I remember sitting in my bathroom one night, face mask on and freshly showered. This was my self care time, after a particularly difficult week I had decided that I was going to take a night to relax and do those silly things that they tell us will make us feel better.
My husband was out and my kids were in bed. I had made a mental list of the things I would accomplish with this time, but instead I just sat there.
Towel-clad and staring at the pattern on my floor. I felt absolutely nothing except the overwhelming feeling of being lost, drained, and exhausted.
Self care is a lovely idea. However the idea of it has turned into this beast, this catch-all solution to all of a mother’s problems.
We’ve internalized it too, my first thought when I begin to feel helpless and overworked is that it’s my fault for not making enough time for me. As if getting my nails done or going for a meal alone is enough to zap life into the maternal zombie that I’ve become.
A woman who is as devoid of energy as she is of free time.
Mental load is the over-arching term for all of those little things and responsibilities that live in our brain.
It is the invisible workload that we carry- remembering to make dental appointments, when the oil change is due, that the laundry needs to be done before sports practice, that tomorrow is the last day to take back books before we incur fees.
The mental load is the burden of household/life organization that exists in our brains, and in reality, even the simple act of asking for help is just another thing to do.
Self care has been put forth for ages as some magic bullet to puncture the ever growing balloon of mental load.
But how could it? Regardless of whether your face is slathered in some artisan creams, or you are submerged in a rose petal bath, do you not still have a mind? In fact, in my experience of being a highly anxious person, the quietness of relaxation is enough to get my mind spinning further, picking up on more of the things that I may have forgotten.
Is self care a bad thing? No, of course not.
It’s important to have time away, to have time to do those things that fill you up or make you feel relaxed and at ease. But we need to stop selling it as the magic elixir to our exhaustion.
Self care is wonderful and should be a part of every person’s life, just as part of being human. What it’s not is a cure for parental burnout. It just isn’t.
There’s no easy answer for relieving this load.
Parenthood is it’s own crazy season, and as such it can be stormy and unpredictable beyond belief. What mothers (and fathers) could use is understanding, and to not have so much on their plates.
Many of us have the pressures of working, raising kids, trying to stay sane and functional in a world that doesn’t incentivize rest or health. I simply don’t have the answer to this, but there is no question that doing what you can to take care of yourself is essential.
Although self care is an important and necessary part of maintaining our mental health as people and as parents, let’s please stop selling it as a solution.
Because in reality, that’s bullshit.