Why You Should Take Time For Yourself
It's Tuesday evening and already you're completely done with this week. You're just 100% over it. You feel as if as soon as one task is completed, seventeen more pop up. Laundry is a dragon you can never slay no matter how many heroic attempts you make trying to conquer the beast. You apologize to your spouse that you're eating take-out again for dinner even though you definitely picked up your $150.68 order from Kroger for the week's meals. As a new mom, you're still trying to figure out how in the world you're going to take both the dogs and the baby to the dog park because if you don't figure it out soon, your precious furbabies are going to strike against you. With all of this constant chaos swirling around you, who has the time to make dinner?!
Everyone needs you all of the time and needs you to be running at full capacity. Sure, maybe your spouse is great at completing his half of the household chores list or changes diapers every now and again, but it comes to no surprise to anyone that women are routinely exhausted from the level of mental load that they carry.
"Mental load" refers to the endless list of tasks running in your head, constantly reminding you of all of the things you need to complete by a certain time or event.
"Mental load" means that your brain has to constantly remind you of other's schedules and then you have to remind those people of their schedules.
"Mental load" means you go to sleep feeling guilty for not "getting it all done" and waking up still tired.
"Mental load" is exhausting.
A band called The Highwomen has a new country song titled "Redesigning Women" in which they humorously discuss all of the work that women do on the daily. From rearranging your home décor for the umpteenth time to rushing home after work in order to get supper on the table, the singers jokingly say, "How'd we get it done? We like to keep 'em guessing, but secretly we all know."
The "secret" is that women are expected to put themselves on the back-burner for their families and for others. All of the invisible work that happens within a household: laundry is magically washed, folded, and put away, the fridge is restocked, and your husband's shaving cream which was running low this morning has now been magically replaced with a full can. All of this and more is done not by some magical house elf, but by some strange being who runs on caffeine and looks like a permanently exhausted and suspiciously rabid New York City pigeon but is really just a mom.
All the work that we do both in and out of the household is incredibly important and worthy work. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or work out of the home, a mother to furbabies or a mother of four, a first-time student or Master's graduate who is now changing diapers - your work matters and you owe it to yourself to take time FOR yourself. Caring for others is a critical and selfless deed and honestly? The world could use more selfless people in it caring for others. But for women, "caring for others" more than likely means that you invest so much time and energy into others that you lose yourself in the process. Sure, sure - you read all of the Facebook mommy pages and the posts from Instagram influencers who all talk about the importance of self-care, yet you can't help but feel guilty when you do.
Sister, I am here to tell you that you desperately need to take time for yourself. Self-care is not going to save you - it's not going to make the laundry disappear or stop the mental list from running - but it is going to give you the break that you need in order to remind yourself that you deserve some loving too. And it doesn't have to be a big ordeal either! Too often we think self-care implies that we need to spend oodles of money just to feel revived. Look: learning to say "no" is probably the biggest gift you can give yourself.
Stop trying to cram more work on your plate just to please others. I had to tell my husband "no" just the other day. He kept texting me things to do before our big cross-country road trip and I eventually had to say, "I'm sorry but no. I cannot do this today as I have too much to do as it is. It'll get done his week, but I can't do it today." Listen, look at your overflowing to-do list and see what is on the list that you can say "no" to. Learning to say "no" will give you the greatest relief, I promise.
There are plenty of other small ways that you can incorporate self-care into your daily life. For me, drinking that first cup of fresh coffee and watching the hummingbirds outside is absolute bliss. I have a small window of time in the mornings in which my husband is at PT and my baby is asleep, and I relish the opportunity to enjoy the peace to myself... oh, and my coffee! Here is a list of a few self-care ideas that you can try:
-Incorporating a new makeup technique or hair routine
-Trying out a new recipe. I love to bake, so I'm always trying new desserts. Even if it doesn't come out looking Instagram worthy, at least it'll taste delicious!
-Walking through TJ Maxx and sniffing candles. It's weird but also relaxing. Also, spending $2.99 on a small candle that smells like peonies will not break the bank, I promise you.
-Meeting with a friend for coffee and talking to an adult for once. A friend randomly sent me a Starbucks gift card and that has been such a blessing for me because it gives me a good excuse to get out of the house for a minute. Also, coffee is life when you're a permanently exhausted pigeon masquerading as a mom.
-Texting your spouse before they come home from work that you need 30-45 minutes to yourself in order to lock yourself in the bathroom, run a bath, light up that $2.99 candle from TJ Maxx, and try out your new bath bomb from The Phoenix Feather. I just did this the other day and it was AMAZING.
-Going for a walk or a run. Stick the baby in the stroller and go, go, go!
-Going to the library and borrowing a book or DVD. Fun Fact: you can also borrow audiobooks and e-books through the library app - all for free! You can listen to your audiobook while sitting in the pick up line at school or while grocery shopping.
-Buying yourself some flowers. Stop waiting on someone else to remember; they're pretty, they smell good, and you deserve them. Buy yourself the dang flowers, girlfriend.
People talk about self-care so much these days because we are currently in a mental health crisis. Self-care is not going to replace the need for therapy or medical intervention for those who truly need it. But for those of us who are constantly stressed and overwhelmed by the mental load we carry, taking any afternoon for yourself or even just a few minutes of the day can bring the relief you need to truly be there for your family. An empty teapot cannot pour, and neither can you pour out care for others if you don't pour yourself a cup first.