An Uncomplicated Life Blog: Stop Telling Women We Need Self Care

Monday, April 29, 2019

Stop Telling Women We Need Self Care

Self care is all over the internet, and most people know they need to take care of themselves before taking care of others. But most self care ideas are a load of crap! Here's why.


Self care is all over the internet; moms are told they need to do it to be a good mom, women need it for sanity and there are a million Pinterest ideas on what to do to self care effectively. Paint your nails or get a manicure! Take a bubble bath! Read a book! All of that is great, but what if your schedule simply doesn't allow for that? What if you don't have the budget for a massage? What if you need MORE than 15 minutes of alone time a day? I want to do a deep dive into this self care nonsense, and talk about why I think it's a load of bunk to tell women they need a manicure to be a better wife/mom/person. Let's talk about self care, shall we?

Taking a minute to remember some former hobbies: child free and with a glass of wine in hand!

Now, I'm going to talk from the perspective as a mom, since that's what I am, and frankly, that's when life got really crazy for me therefore putting this whole "self care" thing into perspective. Before motherhood, not much of my critique would apply to me personally. Outside of work, my time was mine to spend as I pleased and thanks to higher education and a strong work ethic, I've always had a great paying job. But, I know that's not the case for everyone! Some women need to work several jobs, others need to care for parents or family members after work, others sill struggle saying no and take on too much, leaving too little time for rest and rejuvenation.

My husband is a great guy and really does pull a ton of weight at home. But that doesn't negate the reality that I am with the kids, alone, the bulk of the time. He travels extensively for work, so I pull many two, three or even four day "shifts" entirely alone with the kids, 24 hours a day. Even when he is in town, he doesn't come home from work at 5:30 or 6 like most white collar jobs. He's entertaining clients or teaching financial seminars or - what I picture in my own mind - enjoying a great bottle of wine with a delicious steak, having a real, adult conversation with real adults! The bonus here is that I don't have to meal plan. Why cook dinner when I'm the only adult eating it? Mac n' cheese it is! The bummer is that it means I spend A LOT of time where all I do is meet the needs of my four kids. Literally, I won't shower for days because there simply isn't time. I look rough and feel even more haggard because for 24, 48, or even more than 72 hours straight, all I've done is care for small humans. With no breaks for me to even think about myself.

I know so many moms can relate!

Enter this "self care" movement we're seeing. It's not that it's bad! It's not that it's wrong. But six months into having four kids, here's what I've noticed about it: it's simply a load of crap.

I took this photo for a brand nearly 3 years ago. Back then, we called it "taking a break" but today it'd be labelled "self care"

Many online sources tell moms to get a manicure, or jump in a bubble bath, or even something as simple as eating a decadent piece of chocolate for self care. Mmmmk. Have you ever opened chocolate or sugar around kids? If you think that's going to be relaxing, and that all of your kids wont have that eaten up AND fought over before you can even think of snatching a piece, you're wrong. Bubble bath? With, what - toddlers looking over the edge of the tub the whole time? Or should I wait until they go to bed, get in the tub for 2 minutes only to have to jump out quickly because the baby started crying and I don't want him to wake up everyone else. Nail salons are NOT child friendly. Some even have signs on the door that babies and toddlers aren't allowed. My favorite is when an online source tells you to "wake up earlier" to enjoy some alone time. Let me tell you what I'm not going to do: sacrifice sleep for alone time. I'm alone when I'm sleeping, and I'd rather be sleeping, and my day will be much better if I get the sleep I need. So GTFO with getting up earlier for self care, internet!

Beyond time, the second issue is this: if you think I'm going to feel like a "new, refreshed woman" after a 30 minute manicure when I've just taken care of four kids for 72 hours straight, your math is off. Fifteen, thirty or sixty minutes of an activity I get to do solo doesn't cut it when I've been wiping poop off bums, cooking dinner for toddlers while simultaneously breastfeeding two babies, and doing endless dishes and laundry that isn't mine. If you think 30 minutes solo in a bath is going to fully, or even partially, recharge me, you're clueless as to how much work this motherhood thing is. It's belittling and insulting to tell a woman to "go care for herself" for a fraction of an hour when she spends her ENTIRE day, the whole thing - even at night! - caring for other people.

Let me say that again for the people in the back: a brief self care break in the day does NOT compensate for the work of being a mom. It. Does. Not. Cut. It. And the cutesy self care ideas on Pinterest are insulting.

See, there I was in the closet eating my pudding. That's not self care y'all! That's a sanity break. 

So what is the self care answer for women? I'm sure if you asked 10 women, you'd get 10 different answers. I bet there'd be some common themes though! For starters, don't tell me to go do something without providing me some childcare to do it. Self care with kids around is an absolute joke; that's just me taking care of my kids in a new location or while I attempt to do something for myself which inevitably turns into the kids wanting to do/eat/etc whatever it is I'm doing, too. No, you want me to actually focus on myself, you've got to watch my kids. For well more than an hour. And don't call me with any problems - manage it/troubleshoot it yourself. Literally, take my kids and leave me alone.

Secondly, or perhaps firstly, give me a heads up when I can have this time. I'm breastfeeding twins, so I've got to pump bottles. That takes planning! If I'm actually going to get away without constant calls or texts - you know, the whole "take my kids and leave me alone" thing I just asked for - and if I'm going to be able to do that with confidence and comfort, knowing that all is well at home, I need advance notice. I need to prepare things, prep things, pump things so that all is well. And so that you'll leave me alone and everyone will come out ok on the other side.

I think that's the thing about all this self care talk that drives me nuts. Don't tell me to do it when my kids are sleeping and don't tell me to take 15 minutes a day for myself and don't tell me to wake up earlier for "me time." No. Stop telling women we need that kind of self care. What we need is help with our kids. What we need is help with household chores. We need this help so that we can rest. Or even better, get away for several hours - or even a weekend or a longer trip! Don't tell me to take a bubble bath to recharge. Come and watch all four of my kids and do my laundry, allowing me to step away for a bit. THAT is helpful. THAT enables me to actually practice some self care. All these cutesy ideas on Pinterest or mom blogs are just additional things I need to do during the day, they're not actually relaxing or fun or recharging.

So what do I do personally to practice self care?

I've done a few nontraditional things that have worked for my sanity with four boys. I bought a pair of what I would define as expensive shoes. I know, I know, but hear me out on this one first! I had been waiting to see them in my size, stalking Nordstrom every morning. One day, they were there! One pair left in my size. I bought them immediately. That alone isn't self care to me. The self care part was this: I didn't ask my husband first, although I normally would at that dollar amount. And I didn't feel guilty about it. I saw them and snagged them up and didn't even think twice or ask once. I just did it for me. Like I would have done back in my single days, before kids. Acting like Pre-baby Paige for once was a form of self care. Now, I get that I was able to do this because we have the income for me to do it, so there's a level of privilege here. But the principle transcends socio-economic status. A good way to support a woman in her self care is to give her the space to be who she was before she had to take care of everyone.

See the caption of this Instagram post? This is why women need a break from their daily duties. This is how demanding life is on a person - 24 hours of nonstop care for others!

View this post on Instagram

For the second time ever since becoming a mom, I got ZERO hours of sleep last night. Not even one. The biggest offenders were Otto (who at one point woke up crying just to tell me there weren’t any rainbows in his room) and Knox (who threw up all over himself and got so mad about it, it took two hours of a high pitch wild animal scream before I got him settled back down). Henry woke up coughing 10 mins after I got Knox back down and Teddy was up for good a half hour after that. So happy hump day. I will hump nothing for the rest of my life to ensure I have no more children who pull this pass-the-awake-baton nonsense on me while my husband is traveling again. Real talk. It’s a full moon, y’all. These kids are out of control. . . . . . #motherhoodquotes #motherhoodunhinged #reallifequotes #reallifestory #fuckthatshit #momminainteasy #singlemarriedmom #travelinghusband #sleepbaby #norestfortheweary #mynameismama #motherhoodlens #joyfulmamas #4kids #momof4life #momoffour #momprobs #momsohard #mombloggers #momblog #momhumor #nomaam #bishbye #fullmoon #fullmoonshit
A post shared by Lifestyle Blogger | Paige (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on

That could mean shoe buying on a whim like I did, or something completely different. Maybe she was a distance runner. Take over some of her responsibilities so that she can go on a long solo run on a Saturday morning like she used to. Maybe she really enjoyed cooking, and trying out new or old family recipes. Take over her responsibilities so that she has the time and space to play around in the kitchen again. It's one thing to make a meal when you've got people in the next room (or at your feet) telling you how hungry they are. It's a rushed and annoying process! But when you have the house to yourself and you can take TIME and play around with ingredients and actually make a decent meal, on your own timeline? That's rejuvenating.

Another non-conventional way to practice self care that I'm a fan of is playing hookie when I need to. I have a nanny in the mornings and most of the time I work and workout. But every now and again, I recognize that I just need some chill time. Sometimes that means I'll go back to bed and sleep for a while. Sometimes that means I'll go sit at my favorite taco spot and have a mimosa or two and eat lunch solo. Either way, the requirements I mentioned above hold true: my kids are taken care of and I can plan it in advance so that I'm confident in their care. When I'm relaxed about that, I can actually sleep, or go and enjoy myself. By myself. Because peace and quiet is so, so amazing.

Self care, especially for moms, is a challenging thing. It can't be done in an hour. A bubble bath may be relaxing, but women need more. Telling women a quick breather is either enough to create mental sanity or needed for mental sanity, without providing us the help we need for that breather, is worthless. Help us help ourselves! Take on some of our additional responsibilities so that we can care for ourselves. But please, stop telling women we need self care!

5 comments:

  1. I can't imagine how hard it is to find time for yourself with 4 kids! You manage yourself well. =) It's hard for me at times too, and I only have one child.

    Because I have an only child though, one of my forms of self-care IS waking up early. I just feel better if my Bible reading, computer work, and workout are done before my daughter gets up!

    Besides that though, I do appreciate having a couple hours every now and then in the evenings to go out, get some Starbucks, and just walk around a store (or at the park). It's good to get some peace and quiet!

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  2. While I'm not a mom, I relate to this in terms of being a busy person. :) I think self care means different things to different people, as you said. I translate self care to meaning taking time to take of me, no matter what I'm doing. :)

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  3. i agree SO MUCH! i'm also a mom of four and i constantly tell my husband that i don't need "an hour at target" to feel completely refreshed. you need routines in place that are genuinely helpful (like standing childcare, cleaning services, etc.) and also i feel like having a supportive, encouraging spouse is also a game-changer. ugh, i shudder every time i hear someone say we need self care!

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  4. I absolutely love your take on this! I think far too many times people are eager to jump on board with what is "popular" or "trending" and not actually talking about what is REAL. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. While I'm not yet a mom, I love every word you said. Help us help ourselves- YES! I think any woman can relate to that!
    -madi xo | http://www.everydaywithmadirae.com

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