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Saturday, October 26, 2019

let's talk about self-care

"Make sure to take care of yourself," she said, wrapping her arms around me in an embrace. "Those kids depend on you, gotta fill up the well to give."

I know, I replied, guilt dripping off of me.

I hadn't been taking care of myself. Working nights, kids in bed. Running to various evening activities. Dammit forgot to send a check for school pictures to the pre-school. Checking off items on the to do list. Barely remembering conference calls, let alone their topics. Doctors appointments. Etc. Then the kid's principal calls, you can hear your child crying in the background, a moment of bullying at the playground, you are driving, barely getting home in time for a phone meeting. Can she stay? Does she needs me? Your voice catches. The principal reassures you. You hang up and sob.

Self-care is a topic we all hear about right? The above scenario happens all the time to parents. Young moms, exhausted, trying to see a friend for coffee. "Are you okay? You can't let yourself get so run down! Your baby needs you!" Visiting with relatives over the holidays. The chiding reproach from your family member, "You look tired. Try to get some sleep."

God. Another thing we have to do to be good at life.

So we schedule a massage. Sit and drink coffee until 11am on a quiet Saturday morning. Meet a friend for a glass of wine. Go to bed a half an hour early, even as the milk curdles in the sippy cups in the sink.

Internally though. I am, thinking about the cost of the massage. The hour wasted in the middle of the day that should be spent billing hours. The dishes sitting on the counter while I sip coffee at 11am. The kids who are with a sitter on a Wednesday night, because that is the only time your friend can meet, wondering if the pre-schooler wet his pants again or if the 5th grader got her homework done.

We should be in a thousand places at once doing a thousand things. Lists upon lists. But. I need to recharge, so I can do it all better! That is the internal cry. We try to relax at the massage. We try to not complain about work sitting with the friend. I am relaxing. So I can do better. Be better. Do more. Be more.

Is this self care?

Post-divorce my self-care tended towards a pint of ice cream and Game of Thrones, maybe with an entire bottle of wine (currently up to season 5, you can tell this has been my self-care of choice for awhile).

I would buy myself books. Wander a nice store. Go out to coffee. Try so HARD TO RELAX AND RECHARGE SO I CAN DO IT ALL.

We all get this. Not just divorced moms.

"I've got to get over this cold, otherwise I am never going to make it through this latest round of teething."
"Get some rest. The kids need you."
"You need to get in some therapy, so you can handle all of this."
"Take the afternoon off," your boss says, "I need you at full capacity for the presentation tomorrow."

Missing in all of this.




The self part of self care.

I read something to this affect over the weekend. And its truth startled me.

Self-care has somehow become YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF SO YOU CAN DO BETTER AT TAKING CARE OF OTHERS. Apologies for the all caps. But. God. Right? This is what it is. This obligation to be in top form. This is why it is so acceptable. We have an obligation to be at full capacity. As women, especially. We tend the children. Clean the house. Go to work. Come home. Dinner on the table. Remember to sign the homework slips. ALL OF IT. So, better take care of yourself so you can DO IT ALL.

GAH. Right? This is why we are okay with it!! This is why we are allowed!!

Damn. Its a hard truth.

But, to say no to something, be it serving on the board of yet another fledgling nonprofit, or helping out with your kids school play, or serving store bought cookies at the church get together, instead of homemade because you forgot and didn't have time. That is lazy. Selfish. Not put together.

I say. It is self-care.

Self-care conversations we have today are missing an essential element. SELF.

We need to stop getting a massage or taking the day off or any of it to "recharge so you can fill up your well and give better to all the others around you," so you can "do it all and more and better."

Start doing it for you.

Because you matter.

Say no to the cookie bake-off fundraiser. Get frozen pizza in the middle of the week. Drink coffee until 11am. Get that massage. Take a walk. Make yourself a nice dinner with a glass of wine.

But, don't do it so you can do more do better do it right make everyone happy.

Do it for you.

Because. YOU matter.

And encourage others to do the same. We are all very very well aware that our families, our children, our jobs, need us in top form. A simple change from "Take care of yourself, your kids need their mama," to "take care of yourself, you need yourself," kind of mindset, even as we talk to one another, can start to shift this. We need to give and seek permission from others to self care, as a society, because we need to take care of ourselves, for ourselves.

And by the by, self-care and self-soothing are different. Sometimes Game of Thrones and ice cream is all I can manage. Self-soothing. Sometimes what I really need is to get to the gym. Or hike the bluff overlooking town. Or check off a couple dreaded tasks on the to do list because it takes one more weight off my shoulders. Or write. Or get my butt to my therapist.

Let's care for ourselves because our Self is a precious precious gift. Not because it helps us to be superhumans once again (or simply make it to bedtime.) But because WE matter.

God. It's so much harder though, isn't it? That shift of motivation. It requires what feels selfish, wrong. But I say we all start a movement, of shifting the conversation, giving each other, society, a new perspective of why this is so essential. Because we, as beings, deserve peace, health, fulfillment, joy. And we can't claim those things in our frantic lives if we are constantly under an obligation to "refilling the well" for others.

Okay, doing for others brings joy. I know this, but, the reasons shift when you are centered in yourself. Giving out of energy and love. Not out of a need to do so.

More thoughts on this to come. But please, can we make this a thing?

Much love on a sunny Saturday morning. Take care of YOU today, friends, for YOU.


  1. Sara, reading this is so helpful to me, because I'm in this struggle, too. Thank you.


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