The Thing About Self-Care
Every year, just before the holidays, I see tons of new articles about self-care come out every day. And every year, I roll my eyes — because none of them are real. Almost without fail, they trumpet the message that “moms need self-care” and “it’s time for moms to take care of themselves” (good messages, mind you) with nothing but flimsy suggestions about how busy moms can actually take care of themselves.
It’s all a bit… vacuous.
To my mind, most articles about parents’ self care are either promoting unnecessary products (that foot massager you just have to buy, or the “pamper yourself” basket filled with overpriced spa-esque products that don’t work, smell weird, or inevitably wind up in the trash bin (or all three)).
Not only that^^, but many self-care entreaties have somehow managed to turn self-care into just one more thing that moms are expected to do. (Don’t we have enough already?) In turn, many outlets promote the message that self-care must also be self-betterment (Exercise more! Read more! Meditate! Bake something!); and many others that treat self-care as a one-time, temporary indulgence — a manicure, a quick dose of retail therapy, or a 15-minute face mask, for example — are missing the bigger picture… because when your facial is over, all the stresses of motherhood are still right there, waiting for you.
Don’t even get me started on all the self-care “experts” telling parents to get more sleep. I don’t think parents are statistically getting less sleep than childfree adults by choice…
My point is this: let’s not put more pressure on ourselves, fellow parents. Let’s let self-care be that which actually serves us — not just one additional thing to check off your to-do list.
In the interest of keeping things real, we’ve put together five simple everyday changes that go beyond those one-off moments and are guaranteed to *actually help lighten your load.
And for the record — if a good mani-pedi or a candlelit bath or reading a book by a fire does do something for you, then by all means! Just remember that self-care should be about taking care of yourself, not speeding up the proverbial productivity wheel.
Without further ado:
1. Do Something for YOU Every Day
Make this something you enjoy and relish — and don’t worry about whether it’s educational or useful or otherwise related to self-improvement. No, pick something small and achievable that you love, and don’t waste any breath over wondering what anyone else thinks of it. Whether it’s five minutes or twenty, whether it’s watching something on Netflix or staying in your sweatpants all day, having a five-minute dance party by yourself or hiding in the bathroom to play Wordle (just as a hypothetical example…), find something that feels like a treat to you and try to work it into your routine.
2. Take Help Where You Can — And Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
For many of us, it feels incredibly uncomfortable to ask for help and to accept it — but the sooner you can get over that, the better.
As someone who still struggles with this, I try to think of it this way: I know there are people in my life who want to help and offer support, but unless I tell them what I need, they may not be able to (or take a guess, and wind up unintentionally imposing). In my experience, people actually love being asked for help — especially when it’s specific; and I’ve never had anyone scoff at a request. It’s a hard habit to break, I know, but start small. Ask a friend to hold the baby while you go to the bathroom; ask your partner to prep a bottle; ask your neighbor if they can help with carpooling. For moms of young children, even the seemingly smallest measures often are often the biggest sources of help.
And while we’re on the subject, don’t be afraid to take shortcuts. We actually don’t need to do it all, it turns out. Maybe you opt for disposable flatware for your next picnic, or use a digital app to make your scrapbook, or let the Roomba vacuum the floor, or (gasp) buy baby food (the kind to get is Amara — it’s just like homemade without all the work!) — these aren’t “cheating” and they’re not any less than. If it works for you, don’t overthink it!
3. Say No
It’s allowed, I checked.
So many moms are chronic over-extenders. It can be hard to say no — whether it’s to a new project at work, or running the annual community parade, or attending your college friend’s sister’s wedding, or hosting the family for Christmas dinner — but the more you do it the easier it becomes. And the more meaningful it is when you say yes.
4. Connect With Someone In Your Support System Regularly
Whether you are introverted (🙋🏻♀️) or extraverted, connecting with people you care about — and that care about you — is so important for mental health. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, I think we all came to see how much losing human connectivity impacted us.
Whether it’s your sister, your neighbor, a fellow mom you know from day care, or whomever, try making a connection with someone else regularly for a serious dose of happiness.
5. Indulge Your Senses
Pick a sense (touch, taste, smell, hear, see) and do something that pampers it. This is a great way to lean into a sensory experience that’s pleasing and exploratory (and dare I say, meditative) while still being incredibly simple and achievable. Here are a few ideas just to show you what I mean:
- Taste — Indulge in some kind of culinary “treat” or a new flavor; or perhaps revisit a nostalgic flavor from your past
- Hear — Listen to music that you like; find five minutes of silence; go outside and listen to the woods/street/weather, etc.
- Touch — Keep a token or fidget that’s easy and fun to feel… think of it like the equivalent of a grown-up comfort blanket, hah.
- Sight — Take a few minutes to look at something that makes you feel happy (could be pictures on your phone, a piece of artwork, the tree outside your window, whatever).
- Smell — Indulge in something that you love the scent of — it could be a candle or hand lotion, perfume or a spice or a recipe…
None of these things^^ is going to alleviate us parents’ stresses — for that we’ll need community engagement and a fresh cultural mindset toward supporting parents — but hopefully there is something here that clicks with you. In the meantime, let us know what you’re doing to serve yourself this season… you deserve it.
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