Most women, from the time they were little girls, were raised to be caretakers. We learned early on that we should be sweet, play nice, and put others first. While the boys around us were playing cops and robbers, we were busy playing house. We were taking care of our dolls and cooking dinner for our imaginary husbands. It is no surprise that we then grow up feeling like we have to put everybody’s needs before our own.

It usually takes two incomes to survive financially these days. Yet, when you talk to women who are working full-time, they will usually tell you that they are pulling double duty. While their husbands come home ready to relax for the evening, the women are coming home to start their second shift. Dinner has to be made, dishes washed, homework checked, and laundry for the next day needs to get done.

As women, what are we teaching our children? We must realize that we can’t be good role models if we can’t learn to take care of ourselves. We want our daughters to learn to have self-respect, and we want our sons to learn to treat women well. The starts with the examples that we set.

We may expect that our angelic qualities will eventually pay off for us. We wait for that special day to come when everybody treats us like a queen for being such a giving mom and wife. Then we become bitter as time goes by and that day never comes.

When my son was small, I used to take him to the library every week. One of the books on the suggested reading list was The Giving Tree, a short story written by Shel Silverstein. It was written in 1964, but is still popular today. I checked out the book, and that night we climbed into bed to read the story.

It was a story about the relationship between a little boy and a tree. The boy would eat the tree’s apples and swing from her branches, which made the tree happy. But as the boy grew older, he wanted more and more from the tree. In order to make the boy happy, the tree ends up giving the boy all of her apples to sell, all of her branches to build a house, and eventually her trunk to build a boat and sail away. As long as the boy was happy, the tree was happy too.

At the end of the story, the boy, now an old man, returns to the tree who has nothing left but her stump. She feels bad because she has nothing left to give. She ends up offering her stump for the old man to sit on, which in turn makes her happy.

When I finished reading the story I remember thinking, that is one codependent tree. I was unsure of the message intended. Was the author trying to teach our children that this is what love is all about?

While I did not find it to be a good example of love or of giving, the story stuck with me, and I do think it has a great lesson attached to it -- if you give and give of yourself, without ever asking for or expecting anything in return, eventually you will be nothing but a dead old stump.

As women we deserve to be pampered. You don’t have to wait for an outside source to give you what you deserve. When you start treating yourself as special, you will then be teaching the other people in your life how to treat you. This doesn’t mean that you are supposed to become a self-centered prima donna. But you will find that when you start giving yourself the attention you deserve, your self-esteem flourishes.

What do you consider pampering? Have you always dreamed of being treated to a hot stone massage? Is the idea of having your own personal trainer appealing to you? Is enjoying brunch with close friends at an outdoor more your style? If you could enjoy pampering in any way that you desire, what would it be?

Now what’s stopping you? Is it money? If so, then it’s time to start your own pampering fund. Every chance you get, keep adding to your fund until there is enough money to treat yourself. It is amazing how quickly loose change can add up! Just be careful to keep your pampering fund somewhere safe unless you want your money disappearing before you ever get the chance to use it.

There are also tons of inexpensive ways to feel pampered without ever having to worry about money. Here are some ideas for pampering without breaking the bank:

-Give yourself an at-home manicure and pedicure. You can even have a pampering party. Get your friends together and take turns polishing each others nails. Each person can bring their supplies, and you can have fun trying out the different products.

-Turn your bath time into a spa experience. Play some soft music. Light a few candles. Make yourself a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and tell your family that you are to be left alone for the next hour. As you lie in your bath, imagine that the warm water is melting away all of your cares, leaving you peaceful and radiant.

-While washing your hair, give yourself a relaxing head massage just like they do in the salons. Work up a good lather, pretend your hands belong to somebody else, and enjoy as you rub your scalp, neck, and shoulders. What an easy way to pamper yourself every day.

-Get a free makeover at the department store. This is a great idea, as long as you are not person who gets sold easily. Their job is to sell you the products. You should set yourself a budget (perhaps twenty dollars) to spend on one of the products -- this should alleviate any guilt.

-Barter services. Perhaps you know a massage therapist. Is there a service you provide that you can barter with? Babysitting services are always a great swap. Maybe you can watch her kids on a Saturday night if she will give you a massage on Sunday. The same thing works great for hairstylists, or any other beauty service you can think of.

-Have a potluck with your friends and enjoy an afternoon of eating and sharing each others company. You can even spend the day at a park. That way nobody feels that they have to play host.

Don’t lose sight of the simple ways to pamper every day, such as taking a few minutes to meditate or sit in silence, allowing yourself some time to read, or going to bed an hour early in order to get some extra rest. Make it a point each and every day to do something that is just for you. Something meant to feed your own spirit and soul.

Putting yourself at the top of the list may feel uncomfortable at first. Maybe you can’t even remember the last time you did something just for you. The important thing is to start taking steps toward this new attitude. Taking care of yourself is not just about pampering yourself physically, it is about treating yourself with the respect that you deserve. As you do, the people in your life will follow suit.

Don’t make the mistake of living you life in a supporting role. Our time here is fleeting. If you put your own desires aside, waiting for the right timing, your chance for personal fulfillment may come and go. This is your life. You are in the leading role. It is time to live it like the star that you are!

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Espich is a manager and coach for a Fortune 500 company. She is the author of "Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams". Her book has been highly recommended by Library Journal. Lisa facilitates workshops based on the principles in her book. She is also available for one-on-one coaching. To find out more about Lisa, her book, and her services, visit Be sure to download the FREE Guided Meditation on her Homepage.