Self-care seems to be the newest trend in parenting advice. It’s edged out the meditation, yoga and exercise that were trumpeted from the rooftops last decade, and seems to be the current answer to everything from exhaustion to anxiety to bad digestion.
If you’re a parent and you’re feeling stressed, any time you look for help you’re guaranteed to run across an article, commercial or advocate of self-care.
Take time for you! You’re important, too! Eighty-three percent of parents are less likely to lose their minds and run screaming down the street in their underwear if they practice self-care!
And while I don’t disagree, as a matter of fact I think self-care is vital to a person’s health and sanity, I think it’s come to a point where the thought of scheduling in self-care on top of everything else a mom does can feel MORE burdensome than constantly putting herself last.
We’ve all been there at some point or another.
I seriously need a haircut. Hmm, I really don’t want to bring the baby to the salon. I read somewhere the fumes could be bad for her . . . wait, maybe that was for babies in utero? I can’t remember, I haven’t slept in days. Better not risk it. Ok, if I go get my hair done, who will watch the baby? I hate having to ask my mom again, she has enough on her plate. I guess I could pay the college kid down the street. But then I’m paying for a babysitter AND a haircut. That’s a lot of money. I can wait until my husband gets home to watch the kids, but then I’m trying to fit in a salon visit on a Saturday or in the evening. We already have too much going on, there’s no time for that. But I really need a haircut . . . Well, so does Junior, and there’s not room in the budget for two haircuts this month. It’s decided. Junior can get his hair trimmed this month, and maybe I’ll figure something out next month for myself.
As the kids get older (or more numerous), this inner monologue may have different details and concerns, but the results usually end up the same. Kids, family time, budget constraints, all of those take precedence over any form of mom self-care.
Not long ago, I was talking about this very thing with a friend of mine. She’s a stay-at-home mom of four kids, and her husband works long hours during certain seasons of the year. Recently, she wanted to go get her nails done—her first time to do this in too long to remember. She almost didn’t go because she was worried about taking all of her kids with her to the nail salon. Perhaps they would cause a disruption, or she would be so worried that they WOULD cause a disruption that it would ruin the whole experience. However, she decided she would give it a try.
Within five minutes of walking in, two of the girls were fighting, one of her sons had fallen off the chair and was crying, and the other was rolling across the floor on a wheeled office chair. She was about to get up and walk out, figuring the whole thing was too much trouble.
Just then, the lady sitting next to her started a conversation, and said those words every mom loves to hate. “Cherish these moments, they grow up too fast.”
I wasn’t in my friend’s head, but I imagine her thoughts went something like this. Oh yeah, I’m really going to cherish getting kicked out of this salon in the next two minutes when my son wheels himself into the front window and breaks it.
The lady said goodbye and walked up to the front of the salon. The next thing my friend knew, one of the technicians came up to her and said, “That lady just paid for your nails.” She turned around to see the woman she had just been speaking with standing at the counter. As my friend was tearing up and saying it wasn’t necessary, she asked the woman why she would do such a thing. This virtual stranger said, “Because you are doing what a mom is supposed to do. You are taking time for yourself, even though it meant bringing your kids. You are doing something for you. I wish someone had told me to do that when my kids were younger.”
This woman blessed my friend that day, not just by paying for her nails, but with that validation that it’s OK for moms to take time to do something for themselves. Instead of complaining about the rowdy boys, or shooting dirty looks at the bickering girls, she reached out in love, compassion, understanding and kindness. She saw another mom just trying her best to do something small for herself, and she encouraged her.
There really are good people in this world. I hope one day, when I’m in a different season in life, I can bless a young mother the way that lady blessed my friend. I hope I can look at her struggle with her little ones, and only want to encourage instead of shame. After all, us moms need to stick together.