Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, self-care has become all the rage. Do a quick internet search for ways to overcome baby blues, balancing our roles as women; being a better wife, being a better stay at home mom, being a better career mom or a mix of all of the above. The catch all, cure all response to any seems to be, “Take some time for self-care” or “Make sure to schedule in your ‘me time'”. I just did a quick Instagram search on #selfcare and over 23 MILLION posts on this topic have been shared.
At first glance, these seem like great suggestions and they certainly have value and I certainly hope you have time for self-care activities. But, can these suggestions amount to band-aid fixes? The longer I do this mom thing, the more I think so. Naturally, as a first time mom, who also works outside of the home, I’ve been told to make sure I have enough “me time” at nauseam. As I see the world now through the fresh lenses of mom eyes, I can’t help but feel that this self-care movement has gotten blown out of proportion.
Before I dive deeper into this. Please understand, I absolutely see the value of taking time for yourself. As an introvert I especially recognize how rejuvenating alone time is. My hesitance with jumping on board with this whole “me, me, me” craze is that it needs to be just one small piece of balancing our lives and mental health.
This does not seem to be the focus of our society though. Maybe we are trying to cover for the lack of genuine support offered. The prevailing mindset at the moment seems to be, “If it doesn’t make you happy, let it go. Take time to do what makes you happy.” “All hail self-care!” Yes. Absolutely. Take time to nourish your mind, body and soul whatever that looks like for you. Yes. If something is making you unhappy address it. But “let it go”. Really? Every single time?
Should you really let something go just because it makes you unhappy? Sometimes my daughter makes me unhappy. Sometimes my job makes me unhappy. Sometimes my husband makes me unhappy. Sometimes I make myself unhappy. Sometimes eating an entire pint of ice cream makes my stomach unhappy. Should I just let all those things go? No. I don’t think so.
You may be saying, “You are blowing this way out of proportion.” Maybe I am. Maybe this isn’t you specifically. I feel pretty confident though, that you can think of at least one person who has taken the “self care” attitude to an extreme. This person has prioritized themselves to the detriment of their genuine contentment. Now, doesn’t that seem ridiculous!? Is their “me time” just a way of avoiding conflict, confrontation or dealing with the root of their unhappiness? Instead of turning inward only and focusing on yourself, let’s try and look out to others. Find your support system. Get to the root of what is needed.
You can polish your nails to perfection, scrub those feet to total smoothness, soak in all the salts. The caveat. Don’t fool yourself into thinking these will be what improves your parenting, your marriage, your career or your mental well being. The only way to truly improve all of these areas is to change something. We are not meant to journey through life alone. We all need support. I loathe asking for help. It hurt my pride. If you want to improve your mental health, the first step is to have a conversation (possibly an uncomfortable one) with your family / support system and share that.
My husband and I had this conversation a few weeks ago and it was horribly uncomfortable, partly because I despise confrontation. He called me out, rightfully so, on projecting all my frustrations onto him. “Well I can’t blame Adaline” was my horribly lame comeback to this. Thankfully (I’m not always thankful), once he gets on a topic of conversation he absolutely cannot let it go until it’s been discussed. So, I expressed my feelings.
“I feel that my job responsibilities always take a back burner. I’m only ever able to get work done when Adaline is napping or after she goes to bed and I’m completely burnt out. I want to be able to get work done during normal hours so I have time to decompress at night.” When something comes up with his work, he easily goes and gets it done. As much as our daughter loves him, she only insists on being attached to my hip every waking (and sleeping) moment.
I have a job that is about 50% direct service, so half of my responsibilities need to be managed and completed at home. Let me tell you, I can’t get a single stinking thing done when I’m working at home. Case in point, as I wrote that sentence, my daughter came into the office and asked for “teta”. That’s her request to nurse. The struggle is real ya’ll.
As much as I’d love to say, since our conversation I have all the time in the world to get my work done and my stress is now gone, that would be a lie. But, we were able to come up with a solution that has helped the situation and we will continue to revisit it as needed. As much as my dry, calloused feet (sorry, TMI?) need some “self care” this would reduce my stress level by zero. What helped was communicating with my support system and making a change.
If you don’t have a support system I encourage you to prioritize finding one. I would love if my parents watch our daughter full time while I work, but that is not currently an option. This was a huge stressor for me when my hours at work increased. Thankfully, I have met some wonderful mom’s through our local online groups including the momma who watches our daughter. I had to find an additional support system. It did not just come to me magically.
Happiness. Contentment. All the feel good feelings. They require a lot of work. They require trial and error and a give and take with you and your circle. Motherhood will always be a roller coaster of emotions, but to truly enjoy the ride you need to know someone is there to catch you when your are sailing down that hill. You cannot
Here’s what I hope you take from these midnight musings of mine.
- Take time to recharge, it is absolutely needed.
- More importantly, take time to be harshly honest with yourself and your circle about how you can best be supported. You deserve support.
- Determine ways you can work together with your family and friends so that you can make long term changes to help with your stress level and life balance.
- If you are struggling with anxiety, depression or any type of mental health issue, please ask for help. Do not try and self-care your feelings away.
- I’m happy to be a listening ear if you feel alone. Please reach out.