Ask my kids what’s Mommy’s favorite thing to do and they will not hesitate even for a second before answering “take a nap!” All of my friends know that they are welcome to stay all afternoon after a Shabbat meal – go for a swim, have some snacks, do whatever they want, but I will not be joining them because I will be sound asleep in my bed. Naps (or “shnatz” as we call them here in Israel…short for the Hebrew words that mean “afternoon sleep”) are my self-care.
I was taking naps long before “self care” became a buzzword and people on instagram were humble-bragging about how important self care is but yet how hard it is for them to take time to do something for themselves. Is it really so hard? Or is it societal pressure to be a “martyr” and feel like doing something good for yourself is the ultimate selfish act and in order to be worthy (of what, I’m not sure) you need to always put yourself last and everyone else first?
I don’t think it’s selfish for me to want to be the best mother, wife, friend, volunteer, service provider for my clients that I can be. In fact, I’d say that’s a pretty reasonable goal to have and I’d venture to guess that most people reading this can relate to that type of goal. I know that I cannot fulfill any of those roles to the level they deserve without first and foremost taking care of myself.
Call me selfish if you want, but then don’t call me when you’re having a breakdown because you haven’t slept in weeks because you’ve been doing all of your kids’ homework and volunteering for 7 different causes and working full time and making dinner and [insert whatever else here]. I will actually tell you that you are selfish if you don’t make time for self-care. Before you stop reading here and write me off as a condescending psycho, just hear me out:
We recently went on a camping trip down south to watch the meteors. About 20 minutes away from the campsite, the car made a weird sound and started losing speed. To make a very long story short, something was wrong with the turbo diesel and the car was unable to get up to higher speeds. This may be a bizarre analogy, but just go with me…we were counting on the car to get us to where we wanted to go. We thought we had done everything right – the car gets serviced regularly, it had a full tank of gas and the tires had the right amount of air. But, we had no idea what was actually going on under the hood. We had no inkling that the car was on the edge, about to break down.
Now, obviously a car is an inanimate object and things happen and you can’t always anticipate when the turbo will fail, but the analogy still works! We could not expect the car to carry us to our destination when it was breaking down. Imagine YOU are the car. You can’t carry everyone else if your turbo isn’t working.
For me it’s a nap, for you it might be going for a run, getting a manicure, or going out for drinks with friends. Whatever it is, finding the time to do those things – even at the expense of time you could be spending with your kids or your spouse or anyone else – is critical for your mental health and your ability to give your all to those who need you. Given that there is a pandemic, a recession, political uncertainty, and the world is basically crumbling around us, everyone’s stress levels are understandably high. A simple google search of the words “mental cost of Covid” brings up 568,000,000 results and there are plenty of experts who believe that the mental cost will be much higher and more severe than the economic costs and even the death toll.
Just because the word “self” is in both the term “self-care” and the word “selfish” doesn’t mean they are equal. So, please, take a moment and assess where you are. Are you constantly traveling at 100 km/h, assuming that your turbo will just keep on going? I humbly suggest that you think about what you need to do to make sure you don’t suddenly find yourself unable to move at all when you are still 20 minutes away from your campsite.