New Definition of Self Care, Please
There’ve been a number of articles floating around the inter-webs recently—articles talking about making self-care a priority in this new year. Most of us have heard the rule about ‘putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others’ when we take a plane trip. This rule can be applied, quite easily, to parenting and caregiving in general. Implementing this rule is a whole ‘nother bag of potato chips.
In my early twenties I was very good about taking care of myself. I had/have a great example in my mother—she has always taken great care of herself, spiritually, mentally, physically. Back in the day I had great self-care rituals, whether it was meditation, working out, buying myself flowers or nice lotions or all of the above. It didn’t matter if I was dating or single—I was pretty hard-core about my soul-maintenance. I maintained my self-care while I
worked, while I was in school—I was fierce in my self-love. Granted, I also went through complete head-up-the-ass periods, but I won’t focus on those right now. It’s February–it’s all about love.
So what the hell happened? I find myself, almost twenty years later, exhausted, frantic, out of shape and arguably slightly mentally unstable. Well, a few obvious things happened, two of which are my kids. I find myself juggling my own work schedule, the boys’ schedules (they are 8 & 4 and yes, they have schedules now…sigh), the majority of the household “all of it” because I work closest to home (includes bills, laundry, cleaning, general maintenance, planned maintenance, pets, shopping…you get the idea), the family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended…) and my husband’s schedule and emotional support. I’m managing, but then things happen, like the other night when I totally freaked out…
I just put on the EBM&D 17th annual East Bay Preschool Fair, and a few days later our youngest had to get ‘put under’ to get eight (8!) fillings put in his mouth, because somewhere in the last four years, we decided that his way of brushing and flossing (read chewing on the toothbrush and pulling out all the floss from the container) was getting his teeth clean. During the countdown to the Fair then the appointment, the laundry piled up, the dust bunnies multiplied, the dogs’ walks petered out and the fish tank water dropped to dangerously low levels. There were numerous burrito/pizza nights, extended screen-time allowances, and lots of moments of feeling like my head would explode.
I’ve learned to let go of the idea of the perfectly clean house, the perfectly maintained pets who mumble “I wuv woo” in youtube videos to proud humans, the always showered and primped self, with manicured fingers and toes. The self care that used be so important still is—it’s just changed shape. I allow myself to get frustrated and freak out because I’m doing a lot and I’m doing it the best I can and it’s never all going to get done. I allow myself to eat ice-cream without guilt because I’m not defined by my body image (anymore) and sometimes I want a second scoop just because I’m a grown up and I can have a second scoop if I want to, so there. I also get a lot of exercise just by carting the kids around, hauling things back and forth and going for hikes—hikes that I love and that don’t feel like working out. In other words, I’m kind to myself and I try like hell to be kind to others because in its own way, that’s another form of self-care—being kind makes me feel better.
I still take on too much. I still yell when I shouldn’t. I still need to drop a stone because I really don’t need that second scoop of ice-cream. There are always the “stills” and the “shoulds” and there always will be. This year I’m going to allow myself to do the kind of self-care that works for me, and that may or may not include ice cream, screen time, or flowers.
Angelina Grab lives in Oakland with her husband Sam, and their two sons, Isaac, 8, and Malcolm, 4. Their household also includes two dogs, two cats, four chickens and the oldest betta fish known to man. He is called Shark Bait.