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Why is Self-Care important?

By January 21, 2009 - 12:30am
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Many women are faced with juggling many tasks at once in life, whether we are raising a family, working, caring for a love one, procrastinating, or all of the above, we tend not to think of us first. Self-care does not imply an ego-driven activity, but why do we feel so guilty when we consider a few hours or a weekend away to unwind and recharge?

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HERWriter Guide

Cyndi, your dilemmas are really interesting to read because I think they happen to a lot of American women.

Working from home or staying home with children is not generally valued. We can talk a big game about how staying home with kids is "the hardest job in the world" and that kind of talk gets a big round off applause on shows like Oprah, but in the past 5 years I have been a stay at home mom, a work from home mom and a career woman and I can tell you that the latter is most valued, when all is said and done. And having done all three, I think being a work at home mom is very challenging because you are both a full-time parent and a career woman. Juggling both, without childcare, is sometimes being like a rat in a maze. It takes time, patience and hard work to understand how to combine both. And I have to apologize for saying "full-time parent" as if career women are only "part-time parents" - I don't mean that, I simply mean we are with our children on a full-time basis.

I promised myself that when I became a SAHM, I would shower every morning, shave my legs every morning, wear mascara and a little concealer and keep up with bikini waxes and everything else that make me feel like...me. It took me 18 months to get to my wedding day weight after all my kids but I did it and continue to do it, no matter how much I sometimes feel like giving up. It has made an enormous difference in my self-esteem. Not because I value myself because I have nice long eyelashes or no blemishes due to makeup or fit into size 7 jeans. But because I didn't stop doing what I always did, simply because I had kids and quit my job. It's hard for people who have never "given up" a career to really understand what it's like to have a degree that was hard earned, to have spent fifteen years working, to have paid one's own mortgage and for it all to change, in the blink of an eye.

It's too easy to talk about how a baby makes all of the above seem unimportant. It does, for the first year. After three years of being a SAHM, and having had 3 kids in 3 years, I found myself aching to work again. It didn't mean I devalued staying at home - I still stay home. But women also value work - seeing our work come to fruition, a paycheck (no matter how small) and a few hours a day where we feel like our brains are working on something creative and intellectual. If a man said this, we'd all get it. Why is a woman so different?

Cyndi, who is telling you that you are no longer worth what you were once worth? You? Commercials on TV? Society? Friends or family? I can't say ignore it, because that's virtually impossible.

Focus on you. YOU see that unmade bed. YOU see yourself in sweats and unkept hair. Work to impress you, not others. I am my own best and worst critic! So I expect high standards from myself. You need to, as well. So dress nicely, every day. Fix your hair and throw on some gloss. Work out. Throw yourself into a project you love. Be the best mom, wife, lover and friend you can be and give yourself time alone, when you can. And remember to allow yourself failures and mistakes too. When you have high - but realistic- expectations of yourself, you will follow through. You are the one who has to live with yourself! Be your own best advocate.

It's hard to do this. As a full time parent and part-time careerist, I have days where I want to throw in the towel and give up. But those days are fewer than the days I feel like I can do it all - just not all at once. Pace yourself, have high expectation that are based in both practicality and realism, and impress yourself, not others. You'll impress others by default.

Everyone who leaves the traditional work place feels like you do, at one time or another. (so the good news is that you're normal!). It takes time, and understanding from yourself and others to get back to feeling that you, and life, are both very worthwhile, no matter what you do!

January 23, 2009 - 1:46pm

I think self-care must be tied into self-worth.

I say this from the point of view of someone who let most of my self-care slip over the years that I was out of the workplace.

I gained weight. Sometimes I didn't get dressed in anything but sweats. Forget "extra" things like lunches with friends or small impulsive splurges -- when I wasn't earning money, I felt like I shouldn't spend it, either.

I wish I understood why working outside the house -- and having external deadlines and external responsibilities -- seems so much more important and "worthwhile" than working inside the house, or having internal deadlines or internal goals and responsibilities. Why do I not care how I look when no one sees me, but I do care when they do? Is that hypocrisy? (I guess in a way it's like making the bed. Why do we make the bed if we're just getting back in it that night, and no one sees it in between?)

I need help with this, because I'm not happy when I feel this way. I'm working now and it helps. But I'm not sure where to start with the overal feeling that I no longer am worth the things I used to be worth. Tell me how I get past this feeling so that I can move on and accomplish some things for myself?

January 23, 2009 - 9:18am

Susanc, you are so right on! I am on the same boat...I am sure that creating a habit of "self-care" will require sticking to a schedule, the same way we do it with other tasks. I signed up for an 8-week Meditation class. It is a 3-hour class and we practice 60' of one technique and 45' of another other each night we meet.

I signed up for this class because I know my body and mind need it. But as I went through the motions, I struggle with letting go of my thoughts and guilt of taking time for me. My mind wandered to the next task in my day or thoughts like these: "are the kids doing their homework?" "Is the caregiver paying attention to my hubby's needs while I am gone?"...were all over my head.

The instructor is a physician who requires this book (the course is for credits from the University): "Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness" by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.

I will share feedback on this book at a later post.

January 22, 2009 - 11:23pm
HERWriter Guide

I don't know why we feel guilty but we need to stop it - pronto.

I'm guilty of feeling guilty and I actually irritate myself for mentally telling myself a hundred reasons why I should wash the floor (again) instead of going to bed earlier or why everyone needs some down time- except me, apparently.

I think we're on a search for perfection and it is not doing us any favors. I am getting a lot better in insisting that I get a couple of hours every week to myself. I also think we've been fed lies like we can have it all. The truth is we can't. At least not all at the same time. We need to re-evaluate our values and not feed into the fallacy that working a 20 hour a day (whether home or work or both) somehow makes us a better and more worthy person, when in fact it makes us depressed, angry, resentful and exhausted.

It has been a slow process for me to learn this. But better late than never :)

January 21, 2009 - 3:02pm
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