lived experiences, Mothering, Self-care, Uncategorized

On the problematic nature of Self-care for Mothers (reflecting on my experiences)

I always bookend posts, discussions and any advice-resembling conversations with the disclaimer that everyone is different. Everyone has different needs, at different times, and during different stages and transitions in life. Everyone has different levels of access to time and resources and I check in with a big P my massive privilege to have the opportunity and ability to go ahead with such form of self-care. I am also not a single parent (I share my parenting with an equally responsible and able adult who is the father of my son), I have the greatest Respect for any woman or man or however they choose to identify who raises a child (or children) on their own! However, I do not have the village either. As an immigrant family we only rely on each other and this adds to the stress and intensity of parenting in many imaginable and unimaginable ways. It adds to the rarity of self-care too. And to the ever so great need for it.

What I know for sure is that everyone needs their form of self-care. Anyone who has a self needs to take care of it, to replenish, nurture, and re-invigorate it. Some need this more and often. Others get it once in a blue moon (moon is deliberate here), and there are those who only realize how much they need it after they’ve been forced into a ‘rest mode’, usually due to illness. I have been moving on this spectrum my whole life both as a parent and prior. Being a woman in the world disadvantages your position as a self-carer on all accounts, however being a parent usually topples off any leftover opportunity for it. You know about the Balance, right? Care-feed-calm-work-nourish-clean-socialize-direct-grow-connect-manage-deal-sleep-provide. Pause?

But also…Maybe you are one of those mothers, like me, who loves a child deeply AND also have realized that YOU also matter. HOWEVER LONG IT TOOK YOU. You are on the path of loving yourself as much as your children. What a radical concept. You are becoming your own nurturing and mindful parent. A mother to your Self. One who is attuned to the needs, desires and all those unspeakable nuances of care which a parent intuitively provides. And when that inner intuition gets covered in layers and layers of responsibility, here you are…knackered, not having it. We have all been there…

Here’s my Pause. My self-care has a central element to it and doesn’t involve fancy bubble baths or all those suggestions you get under self-care on google. What sustains my self-care and my own mothering is solitude.

Silence. But also music.

Stillness. And dancing.

Sleep. And deeply gratifying physical exertion.

Alone time. But also endless conversations with my friends.

Inactivity. And also 10 hours stretches of writing.

Fasting. And feasting after cooking my favorite meal.

Darkness. And a roomful of candles.

Hands resting on my lap during meditation. Hands busy creating, weaving, knitting, stitching, drawing, clicking, typing, pulling and pressing on strings…

So I am alone for a week. In my own home. For the first time. I am embracing the opportunity of a self-guided 7 days of lovingkindness towards myself. And not for the sake of, you know, ‘in order to be a better mother after’. No, none of that. Don’t we all fall into this simple narrative to justify any personal need we have as women and as mothers, to try and make it worthwhile, to compensate, to explain ourselves, budget it and ensure return of investments?

It goes like this: I take care of myself only to return and be a better mum??

Can we drop this? Even just for a moment.

Although becoming a softer and (how do I even substitute the ingrained phrase “better mother”?) may well be an after effect and an amazing added benefit, self-care is just that. A care for the self.

What happened there? Did your stomach twirl? Did you have an emotional response? A cringe maybe? I invite you to park all those images that just flooded you about selfishness and egotistic self-indulgence. If you can’t though and if you still believe that ‘those mothers’ are selfish and narcissistic, might be worthwhile to reexamine your subscription to the martyrdom narrative of mothering. Those of the perfect mother storyline that we swim in daily. To the point of drowning.

(To be continued…)

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