I’m a big fan of “hashtag” speak. Even though I’m in my thirties, I still get a kick out of #treatyoself when justifying something or #blessed when I’m being ironic about an event in my life – and let’s be clear, this is not on social media. This is coming out of my mouth. It is humorous to me which means it’s probably one of the most uncool things I do. I’m OK with that.
But one hashtag always gives me pause because I really don’t get it. I mean, I understand what #SelfCare is on a tangible level. It’s an instagram pic of someone’s pedicured toes popping out of a bubble bath – #selfcare.
Or maybe a giant glass of wine after a rough day – #selfcare.
But what does self-care really look like? Is it really a tangible thing?
A glass of wine, a massage, or a pedicure? While I enjoy all of those things, I really don’t equate them with self care. If I carve out an hour to break away to get a pedicure, I may be sitting in a chair enjoying time alone but I’m not relaxed. Sure – I’m enjoying not hearing “MOMMY” yelled across the house, but I’m still thinking about the things on my to-do list, my kids, my husband, what I have to do at the house when I get back, etc.
It all just feels so short-lived. Like this tangible self care is a short term solution to a long term problem.
Or worse – when I take a few moments to myself and text my husband to let him know that I’m on my way back and I get a terse “thank goodness” – alerting me that not all is well. That the kids are having a difficult time. That he needs a break. And instantly any feeling of peace and “self care” I might have mustered during my time away unravels and slips from my grasp. It’s undone.
Immediately the mom-brain kicks in.
Why did he have to say that? What could I have done to prevent this? What am I heading home to? I’m going to be thrown into the pit the moment I walk into the door.
But you know what? My husband isn’t asking me to feel those feelings. He is simply making a statement. It’s rough. Parenting is rough. Sometimes the kids are perfectly content. Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes mom (or dad) leaves at the worst possible moment and there is literally zero way to plan for that (no matter how hard my mom-brain tries). And it’s no one’s fault – no matter how hard that is to accept.
As mothers, we have a constant, knee-jerk reaction to take care of others and place everyone’s needs above our own. We are often told to be mindful of this – take time for yourself. Practice self care.
But I’ve finally realized my unease with #selfcare. And I’m here to say that it’s not enough.
The real and true self care? It’s releasing the need to take care of everyone all of the time. A “get out of mom jail card” to allow myself to be selfish every now and then. To not jump up the minute I hear “MOMMY.” To not feel guilty when I don’t. To not sign up for something at school or work – and be ok with it. To not accept others’ feelings as my own or my responsibility. To know when to call it quits and to accept where I am in life.
The real self care is intangible and it’s messy, hard work. It goes so far beyond the temporary respite you receive from a glass of wine or hour long massage. Self care is about taking care of yourself in the emotional sense – not just the physical. Because it’s the emotional things that take the biggest toll. Sure, getting a massage or having your hair done could give you emotional well-being, for a time (and trust, I’m not giving up my hair coloring anytime soon). But for me, I need more than that. Because I give so, so much more than that.
Parents give so, so much more than that.
If we could learn to love and treat ourselves as we treat our children and partners, with absolute abandon and acceptance, then I think we will have totally nailed this self care game. This emotional “get out of mom jail” card will take us so much farther than that ‘grammable bubble bath.