“You should try a short meditation routine,” replied a well-meaning woman to a post in an Israeli women’s Facebook group. The original post focused on a woman’s sheer exhaustion trying to juggle career and kids, including one with special needs. Another commenter was justifiably horrified by the company’s demands and suggested that the woman advocate for her “rights.”
While I don’t usually write in this group and the majority of members are at least a decade younger than me, I couldn’t hold myself back. I needed this woman to understand that I hear her; I understand her and I truly see her. Her battle with exhaustion is not necessarily solvable with “self care” and “standing up for herself”. Her challenges are deeply ingrained in her reality and in Israeli society, as a whole, where women have significantly more children than in other western countries. Her frustrations are grounded in a reality that expects women to be able to raise 3, 4, 5 or more children, develop a lucrative and emotionally rewarding career and remain divas in the bedroom. I suppose some women fly through this life with ease and grace, but others struggle, many in silence, until they reach their physical, emotional and mental breaking points.
Every morning I wake up at around 6 AM, indulge in a solitary cup of espresso before anyone is awake and the insanity begins – clearing away dishes, driving soldiers to the train or bus station, rides to school, lunches, setting up dinner, looking for missing objects – keys, phones, wallets, cards, reports or a zillion other items. To top off all of this chaos is my battle with middle-aged mommy brain fog and the heavy mental load including scheduling orthodontist appointments, tutoring schedules, afterschool activities, the bank, the insurance, dealing with teachers and coaches, the cable TV guy, the eggs and milk (regular, soy and goat) that need to find their way to my fridge and an endless list of other tasks.
At around 7:15 AM my husband leaves for work and at 7:30 my seventh grade daughter clutches her bag and lunch and runs for her bus. Then, before I fight my way through the town’s morning traffic to drive my 17 year old son (with a prosthetic leg) to school and start my day working as a freelance nonprofit professional (having apparently chosen, by default, flexibility over a high power career), I take a record-breaking fast shower.
Afterwards, wrapped in a towel if I was lucky enough to find a dry one, I sit at the edge of my bed massaging moisturizing cream into my 51-year old feet. This process takes about 30 seconds but nonetheless, requires me to perform an extra step in an already tumultuous morning routine and my feet don’t seem to look or feel much better.
Nonetheless, I never forego this seemingly superfluous ritual.
About five years ago when I was truly in the midst of raising 4 children including a few with learning disabilities and one with a physical impairment and behavioral “challenges” that haunt me to this day, an enchanting headline caught my eye: “Women who moisturize their feet daily have reduced early mortality and morbidity”. I giggled and then read the piece.
My mother, who earned her doctorate at 47 and taught university level statistics for many years at a prestigious college, often tells us how she was amazed that her students weren’t able to comprehend the difference between causation and correlation and in my opinion this “moisturizing headline” could serve as a perfect example. Obviously, moisturizing one’s feet will not cure or directly prevent any particular disease but the article spoke of how women who take the time to moisturize their feet also take time for other healthful activities and more importantly “see themselves”.
In my case, for now, I still rarely succeed in engaging in other healthful activities but this foot moisturizing ritual serves as a crude reminder that I need to acknowledge myself and my own needs, every single morning.
And to those women, younger than me, who struggle, please know that you are heard and seen by those of us who walk before you. Even if you don’t have time, money or energy for meditation, massages, Pilates, vacations, Cross Fit or walks in the neighborhood, please do take those 30 seconds and moisturize your feet.