I was raised by a very strong mother and an even stronger grandmother. They did everything. My mother ran a business with my father, took care of him after he had a nervous breakdown, paid the bills, and parented the kids pretty much on her own.
I don’t remember seeing her take a break except when she worked in our backyard, growing flowers or planting cuttings from someone else’s garden. She was ALWAYS busy.
Her mother, my grandmother, was equally busy but she had a different style.
As a farmer's wife, "MaMa,"(as we lovingly called her) milked the cow, churned butter, washed clothes for our family, prepared special meals for my grandfather, and always baked a cake on the weekend for Sunday "dinner" as well as cooking a huge spread for the whole family.
In addition to each full day, she would drive over to her sister-in-law's house. Aunt Angie was bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis and MaMa would drive to her house to take her a meal, cut her hair, visit with her and cheer her up. Once, MaMa even took carpet samples, sewed them together to make a carpet for Aunt Angie’s bedside.
I remember as a child, playing on the front porch with my sister while MaMa and Aunt Angie visited and chatted. I don’t remember their conversation as I was too busy in my own world. But I can imagine that it really lifted Aunt Angie’s spirits.
The difference between my mother and Mama was rest time.
Mama did take breaks. In the afternoons, on hot summer days, she'd go fishing at the pond. It was quiet and she loved to sit on the bank and fish or sometimes she’d take the boat out and paddle to her favorite fishing bed.
I always saw her lay down on her bed after lunch for an hour or so. She didn’t nap as my grandfather did, rather she worked her crossword puzzle and rested.
Other than that, I didn't see MaMa do anything for herself.
If I had said (and BTW, the thought would have never occurred to me)...what do you do for self-care, MaMa? You give so much to other people, how about YOU?
I can’t quite imagine her answer because back then, of course, no one had heard of self-care. It wouldn’t have been acceptable in most people’s minds, And yet she did take breaks every day.
Somehow, MaMa did know it was important to take time for herself. She worked so hard taking care of her family, that on some level she must have known the importance of stopping, if even for a few minutes.
But she probably would have had to resist the cultural idea that hard work was the only way and it would have been way too selfish if you just stopped and did nothing.
I wonder why.
Why is putting yourself first an unacceptable thing, especially for women who were and are the glue that keep their families and their households running?
I’d like to think that today it’s different for women. That we take more time to give to ourselves, to rest, and do more of what we want. I’d like to think that all we know on a deep level the importance of self-care and that it’s non-negotiable. And that we practice self-care every day.
But do we?
I don’t think so.
I think unless you're aware it’s easy to be swept away with life. It’s so important to consciously decide every day that you must take care of yourself.
No matter what the messages you got from your mother and grandmother, think about the message you send to your daughter or your granddaughters.
Do you want them to be constantly on the go, giving out endless energy to everyone and so much less energy on themselves and their own happiness? I’m wondering what my mother and MaMa would say today.
Maybe they would say something like, I wish I had taken more time for myself. I didn’t know what self-care was but you do. Don’t wait until you’re sick or you get to the end of your life and say, did I really do the things that make me happy? Or did I just give everything I had to everyone else?
What messages did you get about self-care from the women in your life?
What are you role modeling for the girls, women, friends in your life?
What will you do starting today, to make sure you prioritize your self-care at the start of each day?
It takes awareness, a plan, and reminders to remember how important self-care is and to have it woven into your day every day.
Take my 7 days FREE Self Care Challenge to recommit to your own self-care.
Send this blog post to all the women in your life you know who could work less and take care of themselves more so that we can show the girls coming after us the sustainable way.
Fall is a time for us to slow down, to ground ourselves and to nourish our bodies. This retreat is designed to help you stop and listen to what it is you need right now. It's a fun and restorative weekend with mindfulness exercises, morning yoga, an online cooking class with the fabulous Chef Bai, healthy recipes to try at home, meditations and group calls to connect you with other women.