My husband asked me why I insist on doing all the dishes and cleaning the kitchen before bed. While I do have some OCD tendencies, I can vividly remember when my four children were very little, and I would let the dishes pile up in the sink. I would wake up in the morning depressed at the sight of a sink full of dirty dishes and needy babies and toddlers. I remember being angry with myself for not helping the morning me out. It was as if the me from the night before was a different person than the me in the now. I would think, “Really? You couldn’t cut me a break and just do the dishes, so I could have at least a running start this morning?

As I have matured, I have taken on a little mantra that has really served me well and my general mood. “Be kind to your future self, Kimberlee.”

So, while it may seem compulsive, I actually am coming from a great deal of love when I do the dishes at night. I know that getting three high schoolers, one middle schooler and one grade schooler off in the morning all before 7:00 am is no easy task, especially since I am not a morning person. When I walk into the kitchen and everything is clean and organized, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my past self. My past self and now self have a much happier, healthier relationship than when I was in my thirties. My past self is kind and compassionate with my now/future self, and my now/future self is incredibly grateful for the thoughtfulness and kindness my past self repeatedly offers me.

I have even offered this strategy to my teens who love to procrastinate homework until Sunday night. I plant the seed that if they did a little homework on Saturday, their Sunday self will be incredibly grateful instead of resenting Saturday self for watching Spongebob all day.

This may seem odd to establish some compassion and kindness for your different selves throughout time, and yet it can be incredibly powerful. How often do we tell our young adult children to care for their bodies because when they turn 50 they might really regret the ruining knees by playing football like a maniac or being a dancer who has little regard for recurrent injuries. The binge drinking, sleepless nights, and stress also plays a toll on one’s long term health. So why not consider learning to manage stress at a young age and stave off some age related illnesses?

People under the age of 25 typically have difficulty considering future consequences (one reason why you can’t rent a car until you are 25). We as parents can teach our children to be more mindful that their teeth have to last a lifetime and root canals aren’t fun. So, oral hygiene is important even when you are 12. So is a healthy food and sleep diet.

When I integrated the “Be kind to your future self,” commandment, I cured my procrastination (seriously!). In school and college, I was a notorious procrastinator. I had my learning challenges and school performance was incredibly important to me. I was in a constant state of procrastinating because the school work was hard and then hating myself for procrastinating because it compromised the quality of my work. It was not a happy time.

Because I am a kind and compassionate person, I had little difficulty doing for others. In fact, I would often do too much for others to my own detriment. Many moms suffer from the inability to say no because they are just plain exhausted. It just doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse, because we don’t care for ourselves the way we should. We know intellectually this makes no sense, but we do it anyway.

Let me just say this, you are the most important person on the planet. If you don’t love and care for you, why would anyone else? You are sending out the message that you do not value yourself. This is not attractive to other people. I am not saying become a narcissist. I am saying that caring for yourself will allow you to be a better version of you. You will have more energy and be a happier person. This is very attractive and those around you will enjoy being with you all the more.

So, please, be kind to your future self. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others. If you pass out how can you be of service to anyone?