The other day while scrolling my Instagram feed, I landed on an account, a fine example of an aspirational yet fundamentally unrelatable ideal of mindful self-care, inviting mothers to let go of their constant worrying and tiredness.
The world is your oyster, Momma. Indulge in a second glass of wine, go for a walk, ignore the laundry basket, lock the bathroom door so your shower can last longer than two minutes flat, gift yourself the luxury of going food shopping without tiny humans crawling all over you, the whole shebang.
Dear highly aestheticized, highly tone-deaf “life-saving” advice peddler, here’s a news flash for you: worrying is not a mother’s favorite pastime nor her sport of choice. What’s more, a second helping of my favorite drink (G&T on lime-infused ice, if you must know) is going to do zilch for alleviating my agitation over a missed deadline on top of a missed doctor’s appointment.
Please know, I love motherhood. I love my children. I love our small yet boisterous family.
I love my life but there are also vulnerable parts (worry, guilt, stress, exhaustion) that constantly rear their ugly heads and no amount of self-care is going to make them go away.
Lucky in so many ways, I still feel the burden of ever-present brooding worry which in itself brings all sorts of challenges to my family. Like the majority of mothers, my days are repetitive, my thoughts are consumed by my children, my hands are full (literally and figuratively), my house is clean, my mind is busy, my back hurts, my calendar is full to the brim with PTO meetings and dentist appointments. Yet, you tell me that a bubble bath is the very thing I need to soothe both my aching feet and my overextended self.
What about the pressure of having to continuously justify the decision to leave the paid workforce in order to raise my children in the way that works best for our family?
Instead of advice on the length of a relaxing bath that would do miracles for my peace of mind, I need to hear more voices like Jesicca Grosse’s, who writes how “Moms Leave the Workforce Because They’re Rational Actors, Not Maternal Softies.”
What about the pressure to feel fresh and sexy for my husband after a day of constant kid-wrestling?
Sure, you may have a point there regarding that second drink, but is it really an act of self-care if I’m squeezing myself into the mold of societal expectations which ultimately favor the husband? I don’t know how many husbands would feel ready for some sweet loving after a full day running after the kids. I know mine wouldn’t and I don’t hold it against him. I don’t either.
What about the pressure to spend ample time being truly present with my children while simultaneously performing a million other duties?
As if myriad articles on “30 Ways” to engage meaningfully with my children or “5 Foolproof Ways” to make time count around them is not enough to enlighten me on the benefits of spending uninterrupted quality time engaging my kids in educational yet fun activities, you also come up with a novelty suggestion: “Forget about the laundry,” in other words, learn to prioritize better. Should I forget about cooking dinner and doing dishes, too? How about checking on kids’ homework?
Please know, any advice about self-care can only be constructive if it takes into account the truly magisterial act of balancing the seriousness of life’s obligations with the spirited lightheartedness of a mother’s love.
What about the pressure to suffer in silence through the accumulating effects of all the ailments because there is simply no time to retire to bed sick?
With a husband who works very long hours, no close family nearby, a son and a daughter still young enough to be dependent on me, a permanent headache, and a vacillating pinched nerve syndrome, I simply cannot afford to be on sick leave from my family.
Do I sneak a new episode of Netflix while eating melted chocolate by the spoonful? Sure. Does it help? Not really.
What about the pressure to avoid all personal and external factors that initiate frustration and a low mood?
It is frustrating enough when people assume that a low mood is something that can disappear by simply “snapping out of it.” True, self-care is a very important component of mental health but do you really think that a walk in the park is the much-needed remedy?
What about the pressure to be the chief maker of family memories?
Amidst picture taking, birthday party organizing, and tearing up during the graduation ceremony, is there an ideal time to “take time” for myself, do you reckon?
What about the pressure to balance my need to write, create, and paint against my family’s constant need for my time and attention?
Here’s a tricky one. On one hand, I consider the very act of putting pen to paper (fingers on keyboard, to be precise) and the time in my art studio as the most meaningful form of self-care. On the other hand, I write and paint as a gateway for thoughts, moods, and ideas that come bursting out of me. I view my creativity not as a conscious act of caring for myself, but rather, as another form of sharing myself.
What about the pressure of it all?
You tell me!
Just, please, don’t say all I need is a quiet afternoon to myself (I’ve had that), a good book (I’ve read lots of them), and a chat with a trusted friend (done and done).
I need more than well-meaning but fundamentally non-essential advice to fight my mom burnout.