Women and Self-care (or lack thereof)

This is somewhat about the life-work balance, which came to a head for me because I recently had to stay home and rest after a medical emergency.  I realized that even when sick or unable to go to work I am still unable to find that balance.  Since hubby works full-time outside of the house and the boy child goes to day care it was a potentially nice opportunity to breathe, relax, reflect, and maybe meditate in quiet stillness…Yea right!

I’m a social worker by training and I now teach future social workers. One of the most important things that we preach is “self-care.”  You cannot help and take care of others if you do not take care of yourself.  I just gave my dad this lecture as I practically forced him to get help in taking care of my mom.  This is true not just for social workers, nurses, doctors, psychiatrists (highest suicide rate), teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs…but especially true for moms and wives. Right before giving birth, all of my mommy friends said “sleep when the baby sleeps,” which I did not do because there were 100 other things to do – even with friends and family helping and that’s a pattern that persists.

Knowing that self-care is important for physical and mental well-being, I spent my bed rest time:

  1. Emailing colleagues and students
  2. Reading rough drafts of final papers
  3. Preparing lectures for the final week of class
  4. Feeling guilty that I missed committee meetings and scholarship interviews
  5. Making dinner (albeit in the crockpot)
  6. Doing laundry and washing dishes
  7. Feeling guilty that I wasn’t resting

Part of the issue is that I was not raised to sit still. I was raised to take care of myself (get hair and nails done, get regular physical check-ups, have dinner with friends, see funny movies, exercise, eat well, etc.). My mom would literally “run away” for a weekend to engage in self-care (we had a nanny so that helped some).  But just laying around and healing seems like a frivolous privilege I should not take….this is THE problem with many women I know.  Either guilt or boredom or need to control how/when things are done, or…is it really how our society has shaped and programmed us? Americans and especially American women need to do better at slowing down and caring for self.  I might start a petition to get a national siesta instituted, which may help us on the road to being healthier…maybe.

Just STOP, SAY NO (or “not now”), seek & follow good advice on self-care, receive help when offered.

So maybe I’m in denial, delusional, or maybe I’m turning into my grandmother (a stereotypical woman of the 50s and 60s who always put others before herself), but part of my joy and self-care come in caring for our son and seeing him happy, holding him before bed, and cuddling him.  When my baby or my husband eat all the food on their plates and smiles, when they smile at me or hug me I feel cared for and am at peace. So maybe step 1 to self-care is feeling loved by family….still trying to figure out that balance thing…even when sick….UGH!


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