Self-care looks different for everyone

How do you react when you hear the phrase “self care?” Do you ever feel nauseated when someone says, “How can you take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first?” So many versions of this statement make my skin crawl. 

My season of life looks a little like this: two young children; stopping everything to wipe booties; preparing (and cleaning up after) 42 meals a week, endlessly wiping down tables and picking up floors; and squeezing all.the.things into short school days. Ultimately there’s very little time to turn it all off and make time for “self-care.” I like to think I operate in the margins of the day (early morning wake-ups, 15 minutes while kids are in iPad land, going to bed a little later than I should, etc.). Those margins give me the time to do things I need or want to do, while the rest of my time is spent “being present.”

Well if someone saying “self-care” makes you feel badly, as in, I DON’T EVEN HAVE TIME TO GROCERY SHOP OR DO LAUNDRY, HOW WOULD I MAKE TIME TO ESCAPE TO A SPA? Then keep reading for my perspective on things…

Do you ever think that a mom’s needs are fulfilled by fulfilling the needs of those who need her the most first? Just stop and think about that. Re-read it if you need to. I’ll say it another way. I fulfill my needs by fulfilling the needs of my kids and husband first. Maybe it’s my personality type (I’m an Enneagram 9) or maybe it was the way I was raised, or a combination of things, but I can’t be alone out here on Planet Serving Others. 

Self-care looks different for everyone

I also realize “self-care” can (and should) mean a lot of different things. To some it may be getting regular massages, manicures and pedicures, or going to a workout class, or going out with friends regularly. To others, it may mean a cup of coffee in total peace and quiet for 30 minutes a day. And that’s okay. We should not judge each other for our individual needs. Our needs may cost more or less or take more or less time, but they are all needs and tending to them is what’s important.

One of my 15 minute knee-prop sessions a day; hiding my toes in fuzzy socks because #idonthavetimeforapedicure

Recently I had a strong wake-up call to the term “self-care.” When I hurt my knee snowboarding, I was assigned 45 minutes of physical therapy AT LEAST twice a day and needed to devote the majority of my childcare per week toward appointments for a few MONTHS. You can imagine I was less than thrilled with my usual “self-care” time being prioritized for knee rehab. Thoughts of “I don’t have time for this” and “what a waste of time” have flooded my brain. 

But every time I step out of the therapist’s office, my knee feels better and I feel stronger. I feel more confident and more motivated to keep working hard. Even when I really, really, really don’t want to do it and I “want” to do the millions of other things on my to-do list, I do some serious self-talk and negotiating. After three solid weeks of PT, I am FINALLY realizing that this is not in vain. Clearly, the goal is to avoid surgery, and if by doing the PT I can mend my knee, then let’s do the dang thing. But more importantly, I have learned a new version of self-care (the forced, hard way). 

All I really want to say is, if your version of self-care looks much different than visions of spa treatments and sipping “momosas,” it’s okay. And if you are scrolling this on your phone while you wait for your toes to dry, then good job to you, too. We are all in different seasons; just embrace it.

Never Enough Time

I heard on three occasions this week from different moms that self-care isn’t on the front burner right now with so much going on in their lives. When is self-care really on the front burner, I must ask? Likely never. It will never feel as though we put ourselves first as moms or as women. And that’s okay. We will never have enough time for ourselves. 

Just do the things you need to get done. Pick the things you dread to do first in the day if you can. Stop dreading things by changing your mindset. Do things in the margins. Try hard to be filled with the joy that you get to serve your spouse or family, even if it’s things you would rather not do. Ask for help! Or more importantly, be open to allowing help. Define your own version of self-care and don’t let anyone else tell you what it should look like for you.

Now go make a spa appointment for next weekend, fool.

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