Wednesday May 31, 2023

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Obviously, yall know I work from home. I have one little baby bird still in the nest. He’s one of the reasons I chose to start this crazy, wacky, sometimes stressful, never a dull moment lifestyle. One thing I’ve learned about working from home is that although we certainly have more power over how we work and when we work (unless you’re a remote employee required to keep certain hours), it’s not always easy to keep work and home separated.

Related: A Day in the Life

And that can very easily lead to feelings of burn out, feelings of inadequacy, and for some, feeling as if they are isolated. I am grateful I don’t feel isolated. It’s the inner curmudgeon. I like working alone (as in, being in my own space and away from office drama, politics, and “Stop working so fast – you’re making us look bad!”

It is very easy for those of us work from home (especially mothers, from my experience) to fall into a very specific rut: you do not feel as if you can ever do enough on either side of the equation.

And Most of That Was Instilled in Us By Society

By and large, I don’t personally care how someone identifies. It doesn’t really affect me. There are instances of genetic studies that show that some people have different DNA than that of their birth gender. There are other reasons for it, some are personal. Why am I saying that? Why am I talking about nonbinary gender? Really, it’s just to point out that society affects us all in some way. We were all affected by it as children and young adults. And that I can’t really speak from any platform outside of who I am and how I identify (but if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and your family disowned you because of that, I’m your new mom. Drink your water. Take care of you. Mama loves you.). So as you read through the rest of this post, keep in mind this is my experience. Reality is subjective for all of us. Think about how society has impacted you. You may think it hasn’t but it has.

As women, we are bombarded with images of what some would call equality: working outside of the home, being fairly compensated, having children or not, getting married or not. Not having our bodies regulated by a bunch of men…I’ll save my pro-birth talk (that’s not pro-life) for another time.

Aunt G – My Strongest Influence

When most of us were little, we spent time with mom or another strong female figure. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt G, my grandma, and my great grandma. I learned to cook, crochet, cross stitch, clean, sew…and my Aunt G worked. She raised her children. She was married. And she always had time for me. She was always positive. I can’t think of a single time I ever saw her upset…okay maybe once when I was about nine. She talked to me about the wonders of going to college and how she would help me go (if I wanted to go – it was never a “by god you’re going and that’s that!” although it probably should have been…looking back, anyway). She talked to me about keeping house, making money, saving money, investing.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and my uncle died that I found out that Aunt G wasn’t happy in her marriage. She hung in there because kids. She wasn’t exactly happy taking care of grandma in her final days but did it out of obligation and to fulfill her own moral compass. From what I understand, grandma wasn’t very nice to her when she was a child / young adult. Aunt G referred to grandma as emotionally closed off, but also said she was always happy to see that grandma seemed to open up with me and my cousin (Aunt G’s son). My cousin and I were six months apart and we did almost everything together. We were like twins in the sense of always being together.

I also found out that Aunt G took antidepressants (something I never knew – certainly not knocking it). She said she would NEVER get married again because she wanted to be free. I was a bit shocked (although nothing she could ever say would ever pull her off of the pedestal I have her on in my head).

Related: Unfuck Yourself

Years later, working full time, going to school full time, and the DarkLord and the Patriot were little (they are now almost 21 and 18), I was miserable. I wasn’t miserable with my work, per se…or getting an education. Or my children. I lived for those dudes. I lived on baseball bleaches, football practices, band meetings, library trips, geocaching adventures, video games, cooking, whatever. Like they were (and are) my life. I volunteered at church. I taught Sunday School I volunteered to come in during the week in the evenings to watch children so that parents could attend a Bible study. The marriage I was in…it was a fucking nightmare.

And all I could think about was how that had to be all my fault (because he said so). No matter how much I made, there was a fight over money. I needed to pay bills and buy groceries, he wanted to spend it on who knows what. I separated our money early on because I was NOT going to be without a way to take care of my children. It didn’t matter I had a 3.9 in college, I would never amount to anything. The hour drive each way to and from work was killer. Constant texts, emails, and allegations while I was at work drove me crazy (once, literally).

When I didn’t work and the DarkLord and the Patriot were toddlers, he complained. So I started working part time. And he complained about watching the children.

Society and family units teach us from an early age what is expected of us. I worked hard at being a good wife and mom…not because Aunt G ever said I had to do that, but because she modeled it. And I am grateful for her every single day because now that I am not in an abusive marriage, her highest values are still my highest values. And until my own thinking gets in the way, it works fine.

We are told to have it all. And that we can have it all. And that it will be perfect.

The Problem of Living up to Those Expectations

I barely scratched the surface of society and even personal experience. I could toss research at you. I could give you some terrifying details from personal experience (like the time my dad said no matter how smart I was that I was nothing more than a whore….I was 12). We see these shiny commercials and idealized imagery of what it takes to be a REAL woman, a HAPPY woman…and that’s what we work to do and think “if I can just do X, I’ll be happy. Things will be great.” And after that X, there’s another. And another. And another. Oh, and you’re weak and incapable if you need help or ask for help.

The problem with living up to those expectations is that they are set by others. It causes burn out. It causes unhappiness. It causes anxiety. It causes depression. It causes low self-esteem. And then we become more susceptible to more advertising: buy this soap, this makeup, this food, try this new pill.

What they never tell you is to consider YOUR expectations in life instead of theirs. And work for what makes YOU happy. Because trying to fulfill those expectations set by society and others do nothing but make you (and me) miserable.

Self-Care As a Survival Tool

Self-care is a survival tool for your entire life. I know it’s a bit of a buzzword. I don’t give a shit what you call it, really. It’s important. Frankly, I am glad to see it making its rounds. We should never feel bad for taking care of ourselves when so much is expected from us by others (and by ourselves).

What you choose as self-care is up to you. But it is necessary for your survival and success.

I work from home. I work in a low-light environment. I wear blue light reducing glasses. I wear compression braces on both hands. I have a diffuser. All of those are self-care in some way. I am prone to light sensitivity induced migraines. I am also prone to migraines from eye strain. I have arthritis in both hands and wrists. The diffuser smells good and is just nice to have.

I workout six days a week. I eat well. I cut out foods that made me feel gross. I drink water. Exercise is linked to stress reduction and better work performance.

I listen to music I like. I sit outside. I cross stitch. I crochet. I sew.

Do I do all of that every single day? Well, the work stuff and working out, yeah. My other hobbies kinda just get worked in where I can. I also like to read.

Self-care isn’t selfish. Your need to take care of you is vital. You cannot pour from an empty vessel. You cannot expect others to automatically know when you need a break. It is up to you to take care of you.

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