parent opinion

ASK HOLLY: My "self care" is a shower. My partner's running marathons. Seriously?

Welcome to Mamamia's new advice column, DON'T FREAK OUT, where Holly Wainwright solves your most personal and problematic dilemmas with her sage wisdom. If you have a drama you need solved, email us at — you can be anonymous of course because otherwise, awks.


Dear Holly, 

I'm the primary carer to my two kids, who are five and three, and I love them to bits (I have to say that, it's the law, and it's true). I also work three days a week, in a job that I don't really like that much, and is a bit beneath my pre-kids skill set, but offers me the flexibility I need right now to be around for the kids, do drop-off, pick-up, etc, etc.

My partner works full time in a pretty demanding role Monday-Friday and often has to work late. When he's home, he's a great dad, and does what he can. The thing is, this past year he's taken up marathon running. He ran his first race in September and is now planning a "boys' trip" to Europe (he got a nice bonus this year) to do the Rome marathon in March. It's become his obsession. He goes for a run almost every day, either early in the morning, when I am getting the kids up, or after work, when I'm getting them to bed. And on one of the weekend mornings, he does a long run with a group, meaning he's out of the house for a couple of hours, once they've had a post-run coffee and stretch.

My problem is, I am seething with resentment about his new hobby. Even before he was training all the time, I was home alone with the kids more than not. Meanwhile, I haven't been to the gym for years, and the most "self care" I get is having a shower with the door closed while Bluey's on. I am so angry every time he pulls on his running shoes I want to throw something, but I also know we're meant to support each other's dreams, and that he works hard and deserves to be healthy and happy.


I hate who I'm turning into – a woman who begrudges her partner going for a run. And I don't want to be selfish and be all "what about me"? But apparently, that's who I am now. Do I freak out and tell him he has to stop running? 

Thank you,

The Marathon Slayer x


Hello friend. Look, I don't want to tell you how to live your life, but I am literally going to tell you how to live your life, because that's what we're doing here.

Write this down: Having a shower is not self care. Even with the door closed.

Watch: What is self care? Post continues below.

Video via Headspace.

Having a shower is the bare minimum required to maintain personal hygiene. Washing, as I'm sure you know, stops you from getting sick. And the people around you from getting sick. If you are at a place in your life where the only thing you're doing for yourself is preventing yourself from transmitting pox and plague from yourself to others, we need to talk.

Other things that are not self care: Eating something while sitting down. S**tting alone. Going to the supermarket at 9 o'clock at night because it's the only time you can, without having to discourage children from locking each other in freezers and shoplifting the chocolate on the way out (seriously, it's right at stroller height...). These things are not self care. They are jobs that have to be done – cleaning yourself, feeding yourself, emptying yourself, providing neccesities for your family.


What has gone so wrong here that a smart woman like yourself, Marathon Slayer, is worried that telling her partner she would rather not put herself at the very tail end of a very long list of household needs, and that him being around sometimes would be preferable for the family dynamic, would somehow constitute freaking out? Or being selfish? Or 'mean'?

Friend, your partner has every right to go for a run. And you have every right to express that doing so every day, at a time of day when his family needs him, is not really... working for you.

That what might work better for you would be you also getting to do something that was all about you for a portion of the day, every day. That you would also love a slice of that meditative peace, that chance to decompress, that moment to listen to your body and remember that before you were a provider – of comfort, of love, of food and entertainment and endless wipes to clean up a million tiny messes every day – you were a person. Called Marathon Slayer. Who had things she liked to do.

Who recognises that yes, he works hard, etc, etc, but you also work hard. You have two jobs. And one of them is unpaid, has impossibly high KPIs and entirely illegal hours.

Maybe your "marathon training" would be having a wine with a friend. Maybe it would be yoga. Or watching a TV show. Or coffee with your sister. Or flicking through racks in shops. Or lifting weights. Or going for a walk with a podcast in. Or playing freaking touch football.

It doesn't matter what it is. It matters only that there's a window for it. Your partner took a chisel to his day and chipped out a window, without consulting you. And you are left sitting in a dark room, with children who need you, a job you don't like very much, and a feeling you're being taken for a bit of a dick.


You're not. I give your taste the benefit of the doubt and have decided that the father of your children is not a selfish arsehole. He's just doing what he's been trained to do – look after himself, put his needs first, pursue pleasure and achievement as and when he needs it. And you're doing what you were trained to do – look after other people, not be 'selfish', struggle through the 'rough years' of early parenthood without complaint or respite.

You need to tell him. Tell him that every time he gets his shoes out of the chaotic basket of shoes we all have near the door, you want to grab them from him and run for the border. That on the weekend, you'd like it if he could be around a bit more, OR, that you'd like him to be back by a certain time so you can go and do your figurative or literal marathon training, for an hour or so, thank you very much.

If he doesn't appreciate it, I'll start revising my opinion about whether or not you've picked an idiot as a life partner. But also, if he doesn't appreciate it, you're going to need back up. Because maybe some of that bonus money that's going on the Rome trip could be spent on some household help. OR, you know, on couples' counselling.

Do you have problem you need Holly to solve? Email us at with the subject line Don't Freak Out for consideration.

Feature image: Getty; ABC.

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