We all work hard. We all deserve some self-care. Recently there has been an increase in conversations regarding “self-care” and how everyone, especially women and mothers, HAVE to make time for self-care. The days of martyrdom are gone. We know understand that it important, nay, CRUCIAL, for mothers to take time for themselves- to DO something for themselves.
The Greatness of Doing NOTHING
Realizing That it is Not Always About Doing Something
There are so many ways to “do self-care” that are cheap or free. You can take baths. You can exercise, drink a yummy coffee, hang out with friends (here are some ideas for a girl’s day out), watch a movie, etc. I feel like sometimes I am bombarded with this. Take an exercise class! By that drink! Eat that chocolate! Sometimes I feel like there are moments when I feel stressed out about the self-care that I haven’t done. Have I taken care of myself today? Am I prioritizing myself? I MUST go exercise, and I MUST find a friend to have coffee with. It’s almost become another thing on my to-do list.
The other night I was exhausted. I had a long day at work, the kids were less than optimally behaved. My hips hurt from being pregnant. All day long, I had promised myself a hot bath at the end of the day. The problem was that at the end of the day, when the kids were asleep, the kitchen cleaned, lunches packed, I DIDN’T want to take a bath. I was too tired and worn-out to do all the things to get ready for a bath. I know it’s not exactly a laundry list full of things, but I felt like even that was too much.
I felt like screaming at myself,” YOU ENJOY THIS! WHY WON’T YOU DO THIS FOR YOURSELF?!”. So in the spirit of “self-care” and “taking care of myself” and “putting myself first,” I dragged myself to the bath, filled it up, put in some bath salts to soak, and got in. it was nice. Baths always feel good, and when I got out of the bath, I felt like I had completed my self-care of the day. Now that my checklist for the day was over, I could get into bed and go to sleep.
I didn’t feel good, though. I didn’t feel taken care of. I didn’t feel relaxed or happy. I felt pressured. I felt forced. I felt like my “self-care” was making me more stressed-out than ever before. So I thought to myself, ”What did I really want to do tonight? What would really make me happy,” and I honestly couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do. There was nothing I wanted to do for ME. There was nothing that would make me feel good and taken care of. And then it was as if a light bulb hit. I DIDN’T WANT TO DO ANYTHING.
In fact, what I wanted to do was NOTHING. That’s right. I didn’t want to take care of myself. I didn’t want to do something “nice” for myself. I wanted to do NOTHING. Absolutely zero. Zilch. There was no bath, no walk, no talking to a friend, no piece of chocolate, no watching a TV show, no reading a book, and no mediating. Nothing. I want to sit and be. Maybe browse my phone, maybe think about things, maybe not. Maybe just sit and zone out and do NOTHING.
And then I realized that I had been treating self-care like everything else in my life. Something that I had to DO. We are constantly running, doing things, taking care of things, checking things off my list, giving to others. I had never given myself the gift of time—the gift of doing nothing.
If we aren’t moving or doing an action, we sometimes feel like it’s not DOING SOMETHING, and we always need to be doing something. I realized that I do that with my kids also. If I’m not doing something with them, then it feels like it doesn’t count. I don’t feel like a good mother if I am just sitting on the couch watching them play. I feel the need to start a conversation, or play a game or do an activity.
But maybe those things aren’t more important than literally just being in the room with them watching them play? Maybe they and I are happy just to sit and BE in each other’s company. We can enjoy each other without doing anything. Well, they are doing something- they are incapable of sitting still. But while they are playing, I can just sit and watch. I don’t have to be on the floor playing with them or tackling a list of things that need to be done. I can just sit and do nothing.
The things on my self-care list? I enjoy them. I want to do them, and I want to continue doing them. There are benefits to all of them, and at certain times they are exactly what I need for my mental and physical health. But sometimes, I need to just be. Just sit and do absolutely nothing. Not accomplish anything on my fictional to-do lists.
It doesn’t sound as empowering. If I tell a friend that I sat on the couch and stared at the wall, it doesn’t sound as enlightened as explaining that I did yoga, mediated, or took a bath. Those things will usually be met with a “good for you!” or “you go, mama!”. But NOT doing something doesn’t really inspire the same sort of gung-ho reaction.
I think that as women and mothers, we really have to take time for ourselves. And by time, I mean time. Time to do nothing. Time to do what we want- not what we think we should want. Time to sit and be. Time to do absolutely nothing. Time to not be doing something.
So these next few months, I am giving myself time. I am not going to force myself to do things that I feel like I should enjoy. I will do those things when and if I want to. Not to just cross off something on some fictional “things I should be doing list.” Time to just be me.
What about you, can you give yourself the gift of time?