What is Self Care, Really?

The idea of self care seems to be very trendy these days, Women all over the place seem to think that indulging in an expensive pedicure, buying a new outfit, or going on vacation with a group of girlfriends is going to rejuvenate them. And it certainly may. But for many, myself included, these not only don’t rejuvenate me, but they also just flat out don’t sound appealing.

I feel as if most younger women believe the idea of self care is somewhat new. I disagree, though. The ways in which young women are choosing to express their ideas of self care may be new, but this practice was very familiar to generations of the past. They just weren’t as lavish and open about it.

Growing up, I watched my grandma bring all of her makeup out to the kitchen table every morning, plug in her mirror, and “put her face on” as us kids played. Then she’d go into the bathroom and curl her hair and spray it with an obscene amount of hairspray. She took us places regularly so I never really gave her routine a second thought, until years later. My grandpa had passed away and she had essentially ‘retired’ from watching kids and going places everyday. I remember so many times speaking to her on the phone and she’d mention she was putting some makeup on, but didn’t plan on leaving the house that day. I always asked “why do you do that if you’re not leaving the house? Nobody is going to see you, isn’t that waste of makeup?” And every time, she would tell me, “I do it for me.” I never understood it.

When I became a mother, I fell into that trap of messy buns and yoga pants. Daily. That’s what moms looked like, right? I was tired. I wasn’t going anywhere. My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was nearly 5 years old. I am not kidding, it was rough there for a while and I thought I’d never again get a solid night’s sleep. I was in bad shape, health-wise. So naturally, I looked how I felt. I remember my neighbor, a father of 4, coming over and ringing the doorbell one afternoon. I answered, he took one look at me and said, “I’m sorry, did I wake you up?” I could tell he genuinely felt bad. I was perplexed. Why would he think that? It was the middle of the day, of course I wasn’t sleeping. But then I looked in the mirror and was suddenly horrified. Is that really what people thought, that I looked like I just rolled out of bed at 3 in the afternoon?

I had an epiphany of sorts. I remember my mom always saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” What job did I look like I was dressed for? “Hot Mess” wasn’t exactly what I was trying to emulate. Well, as a mother I didn’t really consider this because I didn’t actually have a job, right? Wrong. It was that realization that, yes, I do have a job. I don’t have a paying job, but I have a very important job nonetheless. Once my mindset shifted from worn out, tired, down-in-the-dumps mom to realizing the importance of being a homemaker, mother, caretaker of sorts, my physical appearance shifted as well. The idea of taking care of me while I was taking care of others never really occurred to me until that point.

The funny part is that even before becoming a mother, I was never really into clothes or makeup. Sure I wore makeup, but it was never my ‘thing.’ And truthfully, it still isn’t. But for this season of life I am in right now, I have found such a difference in my attitude, both towards my family and my home, by investing a few minutes each day in myself. Rather than getting up and just going with the flow of the day and tackling whatever comes at me, I intentionally get up earlier to have a few hours to myself before my son is underfoot. I am able to make breakfast for my husband and send him off with a kiss, and then I religiously take time to care for myself. I enjoy a hot cup of coffee in my garden in silence. I put on real clothes. I wash my face and put on some moisturizer and mascara. This way, no matter how the day goes, or how tired I may be, or if the doorbell catches me by surprise, I feel good about myself. Which I’ve learned is essential to taking good care of my family. I want to take care of them to the best of my ability, and truthfully when I look and feel worn down, I act differently. I can’t really describe it, but when I’ve taken just 5 minutes to take care of me, I am more productive and more positive. Suddenly, my grandma’s philosophy of doing it “for me” makes total sense. Even if nobody sees me, I feel good knowing that I have made caring for myself a priority, which then allows me to better care for my family. When I walk by a mirror in the middle of the day, I feel confident, not haggard. And I also want my family to know that they are the most important parts of my life. What message does it send to our kids and husbands that staying home equals hot mess and yoga pants, but going out warrants all the bells and whistles? It’s a little backwards to me.

This season of life doesn’t allow me to take time off for a girlfriends trip, or a day at the spa, or whatever else other women deem ‘self care.’ And that’s perfectly fine with me. I am very content with my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But currently my days revolve around my family and my home. Day in and day out, so I can definitely afford myself an hour each day to fill my cup so that I can then fill theirs. You can’t pour from an empty cup. For me, in this season that I’m in, taking care of myself in this way fills my cup. It won’t be this way forever, nor will it be this way for everyone. I may get to a season where filling my cup means pursuing hobbies outside of my home, or spending a weekend sipping wine with girlfriends. Who knows. But this simple approach works for me for now. It doesn’t have to be something expensive and elaborate. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference anyhow. It’s quite a blessing to me to find contentment in such a simple task.

We often overthink the simplest things. Just because your current season doesn’t allow you to spend a full day away, or purchase a brand new wardrobe, or have a weekend away with friends, it doesn’t mean you can’t spend a few minutes doing something that makes you feel good. Maybe sitting in your bedroom and reading for 20 minutes would fill your cup. Or cooking dinner in peace while the kids play outside with dad. Whatever it is that puts a little pep in your step, make it a priority.

I want to be encouraging to you. Find what fills your cup and do it. We are all important and worthy.

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