I have come to believe caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”
– Audre Lorde
There is a certain guilt I feel when I force myself to take a break or rest up a little. As I lay down to relax, I can’t help but feel less of a woman/wife/mother because I chose to take care of myself rather than clean the house or spread the clothes. Often, I get so overwhelmed with that guilt that I end up putting a stop to my relaxation and getting up to do whatever needs to be done. Whilst trying to figure out where this guilt was coming from, I realised this is something that is embedded in our society and culture in different ways.
Growing up, I watched my mother and the women around me do EVERYTHING in the household. Our mothers took care of everyone but themselves. Although my mother never specifically advised me to do the same in my marital home, the expectation was set. I followed in her footsteps and tried as much as I could to be a good daughter and help out in any way possible around the house. Whenever I showed any intentions to relax or have fun, a series of questions such as “have you tidied up the house?” or “have you cooked the stew?” followed. Only if I answered ‘Yes’ to these questions, was it then acceptable for me to ‘relax’. There was a constant feeling of ‘the home needs to be in perfect order before I can relax’.
Going into my marital home, I subconsciously carried the same pressure with me. I wanted to be a superwoman – the perfect wife and mother. I wanted to do everything like the great women that came before me. So I did. I cooked. I cleaned. I took care of the baby and everything else in between. There was a sense of fulfilment and empowerment that came from looking at the spotless house, coupled with the smell of food from the kitchen that made me feel like a good wife. I had done everything on my own. My worth as a wife was very much linked to the chores I did around the house. So much so, when I couldn’t do ALL of those things, I felt I was failing in my role as a wife. I was not enough. As you can imagine, this mindset coupled with a full time job and a baby left me feeling drained with no time to myself. I was constantly tired and cranky.
…I recognise it, I am working on it, because self care isn’t selfish…”
As a human being, I painfully recognised that I needed a break to recharge; I tried to take the time out. This meant allowing my spouse to carry some of the household responsibilities. I struggled. Watching him do more around the home went against everything that I had observed or had been taught by women in the society. I questioned my ability as a wife and a mother and instead of feeling relaxed, I felt selfish and incapable. I felt guilty for taking a break. I felt guilty for not meeting the expectations that I had set for myself.
Having acknowledged that I was trying to live up to the expectations that I had set for myself in my own marital home, I am now personally trying to unlearn this ‘superwoman’ behaviour and allow myself space and time to take care of myself without feeling guilty about it. In doing this, I have also realised that it is okay to let someone else take the reins. I am slowly learning to take a step back and not feel the need to do everything. I’m not there yet, but I recognise it, I am working on it, because self care isn’t selfish. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Do you feel guilt when you make time for yourself? If so, know that you’re not on your own. Do you feel the need to overcome this feeling and how do you do so?
Till next time