Self Care is Bullshit
Updated: Jan 19, 2020
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I recently read an article on self care for new mums. The article touted the benefits of just 10 minutes each day of 'indulging' in self care for your mental health when you have a newborn. Put on a face mask. Have a bubble bath. If you've got longer, why not head to the hairdresser? Can't get away from the baby? Light a candle and pour yourself a glass of champagne. Go on, you deserve it.
And there's the added bonus — just like an apple a day keeps the doctor away — a bubble bath a day will keep depression and anxiety at bay.
I have this feeling that the person writing this article has somehow mistaken mental health issues with that time you felt a bit rubbish because you drank too much then ate a whole pizza (who am I kidding — one whole pizza isn't really that excessive). I think this was written by someone who was well-meaning who had maybe read about how becoming a mother is really tough, and they could really relate to that — when they had a long day at work, not leaving the office until like 9pm, falling exhausted into bed to sleep uninterrupted until their alarm woke them at the ungodly hour of 8am (on a Saturday!!), so they could fit in yoga before heading to brunch with friends. (I'm sure we all used to be that person pre-kids. I definitely was! Blissfully unaware of what 'waking up early' meant and what tired actually feels like.)
But the writer obviously knew, when you're tired, that self care is what it's all about (or should that be #selfcare — the hashtag is imperative). And maybe mothers, with all their complaining about being tired, just need permission to take a little time for themselves (which I do agree with, but maybe not quite the way it was written in this particular article).
I do really enjoy having a bath and reading a book and putting gunk on my face and drinking wine. I actually love doing these things (particularly the wine part). But these aren't steps you take to genuinely look after your mental health.
I'm here to tell you: that is not going to fix anything. Self care is bullshit, particularly #selfcare which is more akin to caring for one's social media presence than actually doing something to assist your own mental or physical health.
Self care is not bubble baths. And telling new mums that that's all they need is invalidating their experience as a new mum. It can be a rough time. Really, really, really rough. And even if it's not rough — even if it's really joyful and just run-of-the-mill hard — mental health still needs to be a priority, and lighting a scented candle and slathering some mud on your face is not going to make the experience better / more enjoyable / less exhausting / less lonely / easier. That's just crazy.
Don't get me wrong — I think it's a great idea to attempt to look after yourself. Especially when you've got a little babe. But is it really best to say that a person who has just undergone a major life changing event, has experienced — the often hours and hours of painful — childbirth, whose body is pumped full of hormones, who is suddenly responsible for the care of a human that relies on them every single moment of every single day to keep them alive — is it really reasonable to tell this person they 'just need to look after themselves'?
Shouldn't that be someone else's job? Wouldn't it be nice for someone else to step up and look after this exhausted human being, rather than just blithely telling her that she needs to do some vague thing for herself? Also, when you're a new mother, sure, the little luxury of showering is definitely welcome, but it's not really enough, is it?
I love, love, love that it's now being acknowledged that mothers — and all people in general — should be putting their own needs first, at least some of the time. But the idea that we, as mothers, should allocate ourselves a small slot every day to do something for ourselves, but still be completely responsible for everyone else's laundry, schedules, meals, transportation, school projects, and happiness in general, is counterproductive.
I don't need another thing to add to my to do list. I'm already tasked with the massive job of caring for my little people.
Somehow looking after ourselves now means finding a small window in a busy day to put a face mask on, pour yourself a wine and sit in the tub for 5 minutes (without falling asleep). And you better get a damn good photo for insta out of it! (Because it's actually about #selfcare not actual caring for oneself.)
There are so many reasons why this isn't the answer. A. I'd rather be asleep. B. This doesn't in any way reduce the amount of other shit I've got to get done in the day. C. Adding 'go to shops to buy wine and face mask' to my to do list isn't helping me. D. In order to get into the bath, I would first need to clean out the plethora of children's toys.
Don't get me wrong, I agree that the concept of looking after yourself is a good one. And the fact that people are touting the idea (somewhat revolutionary, in some circles) that mothers are actual human beings who need things for themselves is most certainly a big step forward. But… mums already look after a lot of other people. Maybe sometimes, instead of being tasked with their own care along with everyone else's, maybe, just maybe someone could look after the mums every now and then.
Self care is bullshit. And self care is not bubble baths. I think we should all be practising other care, especially for the new mums and the people who are genuinely in need and the people who are suffering from mental health issues.
And if you're someone who is cared for (ie. a person whose significant other is doing the heavy lifting) take a moment and give them a little care in return.
And as for self care? Self care isn't face masks. Self care isn't bubble baths. Self care is saying no. Self care is removing things from your to do list. Self care is delegating and outsourcing. Self care is accepting that imperfect is perfectly acceptable. Self care is putting your own needs first at least sometimes.
What do you think about self care? And what do you do to look after yourself? Comment below or contact me here , I'd love to hear from you! Don't forget to hit subscribe at the bottom of the page for updates, book recommendations and my general musings on motherhood.
What I'm reading
Imagine seeing your loving husband on a dating app. Now imagine that’s the best thing to happen to you all week …
I finished The Strangers We Know a few days ago. (Yes, I have been neglecting my laundry pile. Again.) It was really tough to get into — I found the protagonist walked the line between meh and annoying. But once I got going, it was an easy read. The pages just kept turning (and the laundry basket just kept overflowing). The Strangers We Know wasn't the roller-coaster of twists I was expecting, but it was a nice, easy, switch-your-brain-off kind of read.
Click here to buy a copy of The Strangers We Know.
Check out the rest of my summer reading list here
What are you reading right now? Have you read The Strangers We Know? What did you think? Comment below or contact me here , I'd love to hear from you! Don't forget to hit subscribe at the bottom of the page for updates, book recommendations and my general musings on motherhood.