It seems that the idea of taking care of yourself is popular. You can browse Pinterest, any website or magazine that targets women, and I guarantee you will find an article on the importance of taking care of yourself.
Taking time for yourself and making yourself a priority is always marketed to women.
This is especially true in this new year, as we are bombarded with the last secrets of happiness, fulfillment and making this the best year yet!
I am all for improving ourselves.
I am also a huge fan of personal care. Five out of five stars. In fact, it took me many years and a little (okay – a lot) of therapy to realize that taking care of yourself is essential to your emotional well-being. No one can pour into an empty cup, can they?
When I was a new mom, my own personal care was non-existent. I was a breastfeeding machine, consumed by this new spongy, spongy being that needed my constant attention, and I was convinced that my husband could not do anything right.
Yes. I was one of those new moms.
It wasn’t until I matured, had a few more children under my roof, and realized that my husband was not only capable, but actually the father of my children and that the children were therefore also under his responsibility that I started to explore what I needed. as a person to feel whole.
It turns out that personal care wasn’t just important; it was crucial for my survival.
With depression and anxiety in my DNA, I had to learn to balance the new motherhood with my mental illness, and a key factor in finding that balance was realizing that I wasn’t just pouring out of an empty cup, I was poured from an empty cup in the Sahara desert. There was no water in sight and I was still drowning.
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve learned to ask for what I need. I have learned that I need more time away from my children than I realized.
I’ve learned that I need quiet hours (yes hours) alone to revive my introverted little heart and soul. It turns out that without taking care of myself, I got angry and resentful, not to mention depression and anxiety, picking on everyone around me.
In short, without personal care, I was a shell of a human being.
However, there appears to be a subtle post on the pretty Instagram accounts and Facebook mom groups on self-care that is misleading and downright damaging. The message? That basic human needs are personal care.
We’ve seen the funny memes and captions lamenting how long our husbands spend in the bathroom doing their business, yet one mom will post that her bathroom time is a mini vacation from her kids.
Or, how about the message that a trip to Target alone is self-care?
I’m sorry, but a trip to Target alone is enjoyable (and sometimes quite enjoyable), but it’s also usually always filled with my mental checklist of things my family needs.
My husband has run out of deodorant.
Does my daughter need new socks? Didn’t she ask for white?
Do we have eggs at home for dinner later? Are we running out of dog food?
It’s fine if you really enjoy going to Target on your own and it’s your form of self-care, but don’t disguise it as such to congratulate those around us for giving us some free time.
I’m so fed up with basic human needs being presented by women as their preferred form of self-care.
Eating a meal or having a hot cup of coffee shouldn’t be a form of self-care.
Taking a hot shower is not taking care of yourself.
Going to the bathroom is not taking care of yourself.
Running after a toddler at the park is not an exercise you can call self-care.
Taking five, ten, or even thirty minutes alone to think or have a quiet moment to collect your thoughts is not taking care of yourself.
Taking a sick day 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. It is not personal care, it is basic human rights that we all deserve.
And frankly, 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 multitasking.
Very often as women our load is so great that we expect taking time for ourselves to be the equivalent of taking care of ourselves.
However, this is not always the case. Psych Central defines self-care this way,
“Personal care is any activity we do on purpose in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. “
But, what I found even more fascinating is what they say self-care is NOT:
“It’s not something we force ourselves to do or something we don’t like to do. As Agnes Wainman explained, taking care of yourself is “something that fuels us, rather than taking us away.”
Going to the bathroom alone fills you up? How about shopping for your family on your own? How about going to your bedroom for a 15 minute nap after being up all night with a colicky child?
If you’re like me, I guess the answer is a big no.
Women need to stop calling out self-care activities that don’t bring joy or energy.
In general, I think men are better able to recognize their own personal care needs.
My husband knows that mowing the garden alone is not part of his care. Yes, it might be a little nicer than being indoors with three whiny kids, but it’s still not taking care of yourself.
Instead, he acknowledges that his self-care deliberately allows time for himself to do something physical like climb mountains or take a bike ride. It’s intentional and planned. It is only for him. And he’s not multitasking on his mind 23 other things in the process.
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It’s time for women to ask themselves what they are actively doing to take care of themselves, which 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 on a daily basis: what am I doing that is intentional, planned, and only to energize my mind, body and soul?
Let’s stop pretending that we take care of ourselves when we don’t. Not only does this harm our own mental and physical well-being, it sends the wrong message to those around us. Including our children.
Your kids need to know what real personal care looks like.
If you ask your partner to go to the grocery store on their own and YOU call it self-care, they’ll always think that’s all you need to refuel, recharge, and survive.
Women: stop doing this to yourself. Stop convincing yourself that a cup of coffee in the morning is enough to take care of yourself to get you through the day.
Stop suggesting that if you have a moment to yourself in your bathroom with the door closed and locked, it brings you some peace and happiness.
Basic human rights are not self-care.
So when you’re making your resolutions this year, or doing your bullet journal or filling out your diary, make sure that when you take care of yourself, that really is it: take care of yourself.
No number of trips to the grocery store alone will fill you up or rejuvenate you in the long run.
It’s more likely than not that they’ll take you through the next five hours and you’re still wandering the wilderness of life with an empty cup.
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Meredith Ethington is an award winning writer, author of the book, Mom Life: Pending perfection. It has been posted on numerous sites including Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, Momtastic, CafeMom, and has been featured in Parents Magazine.
This article originally appeared on Pending perfection. Reprinted with permission from the author.