Hey, don’t get me wrong. I love a nice hot bath. Especially with my bath bombs: the scents calm my mind and my skin feels silky-smooth after.
But so often these days, our talk of self-care for women is limited to bubble baths and spa days. And sometimes that might be exactly what you need. 20 minutes of escape into peace and silence in a hot bath is like gold to moms everywhere (though we’ll probably get at least one knock on the door, or tiny hand UNDER the door). And we feel more calm and rejuvenated after.
But real self-care goes much deeper than that.
Real self-care is having the courage to look at yourself and your life truthfully, and ask, what needs do you have that are not being met?
As women, we are socialized to put others’ needs before ourselves. Even more so for mothers. We are taught that being a good mom means putting our kids’ needs before ours, always.
Real self-care is remembering that we are people too, and that our needs matter. And then finding a way to fulfill those needs.
Besides, our kids’ greatest need is for us to be present, able to connect to them, alive and whole. And we are setting the example for them to do the same in their lives. Don’t we want them to care about their own needs as adults? Then we need to model that for them.
Sometimes we have to get creative, especially moms. If we are introverts and have a need for silence and alone time, the baby and toddler years can be brutal. It is just very difficult to have that need met in that particular season of our lives.
Here are a few deep needs that can often be ignored by women, in my experience:
The need for boundaries. This is a huge topic, but I think boundaries are our most important form of self-care, and also perhaps our most overlooked. It’s NOT YOUR JOB to make sure everyone else is happy. You don’t have to get sucked into drama. If you have a relationship where you are always getting sucked into drama and guilt, the best thing you can do to care for yourself is to set a strong boundary. And value yourself enough to stick to it.
The need for achievement. This is particularly a tough one for stay at home moms with small kids. You might need to find another avenue to fulfill this need, even if it’s small things like completing a knitting project or writing a thoughtful facebook post that touches others.
The need to feel seen and heard. Never underestimate the power of this. Sometimes we have to bring different people into our lives to fulfill this need in different ways. Good friends can often help, or even people with similar interests, like a book club.
The need to connect. Our society breeds disconnection, and it’s slowly killing us. Taking time to connect deeply with others is critical, whether it’s your husband (WITHOUT the kids around!), good friends, or even online communities. It’s important. It matters. Humans are wired for it.
The need to be nurtured. Women are so often the nurturers--but who will nurture us? This is a need that can be difficult to articulate, and I’ve found that men can have a hard time understanding and knowing how to help. Women tend to be natural nurturers; we need to lead the way. Think about what you need, specifically. Then ask for it. Don’t expect anyone to read your mind.
The need to escape. Even just for 30 minutes, to recharge our batteries. (Though a weekend away is amazingly rejuvenating.) This is where that hot bath comes in. Also a good book, your favorite Netflix show--whatever hits the reset button for you. It is NOT wasting time to charge your own batteries.
The need for wildness. The need to connect to something untamed within ourselves, when one utterly mundane day just blurs into the next and the next. The need to escape over-domestication, to feel that great potential and unknown, whether it’s the garden or the wilderness or making music or a night on the town. To remind us that our souls are big and the universe is expansive and anything can happen, and life is not just sippy cups and bus schedules. We are more than our circumstances.
If we continually fail to honor our own needs, we find ourselves with a huge deficit, and that is so often when we turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. So many of our problems are actually deeply unmet needs. If we can commit to getting down to our own truth (which takes some time and effort itself!), we can start figuring out what our unmet needs are. And then we must, we MUST honor ourselves enough to find a way to fulfill them.
And if that need at the moment is a divinely scented hot bath, well hey, I’ve got you covered.