Many of us moms are tired. Not just that sleep-deprived tired, but the overwhelming, all-consuming kind of tired that comes not just from your physical body, but from your soul itself. The mental load of parenting has been discussed widely, causing many women to nod their heads in agreement because it’s true- we are completely exhausted and it feels as if there aren’t enough baths or solitary coffee runs to refresh us.
One thing that often pops up as a solution is to take time for yourself. Self care has been touted as a magic bullet for maternal exhaustion for ages, and in theory it works. The idea of taking time for yourself to recharge and not be at the mercy of everyone else’s needs and demands sounds like just the thing to turn around that ever-constant burden of responsibility that grown-up life brings. The problem is, there is a quiet privilege in the whole concept of taking time for yourself. And the truth is, this isn’t always a readily available option for some mothers.
Across the board, parents tend to be woefully neglected when it comes to taking care of themselves. Many of us live off old crusts, dry shampoo on our scalps, wearing outdated clothing because we have more to prioritize when it comes to money and time.
Although it seems counter-intuitively masochistic, our “selves” often get put into last place on these lists. This doesn’t come from a place of martyrdom or laziness- the truth just is that we have a lot of balls to keep in the air and so our priorities end up being skewed more towards immediate responsibilities and caregiving rather than self-care.
Does this interfere with our mental health and happiness? Of course it does. It would be crazy if it didn’t! However the old adage of “make time for you” is often as hollow as it is impossible.
The idea that you can go to the gym, or for leisurely trips out minus kids suggests that you have support to care for those kids while you are making time for yourself. And sadly, this isn’t always the case. Although many people have friends and family that can help, a lot of people don’t. Maybe their partner is ill or struggling themselves. Maybe they are a single parent with a lack of help. Maybe their family is estranged or lives far away. Perhaps they don’t have friends who want or are capable of caring for their kids.
The truth is that there are a great deal of scenarios that can make the concept of getting away, even for a little bit, very difficult. And a lot of those scenarios may involve other life stresses that mean they may need that “me time” even more. All of us could use a break, and it’s heartbreaking how many people there are who don’t get that when they need it.
Self care is a wonderful resource if you are able.However, in your everyday life it’s important to recognize the privilege that comes along with it. And in this vein, to treat other mothers with kindness, and without judgement. She could just really need a break.