The Guilt of #Selfcare
Before *gestures* all of this, I was at the grocery store, chatting to the woman beside me. It was late afternoon, she asked me if I had plans for the evening. “I’m going for a massage tonight”, I said, wincing as I picked up the grocery bags.
“Oh! Good for you, self-care is important!”
Her enthusiasm took me back for a moment, I said goodbye and kept thinking about why her cheerful comment made me feel…kind of icky.
Right away, I felt as if I had to justify the reason for the massage, something along the lines of “I need this! I doooo!” and I had to agree with her in her enthusiasm, that yes, self-care is important.
I didn’t think of seeking health care as “self-care”, I thought of it as taking care of myself and trying to find relief for the pain in my shoulder.
#Selfcare is a hashtag that bombards moms all over the place. There are thousands of articles on how to self-care, how to fit self-care into our already busy schedules, how important self-care is for the stressed-out mom. Self-care is a trend that has caught fire and launched into numerous product lines, from the coffee mug to the #selfcare bath bombs.
It feels as if it is another to-do-list item that the mainstream is telling me I need to check off, to achieve while mothering and if I don’t, it is one more thing I am doing wrong with this motherhood gig, right up there with breastfeeding into toddlerhood and not sleep training my children. Moms stress about not getting in their self-care for the day and the question of how to make time for self-care is a popular one in the search rankings.
Activities like, taking a bubble bath, yoga, going for a walk, journaling, knitting, lighting a candle, showering, doing your laundry, organizing your closet and cleaning your home are all frequently labelled as self-care.
It is like, every single thing I do as a mom, that doesn’t have my children as the sole focus is now lauded as #selfcare. Basic hygiene and simple chores have this label attached to them as if I don’t do it just for myself, it doesn’t count or matter.
Massages are awesome and wonderful to seek out, even while not in deliberating pain but the #selfcare shouting makes me feel as if I should be seeking a massage every single day.
Most of these self-care suggestions have me taking time for myself, alone. On top of having a checklist to run through, I now have to find childcare to do it all within, and that kind of self-care is not one I am interested in and impossible for me to achieve.
Self-care has been made out to be individualistic, it is a paradigm that takes me away from my loves and other people, the strong implication of self-care is that it is something I undertake alone.
When I got to the stage where I could grab a shower in the morning, while my two children were home, it felt like hitting a huge milestone. It was awesome, I texted my entire contact list balloon emoticons and smiley faces; there is a lot to be said for showering alone, with a closed bathroom door.
Showering aside, the concept of self-care is to look after the physical and mental wellbeing of yourself. The individualistic paradigm of #selfcare can let you down if you are wired to look after others.
If parts of your wellbeing and happiness comes from being a useful human to other people, the self-care trend leaves you out in the cold. Why can’t my self-care be to look after my friends’ children? To send a meal over to the single working mom I know? To help a neighbour clean their home? These activities where I can get out of my headspace, take my attention off the needs of my family to be useful to others, gives me back a different kind of energy.
Taking on these tasks gives me attention back, they make me feel seen, they make me feel useful outside of my sphere and they fill me up, in the way a bubble bath doesn’t.
These activities fall into the category of being “selfless” and selfless, doesn’t have the hype of how to go about it with the zest that #selfcare has brought. Self-care screams at you not to be selfless when to me, it is selfish of me to carve out the time I need to be available to be of use to others.
And maybe it is because the word selfish brings up so many negative connotations and certainly when you put it next to “mother” that #selfcare is here to stay.
I spend an immense amount of time with my children. There are weeks where the only other adult I talk to is my husband. I am all for taking breaks and finding things that preserve my mental and physical well being.
And maybe for me, self-care comes down to self-preservation and it comes out of partial necessity because I don’t have a lot of childcare and comes out of how I wish to mother my children.
I want my children to know how to take care of themselves. This means I show them that I take care of myself. For me, that means simple things like writing in my journal while my children play, having a friend over in the middle of the day among the pile of laundry, taking those showers and it also means going to physio and going to talk to someone when my anxiety gets a strong grip. I want to meet my children’s bids for connections and meet their needs and the best way I have found to do that is to meet mine too.
Sometimes that means saying to my children, “Yes I will play Catan with you! What a great way to start our day. First, I’m going to make a cup of coffee. Do you want to press the button?”
At six am, my need for coffee is pretty fierce.
Self-preservation is a beautiful thing.