The idea of self-care seems to be popular. You can browse Pinterest, any website or magazine aimed at women and I guarantee you will find an article on the importance of self-care.
Taking time for yourself and prioritizing yourself is always advertised to women.
This is especially true in the new year as we are bombarded with the latest secrets to happiness, fulfillment and how to make this year the best yet!
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for making ourselves better.
I’m a big fan of self-care too. Five out of five stars. In fact, it took me many years and a little (OK — a lot) of therapy to realize that self-care is key to emotional well-being. No one can pour from an empty cup.
When I was a new mom, my self-care was non-existent. I was a nursing machine, obsessed with this new squirming, squishy being that demanded my constant attention. And I was convinced that my husband couldn’t do anything right.
That. I was one of those new moms.
Only when I matured, had a few more children and realized that my husband was not only capable, but also the father of my children, so the children were also his responsibility, did I start researching what I need as a person to feel whole.
It turns out that self-care isn’t just important; it was crucial to my survival.
With depression and anxiety in my DNA, I had to learn how to balance new motherhood with my mental illness. And a major factor in finding that balance was realizing that I wasn’t just pouring from an empty cup; I poured from an empty cup in the Sahara desert. There was no water in sight, and I was still somehow drowning.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve learned to look for what I need. I have learned that I need more time away from my children than I thought.
I’ve learned that I need quiet hours (yes, hours) alone to revive my introverted little heart and soul. It turned out that without taking care of myself, I became angry and resentful, not to mention depressed and anxious, lashing out at everyone around me.
In short, without taking care of myself, I was a shell of a human being.
However, pretty Instagram accounts and Facebook mom groups seem to be sending a subtle message about self-care that is misleading and downright harmful. Message? Basic human needs are self-care.
We’ve seen funny memes and captions lamenting how long our husbands spend in the bathroom doing their jobs, yet a mom will announce that her bathroom time is a little break from her kids.
Or, how about the message that a trip to Target alone is self-care?
I’m sorry, but traveling alone to Target is nice (and sometimes quite enjoyable), but it’s also usually filled with my mental list of things my family needs.
My husband ran out of deodorant. Does my daughter need new socks? Didn’t she ask for white? Do we have eggs at home for dinner later? Have we run out of dog food?
It’s okay if you like going to Target alone and that’s your form of self-care. But let’s not mask it to give praise to those around us for giving us some freaking free time.
I am so tired of the basic human needs that women tout as their favorite form of self care.
Eating a meal or a hot cup of coffee should not be a form of self-care. Taking a hot shower is not self-care. Going to the bathroom is not self-care. Chasing after a toddler in the park is not an exercise you can call self-care. Taking five, ten, or even thirty minutes alone to think or a moment of silence to collect your thoughts is not self-care. Taking sick leave when you are sick is not taking care of yourself.
I could go on, but these are some of the many things I hear women say they do to take care of themselves. These are not self-care activities, but basic human rights that we all deserve.
And honestly, taking care of yourself takes a little more thought and effort than folding laundry with AirPods in your ears while listening to a book on tape.
It’s not self-care; it’s multi-tasking.
As women, our workload is often so heavy that we expect taking time for ourselves to equal self-care.
However, this is not always the case. Psych Central defines self-care as “any activity we do intentionally to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”
But what I found even more fascinating was what they say is NOT: “It’s not something we force ourselves to do or something we don’t enjoy. As Agnes Wainman explained, self-care is ‘something that fuels us, not takes away from us’.”
Does just going to the toilet fill you with energy? How about shopping for your family yourself? How about going to your room for a 15 minute power nap after being up all night with a colicky baby?
If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing the answer is a big no.
Women need to stop naming activities that don’t bring them joy or encourage them to take care of themselves.
In general, I think men are better at recognizing self-care needs.
My husband knows that just moving the yard is not his concern. That. Maybe it’s a slightly nicer feeling than being in there with three whey kids, but it’s still not enough.
Instead, he recognizes that his self-care is intentionally scheduling time for himself to do something physical like climbing mountains or riding a bike. It is deliberate and planned. It serves only him. And he doesn’t multitask in his mind 23 other things in the process.
It’s time for women to ask themselves what they actively do to take care of themselves — something that has nothing to do with the rest of the people in their lives that they serve at home or at work.
Women should ask themselves daily: What am I doing on purpose, planned and just for my own sake to fuel my mind, body and soul?
Let’s stop pretending we take care of ourselves when we don’t. Not only does it harm our mental and physical well-being, but it sends the wrong message to those around us, including our children.
Your children need to know what real self-care looks like.
If you ask your partner to go to the grocery store alone and YOU call it self-care, they’ll always think that’s all you need to fuel up, recharge, and survive.
Women: stop doing this to yourself. Stop convincing yourself that your morning coffee is enough to get you through the day. Stop implying that a moment of peace and happiness brings you a moment to yourself in the bathroom with the door closed.
Basic human rights are not self-care.
So when you make your resolutions this year, make sure that when you write about self-care, it’s just that – self-care. No trip to the supermarket will fill you up or rejuvenate you in the long run.
It’s more likely that they’ll just push you through the next five hours, and you’ll still be wandering the desert of life with an empty cup.
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