Self-Care is NOT Selfish–Second Edition

I have written a post about this in the past, but with Mother’s Day approaching, it felt important to revisit this topic.  In fact, this is a topic that many mental health professionals have covered (here’s one example and here’s another).  And that makes me wonder–what on earth is going on with our understanding of self-care?  Especially those of us who are parents? How did we get stuck in this mental trap of feeling that self-care is selfish?

Self-care is NOT selfish!
Celebrating beauty–one my small acts of self-care.

In my earlier post, I explored the idea that we have some confused definitions–that often we file behaviors that are good self-care under the “selfish” label.  Because this weekend is Mother’s Day, I’ve also been reflecting on the role that our mothers, and the social messages we get about parenting, play in the self-care/selfish tug-o-war.  When I think about my mom, I think about someone who wholeheartedly threw herself into her role as a mother.  She attended hundreds of ball games, bunches of concerts, plays, award ceremonies–you name it, she did it.  When I think of my mom as a young mom, I don’t think of all that many illustrations of her doing something just for herself.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it?  Parents have so many demands on their time as they juggle the roles of mom/dad, romantic partner, household manager, plus, for many, career roles.  When time gets that limited, carving out moments of time that are dedicated to maintaining your own emotional or physical health can feel downright challenging.  And, if you have been taught from an early age that you should put other people’s needs above your own, it can feel selfish.

I am grateful to my mom for many of the lessons she shared, both through her words and through her actions.  I am in awe of her stamina and her dedication.  And I hope that I can pass many of those values, from the importance of family to the joy of baking, on to my own children.

I also want to show my children that taking time to care for yourself is also a value.  That it is a good thing to “fill up your jar,” so that you have more to give those you love.  So, tonight, instead of heading home, I’ll spend a few hours with a treasured group of friends.  Tomorrow, instead of doing housework all morning, I’ll go to the gym (the kids will go too–they love the kids’ classes).

One of the reasons that self-care gets a bad rap is that it tends to be linked with advertisements for expensive spa days.  Guess what?  Self-care can happen for no cost at all.  Here are a few of my favorite free self-care choices:

  • A quick walk
  • Short meditations
  • Three deep breaths
  • Baking bread from scratch
  • Focusing on something beautiful
  • Playing with my kids
  • Messing around in the garden
  • Tossing a ball for the dog
  • Phone time with a friend.

If you take one thing away from this post, I hope it is this.  The next time that you find yourself waffling about a self-care choice because you don’t want to be “selfish”–challenge that thinking.  Invite yourself to be creative about redefining and reclaiming self-care as one of the essential ways that you care for those you love.

Got a favorite self-care go-to?  Please share.

Other Mother’s Day posts:

For Moms–and the rest of us–Balance is a Moving Target

When Mother’s Day Isn’t All Sunshine and Roses


Image Credit: Photo by Matt McGee via Flickr under Creative Commons License

6 thoughts on “Self-Care is NOT Selfish–Second Edition

  1. Choosing to cook something that I enjoy cooking is self-care for me. Bonus points for something that is healthy that my family will eat. I love making homemade bread, and I enjoy the process of making a risotto. I enjoy watching how the base ingredients transform into something else.

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