It seems counter-intuitive to lump chores and self-care in the same sentence, right?!? Isn’t self-care about fun, luxury, the chocolate cake in the bath? What is fun or luxurious about chores?
For a long time I thought self-care was about indulgence. Indulging my wounded child, not doing the things that seemed boring or onerous. It was about bunking off from doing the things that I didn’t like doing. I’m going to self-care by watching a movie instead of doing the washing or cleaning the house. Self-care was a get out of jail free card. I’m not doing the things, I’m choosing self-care *shines halo*. Except that approach to self-care didn’t really seem to improve my life. Sure, it seemed fun at the time, some of the time. The problem was after I emerged from my cocoon of indulgence, all of the crappy stuff I had been avoiding was still there. A soak in the bath tub did nothing towards reducing chaos at home or making me feel any better about the things I was escaping.
So therein lies the key perhaps, avoidance dressed up as self-care is still avoidance.
What is the idea of self-care? Is it indulgence? Is it avoidance? Is it stepping off the treadmill of life for a moment to rest and recharge? Is it the same for everyone? Is it the same for us each time?
Let’s take a look at what the goal of self-care is.
It’s about making our needs a priority, and doing what we need to meet those needs.
Let’s say that again for those scarfing down the chocolate bar in the vain hope they will feel cared for and nurtured by indulging the inner chocolate fiend…
Self-care is about making our needs a priority and doing what needs to be done to meet them.
So I guess the first step towards self-care is figuring out what are the needs are in that moment, or perhaps more importantly, what our unmet needs are. What is it that we need to take care of for ourselves? What is draining resource or leaving us depleted? What do we need to do in order to top up our resources?
Sometimes it is a good soak in the bath, listening to our favourite music, sipping on a beverage of choice with a tray of snacks, and a good book. Sometimes it is taking a moment to have a cup of tea and a treat, to sit down and stare out of the window while feeling the warmth of the cup in our hand and the delicious indulgence of a treat.
It’s not always pretty this self-care gig though. Sometimes it’s dragging ourselves to yoga or the gym, when we really, really don’t want to go. Other times, it might be loading the dishwasher before heading out for the day, putting that last load of washing in the dryer before bed. It might be cooking dinner when your whole being is crying out for unhealthy take out.
I had a week of that last week, the non-glamourous, non-indulgent self-care. I lay in bed after a night of broken sleep, desperately trying to convince myself that going back to sleep before my client session was a better idea than going to anti-gravity yoga. I battled. It was a huge dilemma as to which would be better self-care in that moment. In the end, I decided dragging my aching body along from some stretching was probably going to be of more benefit that lying in bed for another hour or two. I was right, it was. I felt invigorated after yoga. I would not have felt invigorated after a bit more sleep.
When it came time for dinner that night, I didn’t want to cook. I had taken meat out the day before and it needed to be cooked that night or thrown away. My husband was too sick to cook, so it left me. Damn it, where was an adultier adult when I needed one!?! I decided to watch the cooking show I like before I dragged myself into the kitchen to begrudgingly make dinner. It was enough for me to make an effort, we had delicious pork chops on a bed of apple, celery, and onion with sweet wine sauce. The dinner was nurturing, nutritious, and I felt a quiet sense of achievement at the end.
If I had gone down the indulgent, avoidant ‘self-care’ path that day, I would have ended it feeling like a failure, like my life was out of control, and filled with physical pain. It turns out that sometimes the best self-care is doing the things that feel like work. I’m still a fan of the long bath with music and a cup of tea, I’ll indulge in a massage when time and budget affords. Making time to meet up with friends, reading a book, going for a walk…all of these things are part of a good self-care regime, but don’t forget the satisfaction of a task completed or a life enhancing choice.
Anita is the Lifestyle Editor at Stepparent Magazine and is a step/mum to 7, ranging from tweens to adults. As a child of divorce and a divorced mum, she was completely unprepared for life married to a man in a high conflict relationship with his ex. This led to her current career, helping others deal with complex step-family dynamics. She lives in New Zealand but works with clients in the US and Australasia. Her passion is mentoring divorced and step-mums to step into their power and couples to navigate the challenging waters of step-family life. She is a certified step-family coach, with graduate and post-graduate qualifications in psychology.