If you’re a mother, I would like to make a bet with you. I bet that you’ve heard someone (a friend, a family member, Karen on the Internet) tell you that self care is important because it helps you be a better mother. So get that massage, light that candle, take a bubble bath. “After all,” they’ll say solemnly, “You can’t fill from an empty cup.”
While I agree that is true, I believe it is a misdirection. Self care is not about filling anyone’s cup other than you own. Caring for yourself is a grown-up behavior. Adults wipe their own butts, acquire their own food, and care for their own selves. Practicing self care is something healthy adults do.
Justifying self care as an extension of mothering is just one more way women are dismissed in our society. A mother is a person. She is valid and worthy in and of herself. She is not valid and worthy just because she exists in relation to someone else.
Justifying the self care of mothers by referencing their improved ability to care for others once again encourages mothers (encourages women, encourages non-binary folx) to not center themselves in their own lives. The children, the husbands, the partners, the men — they are the stars. We are less than.
This sentiment implies that self care of mothers requires some sort of justification. It does not. I’ll say it again: self care is a healthy adult behavior. It is actually bizarre to imply there’s another option.
It is a marker of adulthood to take care of yourself. Not completely, of course. We are a social species, and we need each other. But, if mothers (if women, if adults) do not take care of themselves, who will? I do not mean this as a sad thing. Not at all. It’s a hallmark of maturity.
Only children have their needs provided for by a benevolent other. And we parents do this for a while and then we stop because our children (god willing) will grow up. They will wipe their own butts, acquire their own food, and care for their own selves. Bubble baths and all.
This essay was syndicated in Noteworthy – The Journal Blog