We’ve all been there. Feeling so exhausted you’re not sure what you used to do for fun. Finally a moment to yourself and all you want to do is sleep. Losing your mind about a seemingly small detail because it’s all built up day after day, and that was the last straw.
Seriously, we’ve all been there.
A friend posted a meme the other day that read: I hear if you say the word Depression three times in a mirror someone appears and asks you, Have you tried yoga? Now, you know I’m a huge yoga fan (it is fabulous), but life’s complicated.
Yoga’s amazing but it doesn’t fix everything.
That’s one of my peeves about the idea of self care. While it is important to create boundaries for yourself, honor your needs, and make space for what refuels you, that’s all very individual. On one hand, that’s a good thing. We can take control of our actions! Yay! On the other hand, it’s incredibly simplistic when we pan out to the culture at large.
The reason we need self care is that we live in a culture that doesn’t not value rest, play, or the everyday invisible work that moms (and most women) do everyday.
If there’s a twisted benefit to last year, it’s that the pandemic highlighted all the ways female-gendered work is undervalued and underpaid, even as they are the foundation of a healthy society. Nursing, teaching, social work, daycare, elder care. All of these professions are typically female dominant, and even as men are in these fields, the fields themselves are devalued because of their gender association.
Think how things would shift if value was placed in the prevention areas of these female-gender associated professions first. If our society valued those professions that support families, children, and mental health challenges, the picture of our nation (and world) would be drastically different.
Yes, self care is a good thing. You need it. We all do. And also yes, that our system is in dire need of a value shift from supporting profit, success, and power to supporting families, children, and overall mental and physical health. The kicker is this: our culture is fiercely individual. So when we have problems, we assume it’s our fault. Literally by default. We feel guilty, not enough, and worthless because we can’t handle it. We can’t do it all.
If you look at the work that RBG did over her lifetime, it opened up incredible opportunities for women, and paved the way for gender to possibly not be an issue in the future. With those opportunities though,
the old expectations never really fell away.
Take moms for instance. While you have the opportunity to work and contribute in ways women used to not be able, you’re still by default expected to do everything that moms have always done. While this is changing and men are doing more, the cultural expectation is still that women are responsible for the household, cooking, cleaning, menu prep & grocery shopping, school/homework help, managing child’s appointment (and perhaps appointments and details for the entire family), planning birthday, graduation, milestone parties, the buying and wrapping and giving of gifts, the holiday decorations, creating and maintaining traditions, maintaining connections to family, and even planning date nights. And this is not even mentioning the emotional work involved in having a gifted, twice-exceptional, or special needs child, which involves research, trial and error, finding the right supports, and managing a social environment that never quite fits.
Take a breath.
I write this all down to let you know that 1) if your current self care routine isn’t cutting it, the problem does not lie within you, your mind, or your body, and 2) it’s ok to stop doing many of these things. We all have room to improve, but there’s nothing wrong with you.
When I realized that I was stressing about making birthday parties perfect, when no one else seemed to care about the tiny details, I stopped obsessing over said details. I do what I enjoy, but I also know that in the end what matters is that love guides the show.
If I’m resenting what I’m doing because no one is helping me, then 1) I need to take a break, and 2) love isn’t running the show.
But also… the only way to change systems is to stop playing the game. I love that quote about RBG essentially telling her child’s school: “This child has two parents. Please call her father.” We need to both have conversations with our partners and families about all these different expectations and spread the love. But also, we need to make sure we vote for people who understand how the larger support structures in a society directly impact your ability to stay sane and healthy.
If you vote for people who value profit and patriarchy (ie. control over people’s choices without adequate empowering information and rights), then you’re creating the world you fight against in your daily life. If you vote for people who support education, families, women’s rights, children’s rights and opportunities, community support systems, and mental and physical wellness measures, then you’re helping to create a culture that values people and their health.
So yes to self care AND yes to system change.
If we’re successful in changing the systems, self care will occur more naturally because it will become a valued, accepted thing that one doesn’t even notice is a thing.
Except that we’re not there yet.
Hi, I'm Cara Maclean and I want to see you thrive. I coach (former) rule-following moms who've realized the rules don't work. You're smart (gifted even), maybe with neurodiverse kids, and simply too good at making life work for everyone else. Let's make it work well for you too. Fabulously well. Oh, and I've also got a book coming soon, through GHF Press! 🥳
If you're ready thrive on your terms, sign up for a free 30 minute consult call here!