The Irritation of “Self-Care”

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“Take care of yourself!”

“What are you doing for self-care lately?”

“How about taking some time for yourself.”

“Prioritize self-care.”

These are common refrains spoken by well-intentioned individuals. They are platitudes scrolling amongst the reels of social media.

Isn’t Self-Care a Bit Privileged?

Often thrown out as a solution to burnout, the modern construct of “self-care” irritates me, and it sets my nerves on edge. Who has time for self-care between soccer practice and deadlines, grocery shopping and laundry? Is someone else going to pick up the slack if I spend a few hours at the spa, my aching back kneaded in a dark room smelling of lavender? Work along with a splash of mother’s guilt will be waiting when I emerge puffy-eyed and jelly legged from the spa. Shouldn’t I be marking things off the ‘to-do’ list? Someone else deserves this. Isn’t self-care a bit “privileged?”

And yet self-care is the antidote for caregiver burnout, something many mothers experience. So the question becomes not “should I cultivate a routine of self-care?” but rather “what activities are life-giving and won’t take away too much time from home?” What leaves me energized and ready to return to service?

Finding my Version of Self-Care

Many find self-care inside the four walls of a gym, pounding out every stress on the treadmill, pushing away every worry with the exertion of dead-lifts. But when I work out, my inner voice turns anxious and whiny. “Why are you doing this to me?” “How much loooongeerrr?!?!” “Ow. Owww. OWWWW!” I struggle to quiet my moaning mind. Exercise, for me, is necessary work for health and sanity but hardly “fills my cup.”

So, I began to take inventory of my daily activities. What brought joy? What drained me?

  • Social media scrolling – DRAINING.
  • Brisk outdoor walks – DELIGHT!
  • Shopping – DRAINING.
  • Art museums – JOY!
  • Large parties – EXHAUSTING.
  • Lunch with a friend – LIFE-GIVING.

On a trip to Washington D.C. last summer, my family rented electric scooters.

This was my first experience on an electric scooter, and my expectations were low. Imagine the delight when the tiny motor sent me whizzing across asphalt, hair blowing in the wind. I felt a glee akin to riding my bike on long country roads as a child. “Gosh! That was fun!” I exclaimed when we all caught up together at the Lincoln Memorial. I returned home eager to find an activity to bring back the childlike delight I felt zooming across the busy sidewalks of our nation’s capital.

I soon discovered electric bikes. These days I try to work in at least one electric bike ride a week. Speeding along paved roads in my neighborhood or country lanes at the lake, I quiet the thoughts of family stress or future plans, and instead take in the lush green to my right and left, the sound of crunching gravel, and the smell of damp mud. I try to recall what imaginations filled my mind as a child, a time I felt most carefree. And just when I start to ascend a hill and I find my calves tightening in exertion I depress a button and the electric bike’s motor whirs into action, sending me sailing over the hill. I smile thinking, “I wish I had a button like this for life. Just when things get difficult, I can activate a switch to sail right through any obstacle.”

Slowing down as I enter the garage, my mind is blissfully empty, a smile wide across my sweaty face. My cup is filled. I am energized. For me, self-care is found in childlike wonder.

I’m curious. Have you found an activity that feeds you? Leaves you feeling energized, and not depleted? What activities did you enjoy as a child? Are you able to reclaim those childlike pursuits to energize common, adult days? Singing? Dancing? Video games? Bike riding? Mommas, lets take a cue from our children and find times in our day for joyous pastimes.
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Sarah M
Sarah is a native Texan. Growing up, if she wasn’t in a tree channeling her inner Anne Shirley, she was riding her bike on adventures through Texas pasture land. Sarah fell in love with her best friend Tony after they shared an on-stage kiss in their high school play, Arsenic and Old Lace. Together Sarah and Tony attended Baylor University where Sarah received her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Sarah practiced as a speech therapist for several years before moving to Birmingham for Tony’s residency in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. After a brief stint in Jacksonville, Florida, Tony and Sarah moved back to Birmingham where they now live with their four children, Sophia (age 11), Vincent (age 10), Luisa (age 6), and Grace (age 3). Sarah juggles managing her home and caring for her four children, while also pursuing her passion for writing. She is currently editing the manuscript for her first book, a memoir of her motherhood journey through Luisa’s diagnosis with Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disease that has left her daughter with multiple disabilities. Sarah believes that life’s contradictions are merely an invitation. Her writing focuses on the intersection of faith with brokenness, and the extraordinary beauty that can be found in the ordinary days of motherhood. You can follow her on Instagram @morlandt1201 or read her writing at morlandt.blogspot.com.

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