As someone who spends most of every day parenting solo (including dinner and bedtime five nights a week), I felt drained after the birth of our second son. Suddenly, I had no time to myself. Someone was always awake, always needing something, or always TALKING. And multiple, I’m sure well-meaning, people suggested that I need some better self-care and then followed that up with suggesting I leave the house for a spa day. Let me say this:
I’m going to scream if I have to hear about self-care from one other person! (And, yes, I know one of you just thought to yourself, “She needs more self-care!”)
Self-care is the actual caring-for-yourself tasks (sleeping, eating food that came from the earth and not a factory), but yet the term is used all the time to justify Netflix binges, pedicures, and girls’ weekends.
Those things? Those are called self-comfort.
Listen, I’m not such a grump that I can’t get behind enjoying life. Quite the opposite, in fact. Some of my favorite things in the world are self-comfort — fancy cheeses, going out with my husband to new restaurants, and, yes, even enjoying some Netflix on the couch. I love buying kombucha on tap (even though I brew my own), $4 lattes, and studio yoga classes.
But you don’t need self-comfort to be a good parent. It’s the difference between spending quality alone time with your husband (self-care) and having a monthly date night where you try out the hottest new place (self-comfort). Going for a brisk walk to get your blood moving (self-care) or a $30 studio spin class (self-comfort). Taking regular showers (self-care) or using fancy beauty products (self-comfort).
Lots of people parent from an empty cup. How about when the entire family has the flu (including mom). Single parents. Wives whose husbands are deployed for months on end. Low-income families working multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
And I’m sure they’d all love some self-comfort. I do. But what they really need is true self-care.
So, I suppose I did need some actual self-care. I started tracking my water intake more. I focused on eating vegetables at every meal. I even tried to snatch a few minutes of conversation with my husband. But self-comfort still seems beyond me at the moment.
And that’s OK.
Part of the beauty of being a parent is growing as a person and learning what is selfish and what is essential. No one wants a miserable mother, but motherhood also forces us to re-examine our lives and push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, whether that’s dealing with bodily fluids (ick), reading the same book 10,000 times with enthusiasm, or winnowing away what we truly need to have to enjoy life and live it well.