Thursday, December 14, 2006

Treat Yourself

I’ve always been fond of scheduled indulgences. These are the little things that I plan for myself, as motivation and reward, or just as a way to make it through the day. (It’s not strictly necessary to earn a scheduled indulgence – it’s a need-based rather than a merit-based program.) In order to be effective, an indulgence must meet certain criteria: it must be pleasurable, it must be repeatable, and the attendent guilt-level must not be high enough to outweigh the overall spirit- and self-esteem-boosting effects. These criteria are harder to meet than they seem; I’ve had to experiment continually in order to perfect the formula. Right now, here are the indulgences that work – and don’t work – for me:

Category 1: Food
Food indulgences are very tempting because they do not require any investment of time. When I was studying for my comprehensive exams, my time was so wholly occupied that the only indulgences I could squeeze in were either food- or list-based: I would keep a list of all the fun activities that were scheduled to start the day after my last exam. The list provided a good outlet for all my frustrated social impulses, but it provided little immediate pay-off, so I was forced to fall back upon food. Every night, as I settled down to read a hefty stack of Victorian novels, I would grab some tortilla chips and salsa. By omitting sour cream, I kept guilt levels in check – salsa is, after all, a vegetable serving.

Short-term indulgences allow for a higher calorie-count. When I’m marking exams, I like to spend an entire day holed up in a kitchen with my T.A.s, barbequeing hamburgers and tossing back M&M’s. It’s only one day, so there’s no need to measure guilt or fat grams.

Motherhood, on the other hand, poses a challenge. It has a tendency to go on for years, so a constant supply of M&M’s may not be the best approach (not that I haven’t tried it – I went through several 1-kilogram bags last fall before I realized that even a breastfeeding mother couldn’t consume a half-cup of M&M’s every day without having to dig up those old maternity pants again).

Once I kicked my M&M’s habit, I had a burst of misplaced optimism and purchased a giant bag of Rain-blo gum-balls. The first couple of packets were good – you pop in a gumball, chew for ten seconds, then replace. After a day or two of this tactic I realized a couple of things: (1) I am not actually ten years old; and (2) in place of that rush of post-chocolate endorphins, Rain-blo gum-balls leave me nothing but a sore jaw and a disgusting row of tiny, pastel-coloured, teeth-indented choking hazards.

My scheduled indulgence of choice right now in the food category is this:

Mixed with this:


Category 2: Fun
Like food, fun-related indulgences become more complicated when the condition you’re medicating is motherhood. My opportunities for fun usually occur in the evening, when I’m often too tired to leave the house. Meeting friends for coffee or a chick flick is enjoyable, but rare. Fun of the drinking and dancing variety is a thing of the past. Until such time as my children begin sleeping past 6 am, the fun category will be replaced by:

Category 3: Relaxation
What doesn’t work:

This was my Christmas gift from last year. In theory, it was supposed to create the comforts of the spa right in my living room, with hubby providing the requisite foot massage. The real flaw in that plan was the shoddy equipment: no matter how well you drain the foot-bath unit, there are still little reservoirs of cold water that shoot out, mid-massage, to jolt your relaxed foot back to red alert.

For real relaxation, I prefer this:

The benefits of watching reality TV cannot be over-estimated. It’s so much more than 60 minutes of viewing pleasure: it’s conversation fodder for all those girl’s nights that would otherwise be consumed by baby-talk. For years, my friendships were nurtured by the endless opportunities for analysis afforded by our romantic misadventures. Now that everyone is married and mired in baby-care, the only real alternative to repeatedly sharing our birth stories (a conversation that, admittedly, never grows old) is to debate the relative merits of Yul and Ozzy (my money’s on Yul, the only Survivor who has ever known when to shut up).

Category 4: Brainwashing
I’m sniffling and croaking my way through a miserable day today, but my spirits are high: I’ve got Survivor on deck tonight, and the Baileys is in the cupboard. I’ve even got some Pillsbury cookie dough in the fridge in case I want a fresh-baked cookie to go with my steaming mug of hot chocolate. All these things would be for naught, however, if it were not for the final category of scheduled indulgences: the ability to convince myself that I deserve such rewards. Based on my achievements so far today, I’m feeling pretty reward-worthy:

  • I threw out half a garbage-bag full of junk that had accumulated in the six months or so since the last time I went on a decluttering rampage.
  • I boiled an egg for my lunch.
  • I put together a two-page outline for the parenting course that starts next month (including a week devoted to "Time for Mom," in which I will hold forth on the benefits of a healthy diet-and-exercise regimen, sternly cautioning everyone to avoid sedentary and high-fat indulgences. Or not.).
  • I gathered up the plastic bags thrown haphazardly on the top of my fridge and placed them neatly into one large bag.

The key to this brainwashing is to ignore the fact that I didn’t mark any of the 25 essays that I will supposedly be returning on Monday, that I didn’t do any Christmas shopping or housecleaning or even child-care (having put the children into day-care this morning so that I could do the supposed essay-marking). We’ll just set those things aside for now and focus on the obscure and irrelevant housekeeping tasks I managed to identify and accomplish this morning.

Let the rewards begin!


...And while we're on the topic of treating ourselves, don't forget to stop here:

Her Bad Auction


mamatulip said...

Oh my GOSH, they make Turtles hot chocolate? *grabbing keys, heading for store*

And YAY, another Survivor fan! I LOVE Survivor. Haven't missed a season yet. This season's pretty good..I'm totally curious to see how it all ends up playing out.

Those foot baths have never done anything for me, either.

mamatulip said...

Just want to do a little *~*~*HAPPY DANCE*~*~* that I actually was able to comment! Callooh! Callay!

nomotherearth said...

My indulgence in the early breastfeeding days was "Bridge Mixture". Oodles of it. Hence the reason I am not down to pre-pregnancy size yet.

Beck said...

So you're saying I can't actually eat like a pig while I'm breastfeeding? How about when I'm not breastfeeding but REALLY worn out? Do the calories still count then? I hate those days when the only pleasureable thing is a handful of chocolate chips grabbed out of the cupboard while the baby is napping... sheesh.

Pieces said...

Christmas time means that I buy the Costco tub of cashews, you know, for guests. Your post makes me think that maybe I buy it to reward myself for making it through each day of the season.

Nah, I'll keep telling myself it is for guests.

ali said...

turtle hot chocolate?? drooooool....

Oh, The Joys said...

I've been dieting - losing the baby weight - so the food reward has been so lame... like a Yoplait Lite. Ack.

Kyla said...

Wow....cocoa and Baileys. Yum.

I totally believe in the treat system. What would life be without it?

Mimi said...

Beck, I thought I was the only one who ate choc.chips from the bag!

B&P, your rationalisations are very compelling! Sometimes I reward myself for every paper or exam question graded, and this time of year, it's usually with an xmas cookie. This means that by xmas, none of my pants fit. Demoralizing! But b/f has seemed to give me the metabolism of a teenage boy and I am eating every gosh-darned little thing that grabs my fancy (*ducking*). I'm eating while I can ...

marian said...

Wouldn't it be cool
For a man named Yul
To win Survivor
this time of the year?

Intelligent, kind, good-looking... love that guy!

Jenifer said...

Mmmmmmm, hot chocolate with Bailey's AND Survivor???

We would get along well!!

Mayberry said...

Mmmmm--Yul. LOVE Yul. Except now I'm reminded that I want to be watching Survivor right now, and I'm supposed to be working. Um, not blogging either. OK, bye...

Antique Mommy said...

Survivor is my indulgence too. Actually Antique Daddy and I indulge together which makes it twice as nice. You are right about Yul being the only one ever to know when to shut up. Voting of Jonathan was a bad move thought. He's the one you want to be in the final two with. Frankly, I kinda liked Jonathan. He totally played the game.

Christina said...

Oh, I can always find an excuse for a small treat for myself. Like you, food is a good, easy treat.

Do they make Turtles hot chocolate in the states, or is that just a luxury for you Canadians? It sounds wonderful!

And I think you need to add this post to your parenting class. All moms need to know that scheduled small treats for themseleves are necessary.

bubandpie said...

AM - I agree about Jonathan. Not only was he useful to take to the final two, but he helped to deflect a lot of the resentment away from Yul, as we saw last night: without Jonathan around to hate, everyone started to simmer at Yul's domination of the game.

I find it fascinating that Candice and Parvati seemed to be confident that Jonathan was the evil one and that they would be considered the sympathetic characters, when Candice, especially, was at LEAST as much of a snake in the grass, and deserved absolutely none of the loyalty that she seemed to think was coming to her from Jonathan.

The biggest breach of trust in the game so far has been the way the old Aitu tribe stabbed Jonathan in the back - but there's such a consensus against him that no one is really calling them on it.

Gwen said...

What's up with commenting on Blogger? It's all wacked.

I'm glad to see I'm not the only person to miss the forest for the trees (and here I thought it was my unique speciality) and focus not on B&P's indulgence worthiness but on my tv boyfriend, Yul. My heart grew three sizes the day he used the word "schism" in an interview. Luuuurve!

Sunshine Scribe said...

Turtles Hot Chocolate. I couldn't be more excited!!! I am in loooove with William Sonoma's hot chocolate that I got for a gift last year and I went to buy a small tin (perfect treat) for myself this past week and it was TWENTY SIX dollars ... for a small tin ... that yields 10 cups.

But I bought it.

And already feel guilty. The turtles hot chocolate should help enormously.

Mom101 said...

Mmmm Baileys.

Oh wait - stupid fetal alcohol syndrome.

Damn you.

Julie Pippert said...


No foodie treats for me.

They are the reason that I am going to my weekly WW meeting like any good addict.

Although I just made my fat free Chistmas party treat for tomorrow. We'll see if anyone ventures to them other than me.

Momish said...

Ok, now I am dying for Turtles hot chocolate! Double yum with the Bailey's. My indulgence is potato chips. The entire BIG bag of them. With dip.

Jenifer G. said...

I never would have pegged you as a Survivor fan! I thought I was in the minority as most 35 year women I know have kind of gotten over it by now...but, not me!

My money is on Yul all the way. At least that is who I hope wins Survivor has a way of turning on a dime. I actually look forward to Thursday night and was so shocked at the end of tonight to find out THIS Sunday is the finale. I thought I had one more week. Oh well three hours on Sunday count me in.

In terms of the rewards system I have found it to be incredibly effective for myself and my girls. The rewards can be whatever you want it is just the idea of working towards something that motivates. When B&P are older visit for the Good Deeds Chart. All my kids want to see at the end of the day are the check marks. These kind of charts for trying new foods or even potty training have always worked really well for us.

Lots to say tonight. Glad Parvati went tonight - at least I am happy Ozzy stayed true.

Enjoy Sunday!

PS I have not forgotten about a photo of my shoes...Hubby has been busy and after my unsuccessful attempt at scanning said photo I am waiting for help...on the weekend I'm sure.

Mommy off the Record said...

You definitely deserve a reward. I mean, I think that putting all the plastic bags into one large bag is worthy of a reward all on its own!

Mindless TV is definitely one of my guilty indulgences. I don't watch Survivor, but I did watch this season of the Bachelor, which is at least as bad or worse. And you're right, keeping up with certain shows provides lots of non-child conversation fodder - both with friends and at work.

karrie said...

Mmm! Save a mug of that spiked cocoa for me.

bubandpie said...

Jenifer - I want Yul to win, but my money's on Ozzy now - not only will he win the challenges, but I think the jury would choose him over Yul, the perceived puppet-master. I also think the jury would pick Sundra over Becky - both are perceived as being hangers-on who have coasted on Yul's strategizing, but Sundra is the more personable of the two.

Do you think they'll have a three-person final? The number of people on the jury is off - if it's a two-person final then it will be a ten-person jury (maybe "American decides" by call-in vote if there's a tie). The preview said that there will be three challenges in tomorrow's episode, but I can't remember if they specified reward or immunity - one reward challenge (for the car) plus two immunity to set up a three-person final would make for a very interesting vote: it's virtually the only way Yul and Ozzy could go up against one another, and I would love to see the result of that vote.

allrileyedup said...

I don't personally watch Survivor, and I don't have any television service, so my indulgence is to randomly rent a season of a show and watch it on DVD. I did Lost seasons 1 & 2 a couple months ago. Now I'm onto I'm currently watching the first season of Gilmore Girls, which is not at all bad, and even though it's about a mom and her daughter, it's still a nice escape from my own.

Kelly said...

(Laughing at your M&M's/breastfeeding reference.)

With my firstborn, I justified eating an entire roll of Oreos by saying, 'But I'm breastfeeding. These calories are gonna be burned so fast.' I found out rather quickly that wasn't the case.

My second born was a different story in all regards. I could've eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner at McD's and kept losing. (But then again, she never came up for air for five months, so I think the standard 500 calories a day was more like 10,000.)