What a glorious time it was being single, making my own money, not a care in the world other than paying the bills and showing up for work the next morning after a late night out. The only person I had to take care of was myself and boy did I dedicate time for me. Student loans, rent, and utilities were pretty much my financial obligation where my leftovers were left for me. I worked hard and therefore played hard where there was no reason not to. I had a gym membership that I actually went to, sat in comfy chairs for manicures and pedicures every couple weeks, a massage twice a month, a run along the lakefront on a Saturday morning, brunch with friends on a Sunday, shopping for fun clothes after work, booking a Mexican vacation with high school friends, sleeping in, yoga, getting my hair highlighted, and some more goodies I popped into my weekly schedule. I didn’t owe anyone any explanation nor had a source of guilt. There wasn’t a nanny’s salary, preschool tuition, diapers, toys or clothes to think about or extracurricular activities to flock to. I wasn’t utterly exhausted, other than from a long night out and a vodka 7 slammed at last call. The guilt wasn’t there either. That fucking mom guilt where God forbid you do one thing for yourself that day.

I had it set in my mind once I had Brooklyn that being a mom meant giving it your everything. That Brooklyn was so dependent on me that every second had to be given to her, every waking moment that we barely had. If she was ignored in any way, my heart sank where I remembered the guilt I had about not playing with Lambie enough as I focused on my Cabbage Patch Kids. Eventually Lambie joined in because I couldn’t stand feeling bad for her. Yes, even though she was not real. So you can imagine how crazy I was for a real live human being! No I can’t go out for drinks- how the hell would I leave her? She was attached to my boobs every hour! Hell no I’m not going to a yoga class. By the time I drive there, take the 75-minute class, then drive home, that’s 1 HOUR AND 45 MINUTES away from my baby. A lunch date with a friend? Ha! I can barely shower nor get off the couch with my Boppy strapped around my ribcage. I just leave it on and end up looking like Saturn while I rest my plate on it in between feedings.

The self-care activities above are so simple and unnecessary but they are things that I enjoyed doing before becoming a mother. Something changed once I had Brooklyn though. There was a massive shift in my values and priorities, which were unintentional and let me preface, very non-judgmental. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers so I’ll just say that manis, pedis, massages, trips with friends, and all the other things I listed above are wonderful things. I just fell into a space where I had anxiety even thinking of doing any of those things, much more actually being there and going through with them. When there’s anxiety about doing something, it’s our responsibility to figure out why we are anxious even thinking of doing it. It’s our own self-care of discovering what creates joy and allows us to build happiness during a challenging time in our life. Those activities and rituals are different for everyone and there is only a right answer for what works for you.

The term “self-care” and its mission through society is not only annoying but also not the road we need to be taking when it comes to its true meaning. I didn’t realize this at first. I truly thought of all the items I listed above: cucumbers on the eyes, spa robe, shopping bags in hand, a weekend getaway, or some wine glasses meeting in the middle for a celebratory cheers. It’s taken me years of personal development, reading, watching, listening, attending events, talking with close friends, listening to podcasts and figuring out what I need to be not only the best mother I can, but the mother I am meant to be. Which stems and grows from finding what fuels and fires the unique WOMAN I am.

There would be posts and stories I’d hear where this “self-care” term was thrown out so casually and gave this aura of escaping a crappy life. Oh the kids are loud and annoying, so escape and get a glass of wine. SELF-CARE! Husband is being annoying and is stupid so leave the kids with him and get away with the girls. SELF-CARE! Work is nuts, you’re totally stressed out, and then you deal with so much at home so take an entire Saturday spa day away from it all. SELF-CARE! It just seemed that we, as moms, are being guided to escape the shit versus dealing with the shit we’ve already stepped in. The crappy day, crying kids, clueless husband, stressful job, and house of chaos will all still be there when you return with your no-chip mani. We aren’t dealing with the shit we’ve stepped in, and no matter how much you clean out with a stick, that smell lingers and doesn’t go away until you REALLY clean it up.

The wine culture we’ve created is something that totally bugs me. You’re going to be rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, “Jesus Michelle, relax and don’t be THAT sensitive mom that I hate” but one reason it bugs me is I come from a family of anxiety, depression and addiction. The anxiety and depression that was soothed by alcohol. It just gives me a little heat in my heart when I see guzzling wine to solve problems as funny or a solution. You know I’m all about being honest by now and I will say I love me a good cocktail. I enjoy it and don’t judge others that do as well. I love a talented mixologist at a swanky bar with my girlfriends on a beautiful rooftop. I enjoy a glass of wine at dinner with my parents and love a bubbly Prosecco to celebrate something special. What irks me are the memes and mom culture promoting binge drinking to solve our mom problems. I’m also sensitive to this as I know a handful of women, very special and amazing women, who are conquering sobriety after some challenging times ignited by motherhood. Plus as a child of an alcoholic, I’m terrified to become one as well.  So I’m not judging, I’m just sensitive to it and I honor my feelings. I’ve just seen too much in my life and others’ and honestly, it scares me. We don’t need to get all preachy here but I do believe we, as mothers, need to rise above chugging an oversized red wine glass as our means of keeping sane. We, as mothers, are so much stronger than that and we need to find that strength if you haven’t already. So have your glass of Rose or a fun Paloma while you’re catching up with your childhood friends, that’s what it’s all about! Let’s shift from this wine self-care message and believe we can figure out our world on our own- the power is there.

We are walking closer to how we really need to be talking when it comes to self-care. Our goal is to find our own unique self-care mission. Are you choosing to do something to escape your reality that will still be there when you return? Or should we, instead, be moving towards taking care of our feelings, mental health, physical health, spirituality, passions, interests, talents and finding our fuel for life? When we do this, we can splash our lives with fun things like spa afternoons, Netflix binges, a weekend away, or a facial. How can we find what truly gives us joy, happiness, creativity, confidence and meaning? It’s yet another thing to add to your “to-do” list but if you create self-care rituals that allow you to find what makes you YOU, the rituals will become a part of your life’s work and won’t be seen as another task. You don’t have to do it all on your own either. Find people out there in your community, bookshelf, social media, yoga studio, or your headphones to teach you how to take care of that beautiful body and soul. It’s taken me years and many people and channels that have taught me so many things.  You will find what pampers you, makes you feel good, fuels your soul, and finds the woman and mother you’re truly meant to be.

Thank you for reading mama,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

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