As a mom it is easy to feel like you’re failing. It is easy to get on social media and fall into the comparison trap. We all have days where we are pretty sure we are screwing everything up and doing everything wrong.
What most of us need is some encouragement, we need to know that we are not alone, that we are not screwing up, that we are not the only ones who’s house is a disaster and who’s kids had cereal for dinner.
We want to feel like we’re doing alright.
But unfortunately the world wants to send us the message of all the ways we need to be better. We need to have cleaner houses, smarter kids, thinner waists, we need to drink enough water, go out with friends, have date nights with our husbands… oh and keep the kids alive.
The expectations we put on ourselves can be crushing, the criticism we feel from others is difficult to ignore, and all any of us want is to feel like we’re doing our best.
I do my best to ignore those messages from the outside world, to parent by my own compass and take care of my family in the way that I know is best for them. It is always my goal that when I talk to another mom that she leaves the conversation feeling better, feeling encouraged, and knowing that she is not alone.
And so when I started seeing a topic come up again and again on social media recently I started to get concerned. Because it is an important topic for moms, but suddenly it is being presented in a way that says, “You’re not doing it right.”
What’s the topic?
Self-care has become a buzzword over the last several years. It conjures up images of bubble baths and massages, and phrases like “put your oxygen mask on first.”
It can seem a little cheesy, but in reality it is super important. As moms we tend to put ourselves last, we can ignore our needs until something goes wrong, and I think that it is a good thing that we have collectively begun telling moms that prioritizing themselves is not only and ok thing to do but that it benefits our whole family.
There have been a few posts I’ve seen lately about how showering shouldn’t be seen as self-care for moms. That by saying it is that it is just an example of how a woman’s basic needs are considered a luxury.
Here’s the thing. I can see how it could be interpreted that way. I can see that as women we often feel guilt for taking time for ourselves even when it is the most basic of tasks, and that is problematic.
But I can also see how there are times in a mother’s life when getting a shower can be an accomplishment. There are times when we are wrangling a new born, taking care of sick kids, running a million miles an hour, and busy taking care of everyone else that we put off taking a shower until we’re not sure when our last one was.
It isn’t about a woman’s needs being put last, it is about us as moms learning to prioritize ourselves, learning that the dishes can stay in the sink, or the baby can fuss in their crib for a few minutes while we finish rinsing the conditioner out of our 4 day unwashed hair.
The problem with telling moms what “real” self-care is or isn’t is that it puts even more pressure on us.
A mom who has just managed to work a daily shower into her routine with a newborn suddenly feels like she needs to be doing something above and beyond. A mom struggling with depression who has pulled herself up and into the shower with all the strength she has suddenly feels like maybe that wasn’t enough.
I am of the mind that self-care for moms takes many forms. It is in the practical things like having financial security so that you don’t stress about money, decluttering your house so that you are not overwhelmed by mess or setting up auto ship on household goods so that you don’t have to think about them.
It is also in taking care of your mental health, talking with friends when you need support, asking for help, seeing a therapist, keeping a journal, meditating, going to church, all the things that fill you up.
It is about taking care of your physical body with exercise and nutrition, and yes a relaxing bubble bath or manicure to make you feel extra special.
But the fact that self-care takes all those forms does NOT mean that we need to be doing them ALL! In fact we all go through seasons of motherhood where getting up in the morning and making sure the children are fed can feel like a feat. We all have our days, our weeks, or months where everything can be super overwhelming.
And that is OK.
Here’s the thing about blanket statements regarding anything dealing with motherhood… they aren’t true.
Yes, for some women who have a supportive partner, older kids, a pretty routine life, a shower is a no brainer and that may not be the thing that makes them feel like they’ve cared for themselves and recharged their batteries.
But for some moms it can be the thing that rescues them from the brink of insanity and exactly what they need to feel human again.
We can’t turn self-care into something that needs to be debated, there is enough of that in the world, we need to be careful not to turn it into something else that a mom feels the need to do “right” and that can be another place where we feel like we are failing.
We need to watch making blanket statements and realize that each and every mom is having a different experience and we never truly know what someone else is going through.
We need to stand in support of one another and not create more to divide us.
At the end of the day the important thing is for moms to figure out what they need to do to feel full, to recharge, to take care of themselves and feel supported in their motherhood journey.
For some that may be an hour long massage, or a new hair cut, or a kid free vacation.
For others that might be a shower.
And that is okay.