Self care is likely that term you’ve seen flying around social media these days. The one urging you to get a facial or drink some fancy latte. Well, self care is actually much more than that and it deserves a bit more attention.
Self care originated as a tool for marginalized groups who were fighting back from oppression. As poet, feminist and activist Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. Fundamentally, the concept of self care is that if you are not well yourself, you won’t be able to care for others effectively and that caring for yourself shows others attempting to oppress you that you, too, are worthy.
Why do we see this resurgence of self care targeted towards mothers and women? Well, for one, it’s not an easy time to be a mom. The Pew Research Centre found in their 2012 study that women these days not only hold more leadership roles in higher paying positions than in the 1960, they also spend more time with their kids. The same study found that most people believe that the ideal situation is for a mother to either stay home full time with her children or work part time. If you put all that together, you realize that many mothers are bending over backwards to work and be a present parent but we’re still not viewed as doing things “right”. “Mom guilt” is not a benign Facebook meme; it’s a real and very toxic feeling for mothers these days. Women are under constant pressure to work as though they don’t have families but raise their families as if they don’t have jobs.
The self care that we’re referring to goes well beyond treating yourself to a glass of wine or pedicure (fun, yes but not really at the depth with which we need to go). We’re referring to creating a mindset that enables you to say no when necessary to others and say yes to yourself more often. It’s not about being selfish; quite the contrary, self care is about nurturing yourself so you can be better equipped to help others. It’s also about rejecting this notion that we must be everything to everyone at all times. We cannot reasonably be expected to be superhero moms, doing it all with great hair and a smile.
Need some self care tips?
- Say “No” as often as you’d like. Have you been asked to volunteer for something at your kid’s school but you really don’t have the time? Say no. Have you been invited to dinner but you’d really rather just stay home? Say no. The opportunities to help out and see others will be there again. You can give a better part of yourself when you’ve got the willingness behind it.
- Devise a mantra for when you need it. To ensure you take good care of yourself, you need to work on it when the pressure isn’t on. That means identifying situations in which you often overextend yourself and prepare in advance to minimize them. Developing a mantra can help. A small, short phrase that you can repeat to yourself when the pressure to go above and beyond is strong. Something as simple as “my self care is not selfish” can work just fine.
- Dedicate spot in your house just for you. This doesn’t have to be a whole room, a simple photo on the fridge or near your bed can work. Just a place that can remind you of the importance of taking care of yourself. While in your space, you can repeat your mantra so that when you’re confronted by a situation in which you feel yourself and your wellbeing being threatened, you can find the inner strength needed to stand your ground.
- Schedule your own appointments with as much value as your schedule your other commitments. This means keeping that gym class or doctor’s appointment even if other things come up. That’s certainly a hard one as we’re often taught to “put others first” but we will repeat it again and again: taking care of yourself is not selfish. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your friends and family is put yourself first.