So, You Think “Self-care is Selfish? Read on…

When it comes to self-care, most mothers don’t even want to think about it because the very word, self-care, conjures up an image of selfishness.  “How could I put myself before my child?  “Or my family?” These may be the thoughts that go through your head as you think of self-care.  Let me say it outright and be very upfront: caring for yourself is not selfish because you have to put on your own mask before you can put on someone’s mask, as it is said on the airline safety procedure. 

Why is caring for oneself important? 

Caring for oneself is essential.  If your own physical health or energy is lacking, you will not have the energy to care for others.  Therefore, you cannot care for them, period!  So, the next question you have to ask yourself is this: how should I care for those I love and care for myself at the same time? First, you have to debunk certain myths about self-care and get a healthy perspective of what self-care is.  

Second, ask yourself, does the word self-care make you feel guilty?  If so, you definitely need to read on. 

Third, ask yourself, do you have a pre-conceived notion of motherhood?   Or does being a good mother have certain pre-conceived notions to you? Do you know what these notions are?  [If you are feeling fussy about these notions, try to write them down, or check off this list.]

Let me demystify some of the myths about self-care. 

  1. Self-care is selfish because I need to love my child before myself.   –  Yes, you are right about certain concepts.   We, as human beings, are selfish by nature (As stated in the Bible). In any emergency situation, it will show people’s true color of what their priority is. 
  2. The very fact that you struggle with this concept shows that you have an awareness of your selfishness. You are already ahead of the game. [Real selfish people do not even have an awareness that they are selfish.  Do you know that?] 
  3. Now, you just have to distinguish when you are selfish for yourself from when you are selfish for others? 
  4. What “selfish for others” means is that you are doing things for others.  If that is the case, are you still being selfish?  Probably not because you are putting others’ interests ahead of yours. 
  5. What is “selfish for yourself”? That’s when you have to do a close examination of these features.  Ask yourself, are you doing these things to glorify yourself, or to fulfill your own needs?  If you are glorifying yourself, then it’s real selfishness.  If it’s fulfilling your own needs but it also brings benefit to others, then it’s not selfish; it may be leveraging one area of your self-interest to help others.   Sometimes in complicated cases, it calls for our self-examination and calls for us to examine our motive. 

Let me demystify some of the myths of mothers

  1. Mothers make all the meals at home from scratch.
  2. Mothers have to know their child(ren) at all stages of their development.
  3. Mothers have to be happy all the time.
  4. Mothers put the needs of their babies (or children) and husbands before their own.
  5. Mothers are strong all the time. 

The list can go on… you get the drift?  Somehow, our society has inadvertently come up with these unspoken expectations of mothers.  No wonder it is so hard to be a mom these days.

One news source cited women are more likely to die from a stroke than men. Why?  Aside from the health condition differences between women and men,  women are more likely to make sure their family is all well taken care of before dialing 911 when they discover they have the symptoms. Women will make sure there are meals ready for her children and her husband in the refrigerator before going to the Emergency room when they feel symptoms of a stroke.  It is no wonder that women are more likely to die from a stroke than men for this reason. 

If you are a woman and a mom, please find time to care for yourself! Take up courses or exercise programs that nurture mind-body connection. Find time to nurture your interests no matter how much your family needs you. Find some “me time”. Learn how to meditate and use it to de-stress yourself. I found it in my personal practice of yoga. It gives me a chance to renew and restore my body and mind. I always come out feeling refreshed and energized after a yoga practice.

If you are feeling anxious and alone because of COVID-19 lockdowns, click here to learn how to mitigate those feelings.

About the author:  Jeannie is a mom of two children and the wife of a busy husband. She is a certified yoga teacher at Cultural Society.  You can find her bio here.