“Self Care” is a term that is being thrown around a lot these days. For some reason, it seems to be something that comes up regularly in my social media feed encouraging women to “put yourself first; fill up your cup or else you won’t be able to fill anyone else’s; you deserve to be pampered.” This is all true but it feels like just one more thing I have to add to my to-do list. It doesn’t help that most of the ‘self care options’ that are thrown at me always take a lot of time and money. It seems like you’re not doing self care properly if you’re not getting regular massages, pedicures, girls weekends, or daily bubble baths, meditation, and exercise.
Self care is multi-faceted, constantly changing, and very individualized. I listed to a podcast recently by Glennon and Amanda Doyle called We Can Do Hard Things- Self Care: How Do We Identify Our Real Needs and Finally Get Them Met that defined self care simply as “meeting your needs.” They go into self care very deeply but I think this definition is spot on. They discuss that the hard part of self care is that it requires us to figure out what our needs are and then how we can meet them. I think mothers have an especially hard time figuring out what our needs are because we become so consumed with raising our children, being a good wife, a good employee, and doing all the things for everyone else, that we lose ourselves. We forget what keeps our soul happy and what fills us up outside of our children. When I had Emmelyn, (pre-covid) people were always reaching out and telling me to call if I needed anything or my Mom would be here asking what I needed and I never even knew what to say. I didn’t know what I needed at that time and if I did have some idea, I was usually too proud to ask for help. After Emmelyn was about a year old, I wasn’t as busy with her and I was able to start figuring out what my needs are and how to make them a priority. I’ve learned that self care doesn’t have to be big. It can be small things throughout the week or even just one small thing in the day that I do for myself. When I’m consistent on doing these things, I’ve noticed I’m happier, more patient, my body doesn’t get run down, and in general I’m a more fun Mom and kinder wife.
The amount of self care we do changes with the seasons, the amount of time we have, and what’s going on in our lives. It is individual to each of us. What fills me up, doesn’t work for my husband. Self care can range from reading a good book, having a clean house, journaling, setting boundaries with family and friends in your life, going to a job you enjoy, taking a hot shower, getting a pedicure, having a deep conversation with a friend, de-cluttering your house, saying no to an invitation, and accomplishing a goal or a project. I made a list of what self care looks like for me about a year ago and a lot has changed from what my list would be today. In this season of my life, self care activities are pretty simple: enjoying a hot coffee before the kids wake up (or just one of them), having a long hot shower while my husband watches the kids, eating junk food and eating nutritious meals, relaxing in the evening after the kids go to bed even if it means going to bed later, making the kids giggle, going for walks with my kids without being in a rush, having good conversations with my husband and girlfriends, having laundry put away, working on something that isn’t kid-related, keeping up with my journal, writing, listening to podcasts, dancing and singing, learning new things, and any kind of alone time. I encourage you to make a list of what self care looks like for you and try to incorporate some of these things into your day or week. When you’re making this list, remember that we can keep it very simple and fast and we can include our kids in our self-care activities. It doesn’t always have to be something we do alone (but alone time is my favourite!). As Glennon says in the podcast, “take a minute or two or longer every single day to visit your soul and not your roles.” Just take a minute to remember who you are outside of your kids. Even if it is just one minute in the day, it is important to do this so when your kids become older and more independent, you can revisit yourself and not feel completely lost.
When you’re making your list it might be helpful to write down what your list of negotiable and non-negotiable activities are. The non-negotiable items are what you make a priority everyday or every few days and the negotiable items might be what you can do just once a month, for example. Making your non-negotiables into a daily habit has been very helpful for me. I try hard to read a bit of my book every night before I go to sleep. I try to write in my One Line A Day journal often enough that I keep up with it. On days when I’m counting the minutes until my husband gets home, I put on some music and have a dance party. Almost instantly, this puts me and the kids in a better mood. But at this time in my life, taking time alone to do bigger things is more difficult than it will be when my kids are older. For example, regular massages is something I would love to do consistently and right now that isn’t an option because of childcare and other factors, but in a year or two, it might be something I can prioritize for myself.
There are so many ways to include a bit of self-care throughout the day and the research is showing that it’s healthy and completely necessary for us. I’ve been reading the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. They have done a lot of research on why women are so tired, burned out, and stressed and have looked at the science on what we need to do to prevent this. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot of things including good relationships, rest, completing the stress cycle, and releasing the thinking that we have to do it all. Unfortunately our culture has designed a lot of things to be working against us. They write a significant amount on how the patriarchy has contributed to the culture of thinking that to be good women, you have to be productive all the time and prioritize everyone else above yourself. You’re not a good mother if you’re not exhausted all the time and you must have your house, yourself, and your kids looking like you’ve always got things perfectly together. The sisters in the podcast also have a conversation about how we “don’t take care of our emotional selves because we’re taught not to. Don’t hurt someone else’s feelings even if it means abandoning your own.” Society celebrates selflessness and women that look like they have it all together even though in the long run, this is hurting more people than it’s helping. Thankfully, I think this cultural way of thinking is changing. All the pressure to put ourselves first that I’m seeing on social media and advertisements is a good thing in some ways. It reminds us that we can and SHOULD take care of ourselves so we can prevent stress, burnout, and sickness. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend reading the book mentioned above. It is an easy read, research-based, interesting, and very informative.
I hope you’re all taking some time for yourself with things that bring you joy. Again, take a minute to remember who you are outside of your children. For me this usually looks like writing, singing or dancing in the kitchen (with no one watching of course) or sometimes just sitting in silence. Even if it is just one minute in the day, it is important to do this for yourself and it’s great for your kids to see you happy. It’s good for them to see us doing things for ourselves so they learn that it is okay to not do everything for everyone else all the time. I want my daughter to know what she wants, how to get it, and not feel bad about it. So lose the guilt, figure out what you need, and treat yourself. You’ll be a better person for it.