I write this blog post carefully. I feel that I may offend someone, but it’s a topic that’s been bugging me for a long time and I feel it’s an important subject to address. See this as opening a conversation, and I’d love your comments, but please stay curious and open-minded.
I have a problem with the term ‘self-care'.
It may seem benign, even nice.
But the alarm bells started ringing when I realised that the ‘self-care’ conversation is gendered. When do you hear men talking about self-care? They don’t, probably partly because they have WIVES who care for them!!! And maybe because they just take what they need without guilt or waiting for permission.
I also worry that the concept of self-care can inadvertently fuel our mother-blaming culture. I know no one means it that way, but it can reinforce the cultural stereotype that everything is the mothers fault, even her own suffering.
Self-care can imply that somehow it is YOUR fault that you are not coping because YOU just aren't looking after yourself.
Mothers are generally expected to do all the caring roles in our society. Children, elderly and often even men, receive the caring, but mothers are often excluded. Mothers are also expected to care for themselves along with everyone else.
Next time you meet a mother who is struggling to hold her life together instead of saying “take care of yourself” or “this too shall pass” or even “what can I do to help?” just care for her. Don’t wait to be asked because asking is hard. Don’t expect her to know exactly what she needs or be able to express that. Just care for her. Do something practical. Drop some food over. Make her a cuppa. Give her a shoulder rub.
I want to be clear here that I know most people use the term self-care with kind and generous intentions. I personally use the words self-care from time to time. I’m not targeting any specific individual or anyone who uses the term, but just want to look at the broader cultural context and more subtle implications. In the future I’ll be thinking twice about what I really mean and if this is the best way to express myself.