Most of us have this relationship with self-care that goes something like this: “When I can find the time (and the money!) I’m going to make that appointment at the spa for a full-day treatment!” Or, “I’m going to start dropping hints now, so that my honey will set up a full-day spa treatment for me – because it feels really ________ (fill in the blank: selfish, indulgent, luxurious, over-the-top) for me to do this for myself.”
I have big issues with this. First, we think that self-care means only a wonderful, but really expensive experience that’s outside of our day-to-day living. And then there’s the issue of not feeling worthy of self-care. This may be an issue for some men, but I find that it’s women, and in particular, mothers who feel like any attempts at self-care just aren’t in their new job description. So rarely, if ever, do we give ourselves permission for self-care. Instead, we take on the job of caring for everyone else except ourselves. This is not okay, ladies, not okay.
The number of Mommas I know who can’t remember the last time they ate an actual lunch they prepared for themselves, and instead just ate the leftover crusts of a PB& J sandwich and some random goldfish crackers that their toddler refused, is too many! The same can be said for all those Mommas who don’t take time out of their busy lives to exercise or get the rest necessary for this demanding job of parenting.
There are way too many women who don’t schedule coffee dates or an evening out for cocktails and laughter because they feel like they can’t leave their babies with their partners for a few hours to get a well-deserved break (or give their partners some much-needed one-on-one time with their little one! Another blogpost for another day.)
My point is that we all too often equate self-care with the big, showy displays of once-in-a-very-long-while gifts of massage, or retreats away from everything. These might recharge our batteries for a little while, but we need something more, something sustainable for our day-to-day lives. Because this work we do in raising and caring for the next generation is hard – really, really hard.
And don’t get me started on those of us who work with you Mommas! The educators, support group facilitators, nurses, doulas, midwives, therapists – we all profess over and over again how important it is for you to take part in daily self-care, but too many of my colleagues don’t take their own advice! Those of us in this caring profession are guilty of talking out of the two sides of our mouth: “You definitely need self-care, but I’ll try to get some of that self-care in when I can find the money and time to do so.” That is not okay, ladies, not okay.
When we don’t take part in regular weekly, if not daily, self-care activities our stress levels rise and our resiliency to bounce back when the unexpected, even harder days hit, goes down. Caring for others relies on us not living with too high levels of stress and an ability to be able to dig a little deeper when someone in our circle of caring needs more from us.
SO, I am unashamedly going to plug an upcoming conference as a Board Member for NACEF – Northwest Area Childbirth Educator’s Forum. It’s happening next month, May 14th, and it’s titled “Stress & Resilience.” It’s a full-day focused on stress reduction and building resiliency and I really want people to know about it! This day, in my opinion, is definitely focused on self-care and, (BONUS) it costs less than a full-day at the spa! Plus, it will provide you with the tools you need to begin to incorporate more regular self-care into your day-to-day experience.
Rhona Berens, PhD, CPCC will speak to how stress is contagious and she’ll provide us with the tools we can use to reduce stress for ourselves, our families, and the people we work with. Rhona will be covering how our own stress can be transferred to our family members and the people we work with, how to recognize that this is happening and potentially stop it. (I’m guessing that self-care will be just one of the tools she’ll discuss as a way to reduce that stress and stress-transfer!)
Wayne Scott, MA, LCSW will be giving his presentation, Strong @ The Broken Places which will focus on secondary stress. While many people who work in the profession of maternity care experience high levels of secondary stress, I think all of us who care for others can experience this secondary stress. Being able to identify the level of resiliency we have can allow us to take those necessary breaks for ourselves so that we can continue to do this most important work.
We need, all of us, to seek out those opportunities that allow us to continue to do this work of caring: caring for our babies, our partners, our co-workers, our clients, but mostly ourselves. Please consider taking the time out of your busy lives to join me at the NACEF Conference on May 14th. I’d love to see you there! If this won’t fit into your schedule or budget right now, what measure of self-care are you willing to commit to today, so that your bucket is full and you’re better able to fill the bucket of others? (Watch this if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Even though it’s a children’s book the message is for all of us, maybe especially for us as adults.)
Let me know in the comments what you’re planning to do to incorporate some more self-care into your life. I’d love to be that person who can hold you accountable and encourage you in your efforts! It’s so important!