Is self-care a big eye-rolly turn-off?
Do you nod in agreement about its value but never put one damn suggestion into practice? Or maybe the very mention makes you involuntarily skim the rest of the paragraph/think piece/lecture from your doctor/mother/favorite Facebook lifestyle expert?
I understand. I am right there with you.
I don't think that the call to slather ourselves in self-care is great advice – and this is after I've given it often and for years and years as a healthy living editor, parenting writer and champion of single moms.
Self-care means something very different to each of us, and it depends on where we are in our lives. At some points, self-care might be getting your ass in bed before the alarm goes off to wake the kids up and pack lunches. At other times, it is finding a place in bed with someone delicious. There are days that self-care is a mammogram and others when it is skipping a coffee, event or phenomenal sale to make sure you have enough cash in the bank account to cover something you care about even more. Self-care is medical, emotional, physical, intellectual. It covers so much. It is a lot.
This is precisely why I don't think asking (or telling) single moms that they just need more self-care works. It is too big, overwhelming and vague.
And it's not that I am advocating for you to skip sleep or yummy sex or baths or being wise with your wallet. I think those are all wonderful and, yes, caring things to do for the wonderful woman you are.
But I think we need something more that comes from a deeper place. I believe we need to really dig down to get it, and when we do, I want it to be worth the work, the discomfort and everything we have to push aside to get to it.
What we need is not self-care. What we need is self-love.
We can go through all of the motions of buying ourselves a big bouquet of our favorite flowers, going to the dentist like clockwork, shopping for a therapist who speaks our language, making time to read or perfect our bolognese. But if it is not driven by a deep and real love for ourselves, then these actions are far less potent.
Self-love doesn't come easily or quickly. It takes a lot of practice to put that kind of emotion into these practices. But think of the difference it could make to let love fuel your choices in what to do, spend, see, save, advocate for and address in your life.
What if you finally scheduled your annual exam with the gyn because you cherish your body and want it to be healthy and well rather than getting it on your calendar because you have to?
What if you chose your next partner because you love the fucking goddess that you are and see someone worthy of sharing your curves and meows and laughs with, and not because that person happens to pop up on Bumble on a Tuesday afternoon?
What if you loved your life so much that you just made ____*insert the thing you've been trying to make happen in spite of yourself*____ happen?
I've been on a self-love journey of mine this year. I began more and more messages to myself with, "I love myself and so I will..." – especially when I heard my internal voice defaulting to something critical or shaming or ridden with guilt.
Self-love is not any of those inner bitches bullying me about my thigh size or bank account or crabbiness.
Self-love is reshaping what's at the heart of those messages into something I can do for good reason:
I love myself and so I will take that aerial silks class to feel more powerful in my body. (I have been taking that class and FWIW, it has made me feel both more sore and more accomplished in my body.)
I love myself and so I will reexamine my budget and my priorities so I can see more of the world with my kids. (And sometimes, donating to the school, church or or my fancy shampoo account takes a hit.)
I love myself and so I will take five when I need a break from other annoying people (preferably in the tub or in front of even more annoying but somehow cathartic Real Housewives).
I've felt a real shift simply by affirming that I love myself and that it can show up in a thousand significant and small ways every day. It's a go-to for single moms to say that their kids always come first. We are rewarded greatly for it, and of course we mean it most of the time. It is also entirely OK to love ourselves fiercely while we're tending to other humans. In fact, I think we do it better when we are really solid with ourselves.
And just because it needs to be said over and over among us: Showing your child how enriching and empowering it is to love your damn self is an enormous gift that could help them make thrilling, healthy, electric decisions in their own lives.
Love is not a luxury. Especially when it comes to you. Give it freely, give it often, give it right this very moment. You'll thank you from the bottom of your big, beating heart.