For mamas who decide to work for pay, taking the time for self-care doesn’t always feel luxurious. In fact, it almost feels like another chore. Here’s one mama’s story of how self-care didn’t bring her the peace and calm we might think that it would.
I recently had to return to work full-time after seven years at home with my three children. I knew going back would be a challenge on many levels, but I also knew that I was well fortified. I have family and friends to support me, faith to sustain me and a steady meditation practice to rejuvenate me. I also know what makes me feel good: long hours in nature, regular exercise and good books.
“Be sure you do at least one nice thing for yourself every day,” a friend advised on the eve of my return.
“No problem,” I thought. “How could doing something nice for yourself be difficult?”
I have now been a working mom for three months. Looking back on my transition, it’s clear to see that doing something nice for myself went out the window as quickly as my stained yoga pants and ratty ponytail.
Good books? I’m lucky if I read a paragraph before I fall asleep at night. I’ve been to church once since my return – Sunday mornings are now consumed with catching up on laundry and groceries. Socializing? Does exchanging grunts with the neighbors on the 6am city bus count? Long hours in nature? Um, I walk past birds on my way into the office. That’s nature, right? Regular exercise? Bahaha. Please say that’s a joke.
How could I have so easily given these things up?
It simply comes down to time. If I’m working out of the home eight hours a day, refusing to give up reading Dig Dogs Dig to my children five times in a row, making sure they have clean underwear to put on the next day, and attempting to give my husband at least a high five as we pass each other briefly in the hall, this only leaves approximately 53 minutes and 32 seconds left in a day (I’ve counted).
Sometimes self-care just feels like another thing on my to-do list. Another thing to get done. Exercise. Done. Meditation. Cross it off the list. Reading. Finished. Okay, now I can relax.
Wait a minute. Now I can relax??? Isn’t relaxing the whole point of self care in the first place?
In Yoga they say, “Be a human being, not a human doing.” Instead of trying to get self-care “done,” instead of trying to squeeze another thing in, perhaps I should just stop, breathe, and do nothing but be (for 53 minutes and 32 seconds). In the meantime, I’m holding out for a part-time job.
How about it? Is self-care a burden?
Is self-care another chore on your list that you find you’d love to have time for, but if you did, something would fall through the cracks?
We asked some of our forum mamas about what they thought of the concept of self-care, and whether they felt it was a chore or a must-do for sanity.
The answers were mixed.
Some mamas said they loved the concept of self-care but actually making it happen was a different story altogether. Particularly for those who worked outside of the home (or even from home, for pay) many agreed with our author–it was tough to add ‘take care of oneself,’ to the list when there were so many obligations to take care of others within the home.
More, many didn’t feel those obligations were hard obligations; in fact, lots of mamas thought that taking care of their babes was self-care, in a way, in that spending time with them and bonding was nourishing for their souls.
That said, they also said that much of the taking care wasn’t in the form of cuddles and bedtime stories as it was the laundry, the cooking of the meals, the giving of the bath and so forth, and that some time for them to just take for themselves would be heavenly too.
Other mamas said self-care was vital to their sanity and them being better mamas. Saying that we can’t be expected to fill others’ cups if our own are dry, many mamas put the air masks on themselves first, so to speak, so they could then do so for the others in their family. They said they sometimes felt guilty doing so, but knew it helped them be better partners and parents.
Related: I’m Glad I Have Mom Guilt
And others still said that making sure that all the ducks were in the respective rows and things ran smoothly was their self-care…it was how they made sure they kept anxiety to a low. Yes, they were tired, but they felt accomplished and happy that they met the needs of all they could as best they could, and in doing so, met most of their needs as well.
Self-care really is personal. While we do have to make sure we don’t cultivate a culture where mamas feel guilty for taking time for themselves, we also have to give merit to those mamas who find joy and fulfillment in doing the ‘mama’ things as their winding down, and the ‘obligation’ of self-care felt burdensome.
The most important thing to think about is how you’re feeling. Take inventory of yourself sometimes, and assess how you’re doing with your feelings, particularly in times like this where things are seemingly out of control. Know yourself well, and how to best fill your cup, and don’t feel guilty or obligated to do so.
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