I recently partook in a conversation with a large group of fellow practitioners that seemed to focus on societal expectations of women. While women are making great strides in the workforce and the rate of female breadwinners is rising steadily, it seems the societal expectations of women have not changed. Generally, women are expected to be the caregivers or nurturers in relationships. However, in the same respect, there is no room for them to care for themselves.
Growing up I used to be amazed at how little my mother would get sick, her continual explanation was, “I don’t have time to be sick”. As a child I never quite understood that response, however looking back now, sadly she was right. My father is wonderful, but when it came to us kids and the house, mom was the one who kept things running(Granted we did enjoy the times dad was in charge – fruit roll-ups and chips for lunch! YES! hahaha).
As an adult, and now mental health practitioner, I am in awe of the strength my mom had to have had all those years to literally WILL herself not to get sick because, she simply “did not have time”. I imagine, this is the case in most households, for most women. Women do not have one job – they have MANY! Women (both in the workforce and at home) tend to be chefs, taxi drivers, nurses, house-keepers, caregivers, tutors, therapists, hair stylists, financial advisors, cheerleaders, coaches, brownie troop leaders, classroom moms, personal shoppers and a multitude of other things on an “on-call” basis and all at once, with very little reimbursement. Women are consistently called upon to help others, but allow little, to no, time or appreciation for themselves. As more women enter the workforce more and more is expected of them and less and less time is allotted for it.
It is with all this in mind that I challenge women to begin to MAKE time for themselves in the same way that they always seem to MAKE time for someone else. If we do not make time to take care of ourselves then we become incapable of taking care of those we love. This thought immediately brings to mind the safety instructions at the beginning of airplane flights, “put on your own mask before assisting others” – why? Because, what happens if you pass out before you get someone else’s mask on? Then you are BOTH in trouble as is anyone else you would have been able to assist. In that respect, self-care is MORE important than caring for others. I do not care if you work full-time, part-time or are a stay at home mom or homemaker – what you do on a daily basis is AMAZING and it is time you recognized your own worth and took care of yourself too. This does not mean it has to be “instead” it means “ALSO”.
Additionally, part of self-care is knowing when to ask for help and then (this is the part women tend to fall short on) LET people help. I recently had a client who was feeling overwhelmed with her high stress job and household responsibilities as a wife and mother. During the course of the conversation it became apparent that she had a difficult time accepting help, having feelings of inadequacy. I have realized that asking for help often takes more strength then trying to do it all yourself.
Societal expectations tend to impress upon women that we should be able to work, be a mother, be a wife, clean the house, run errands, the list goes on and on AND never take a break. It’s as if we are expected to be a human version of the energizer bunny. The key word here is, we are HUMAN. There seems to be this huge amount of guilt associated with taking time out for yourself or asking for help. No wonder many women have a difficult time with their own self-worth! They are expecting themselves to do the impossible and do so all alone. I am here to tell you it is OK , even essential, for you to ask for help and take a break whether it be an hour or a full day. Rather than feeling guilty, maybe look at it as a source of pride that you are able to recognize your own limits, take care of yourself and demonstrate to others (including your kids) how to do this and that you deserve to be taken care of too.
The biggest rebuke I tend to get is – I don’t have time! Well, if that is true then it means it is time for you to ask for help or give something up. Taking care of yourself NEEDS to be as important as grocery shopping or doing laundry because if you don’t then you will not be able to do those things either. It is time we all take a stand against societal expectations and say WE ARE IMPORTANT TO! I NEED TO TAKE CARE OF ME TOO!
Below is an image that I recently came across and have found it helpful in remembering not only to pay attention to self-care but ALSO learning HOW to care for yourself. It is important that you pay attention to each of the 6 categories in order for you to be the most happy, productive and helpful!