we received from our culture have made us believe that we are not deserving of compliments, gifts, respect, love, even sleep. We barely believe we deserve to take up space (and many of us don’t believe that).
As long as we’ve existed, women have been told to be so much. Be good. Be quiet. Be patient and present. Be beautiful and intelligent. Be good at your job. Be a mother and a wife. Be everything. Be all of it, all at once — and need nothing in return.
As women we aren't meant to have needs as much as we are meant to fulfill needs.
Jes maybe didn’t believe she deserved my time and compliments, something so easy for me to give. I didn’t believe I deserved rest, the most fundamental of needs. It took me six months to convince myself that I deserved linen sheets, for crap sake.
I don’t know how this idea that we shouldn’t have things was born. I don’t know where it originated, but I want to squash it. I want to once and for all and forever convince you (and by you, I mean mostly women) that you deserve nice things.
You deserve equal pay for the work you do.
You deserve space on the subway.
You deserve respect from your peers and strangers and everyone you interact with.
You deserve love from those to whom you give it.
You deserve sleep. And food. And water. And rest when you need it. Whenever you need it.
You deserve gifts on your birthday and Valentine's Day and Christmas and other days that aren't even holidays.
You deserve linen sheets.
You deserve all of this.
You don’t need to do or be anything to be deserving of all of this. Not just basic needs of living, but the joys, the gifts, the things you need and the things you want. You deserve it all. Go ahead and ask for it.