What Self-Care is Not

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Self-care. The words sure do sound nice, but for many of us, it can induce an eye roll. Self-care is now one of those trendy cultural buzzwords. The definition is just a little fuzzy. What the heck is self-care? Is it bubble baths and mani/pedis? Is it having a balanced diet and exercise? Is it skipping washing the dishes to take a nap? 

Yes…and no. 

Those things definitely can be self-care. But I think we need to establish what self-care is NOT. 

1. Self-care is NOT emergency care.

Self-care shouldn’t be done only when its an emergency – when mama might explode if she doesn’t get just ONE HOUR ALONE. Yes, something needs to be done at that moment, please take care of yourself in that moment. But self-care isn’t emergency care. 

Self-care is preventative care. 

Self-care is like taking vitamins, having leafy greens as a part of your diet, and brushing your teeth. If you start doing those things as soon as you are diagnosed with illness or a cavity, it’s just a little bit late. But if you have made regular practice of doing those things, you took part in preventing illness and cavities… and those moments when you’re going to explode if you don’t have one hour of silence. Yay!

2. Self-care is NOT one size fits all. 

Culture often paints a picture that self-care for moms is all the same. The “Netflix, coffee, wine, and Target” kind of thing. The fact of the matter is that we are all unique human beings with unique needs and drives. What works for your neighbor, mom group acquaintance, sister-in-law won’t necessarily work for you. Don’t try to force it to work for you when it doesn’t. 

3. Self-care is NOT necessarily a lack of work, but the act of doing the RIGHT kind of work. 

When we think of self-care, we think of rest and relaxation and doing nothing. While that is DEFINITELY needed as moms, it doesn’t always solve everything. Sometimes we have pent up energy that is craving an outlet that neither relaxing, nor the work of motherhood and home-keeping is fulfilling. In this case, the outlet that could be fulfilling can be one that is described as work. But not work that is the endless monotony of housework, or the energetic funnel that parenting can be, but work that brings a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, fulfillment, or one that is for money. If the work you are currently doing in life (may it be at home or at a job) is not bringing up these feelings for you, it is OK to have another outlet for that. This is especially helpful if you can’t turn your brain off long enough to rest!

4. Self-care is NOT just junk food, it is soul food. 

Junk food is fast, easy, and soooo satisfying in that moment. There’s nothing wrong with that! Sometimes it is what will fill the need for food. Just like junk food, there is junk food self-care – quick, easy fixes that bring instant gratification. But, if we admit it, we all crave soul food – rich, hand-crafted, luxurious meals made with love and top quality ingredients. Those are the kind of meals that you remember for a long time and know they bring true taste bud satisfaction. Junk food, though delicious in its own way, pales in comparison. Soul food self-care is slow to cook up and takes patience to see the fruit, but the process of making it is full of growth and the pleasure of making something so amazing yourself. Soul food self-care brings results that are much more fulfilling and longer-lasting than junk food self-care. Make room for both in your life. 

5. Self-care does NOT require you to spend money. 

Yes, it is nice when you have the money to spend on yourself. But if you limit your self-care to only what you can spend your money on, you are seriously sabotaging your ability to feel fulfilled and satisfied. There are so many forms of free self-care to take advantage of. It can be so freeing to embrace them, even if you do have the money to spend! Some free self-care: journaling, practicing self-awareness, free exercise/art/writing/meditation classes, building strong relationships, going out in nature, taking naps, decluttering your house, and so on. 

6. Self-care is NOT selfish!

Because I KNOW that us moms can make a million excuses, most coming from a place of guilt, please read this, and then read it again until you believe it: Guilt is a liar and you are worthy of joy, pleasure, and fulfillment in life. This can come in motherhood. This can come in homemaking. This can come from outside the home. Literally everyone in your life benefits when you are refreshed and truly happy. Taking time for self-care isn’t stealing you away from your kids, it is giving your kids richer time when you are WITH them. Be the example for them that choosing self-care is never selfish. 

When we keep these things in mind, self-care doesn’t have to be a struggle, but an adventure. It can be something to break up the monotony of responsibility, routine, and taking care of everyone and everything. It can bring a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and joy and pleasure that soaks into every aspect of life, even the boring, necessary parts.

It is worth it to push past guilt and all the blocks pursue true self-care.