Sometimes I feel like the list of things I’m not managing to do well enough goes on and on. I don’t meditate often enough. I definitely don’t exercise or eat well enough. Or consistently eat my 5 daily portions of fruit or vegetables. I don’t invest in face masks, do a daily gratitude practice or bullet journal. The chances of me getting on a plane to have the opportunity to put on my own oxygen mask first is looking pretty slim.
I see the benefit. Believe me, I now (after some amazing therapy) understand that I am entitled to needs. But, with the hype about self-care, I feel that it is either going to cost me money or be totally inauthentic.
Perhaps I’ve got cynical.
Perhaps I spent way too long thinking about the ideal life. I have definitely looked at too many pictures of people doing a beautiful job of their self-care on Instagram. Now self-care feels like another pressure. Like there should be a miraculous awakening that will transform me into the beautiful zen like Instagram mum who really only exists in tiles. In reality, I’m a swirling chaos of not letting the dog out, getting the smallest child to wear socks and managing to leave the house with the right keys sort of mum.
I would love to buy the candles, the cashmere socks, the beautiful soft bound journal with lust worthy coloured pens, but I can think of so many more things that we have to buy right now, like new school uniforms, winter coats. Thinking about self-care like this reminds me that even with all that we have, it is a privilege.
I can hear the cries of take a walk, phone a friend, meditate, connect with nature. I appreciate that these things don’t cost money. They are not about consumption. My weekly pleasure of a long zoom catch up with my best mate definitely gives me a sanity that I don’t get elsewhere.
But this all reminds me that self-care is something for women to do. Something else.
Maybe caring for our self is less about the face mask and more about being okay with life not being perfect. Maybe it isn’t about adding to the already overwhelming list of things I should be doing but acknowledging that I am making it through each day having kept myself and my small humans alive. The pressure to be self-caring feels like another performance, another task, another thing that makes me feel a little bit less adequate than I am.
It also feels like another thing that places the burden at my feet. So rather than thinking about the systemic issues for women, we tell them that they should really invest more time in self-care. It is much easier to suggest we put on a face mask or run a bath than to understand that the summer holidays is a massive pressure of juggling childcare and not enough days of paid leave. It’s easier to say meditate or light a candle than to offer the right support for women with postnatal depression. It puts all the responsibility back onto women for the stresses and trials. You feel like this because you are not investing enough time in your own self-care. Not because your physical health and mental health are taken less seriously and are underfunded. Not because you earn less than your male colleagues. Not because you don’t feel safe when you walk home at night. Once again, we say try harder, do more, be better. But caring for yourself cannot resolve these things. These are much bigger than just one woman’s experiences. Unless maybe our self-care is telling people that it isn’t working. Maybe it is acknowledging that the solutions haven’t been figured out and we want people to consider them. Maybe then our self-care isn’t so isolating or burdening and it will care for all of us.