Could there be a buzzier, more millennial mom catch-phrase than that? Honestly, I roll my eyes a little at myself just typing it.
Not at what it entails: I am here for all the self-care. It’s important to know what fills us up, whether a book, a movie, or the now synonymous with self-care pampering that is a bubble bath with a glass of wine. I applaud the fact that women are stepping up to say they are no longer interested in being martyrs, but in the care of ourselves as entire people with emotions and thoughts and physical and mental well-being to think about. I don’t want to go back to the time before self-care was part of our collective consciousness.
No, I’m rolling my eyes at how ubiquitous the phrase has become. It’s been co-opted by capitalism as virtually every other post in my Instagram feed tries to sell me everything from skin serums to beach towels to smoothies all under the umbrella of “self-care.” (Okay, but I did buy the skin serum, though.)
But what makes me roll my eyes most of all is when I see things labeled as self-care that just…aren’t.
A few years ago, an influencer I followed posted a photo of herself at a doctor’s appointment. In the caption, she discussed how she’d finally made a doctor’s appointment to get something checked out that she should have been seen for a long time ago. How she got a babysitter and that was self-care. How she was so proud of taking this step in self-care. And ended with a rejoinder to her fellow moms to make their own doctor’s appointments that day for the sake of their own self-care. (Really, the post was littered with “self-care.”)
It was then that my brain exploded.
Because hear me out: taking yourself to the doctor for something that should be medically checked out by a professional is not self-care. It’s just what you should do.
Going to a doctor’s appointment isn’t the same as getting a pedicure. Neither is dental health or regular eye exams or chiropractic care or even therapy. Going to a doctor’s appointment doesn’t fill me up, it checks something off my list.
What I’m rolling my eyes at are the things that have been packaged up and sold to moms as self-care. Things like…
- Regular showers.
- Sitting down to eat a meal.
- Eating your own meal instead of kid’s scraps.
- Drinking coffee that’s hot.
- Wearing clothes that aren’t stained.
- Anything to do with wine.
- Time to yourself.
- Doing anything without children.
These things aren’t (necessarily) self-care. Please. Taking a shower is just basic hygiene.
There’s a difference between self-care and taking basic care of yourself.
No one, and I mean no one, has ever tried to sell my husband on the idea that regular showers and drinking hot coffee are worthy of the moniker of self-care. (He also doesn’t drink coffee, but that’s a whole other personality flaw…)
I once saw self-care defined as “something that feels like fun, not like work.” I like that definition. It makes sense to me because self-care isn’t static. Because sometimes strolling the aisles of Target feels like a whole lot of fun to me. Other times, it’s 6:45 on a Tuesday and I’m dashing through before my son is done with his dance class because this is my only chance to grab milk so we have it in the morning because I forgot to add it to my grocery order and, well—that feels like work.
- Sometimes self-care is reading a book, like on a cozy Sunday afternoon. Other times it feels like work: like when I’m cramming it in before book club.
- Sometimes self-care is watching Netflix. Other times it’s a mindless zone-out because I’m too burned-out to do anything else.
- Sometimes self-care is going out for dinner or drinks with friends. Other times it’s saying no to dinner or drinks because it’s with a person or group or on a day I know will drain me.
Self-care might be a moving target, but it isn’t going to a doctor’s appointment, getting a full night of sleep, or eating a balanced meal. Even when you have a newborn or three kids under three or kids’ activities every night of the week and those things feel impossible to find.
I hope you do make an appointment today if you need to, not because it’s self-care, but because you’re taking care of your own health and well-being, and that’s more than reason enough. I hope you get even a few minutes to yourself, coffee that is hot, and something green on your plate. I hope we can work to make these things into habits, into things that we’re deserving of, instead of buying into the trap that they should fall under the umbrella of “self-care.”