Self Care is NOT Treating Yourself

Self care is like the new it thing. Might as well be hot yoga. Or spinning. It’s trendy. Like a top knot or skinny jeans or kale. We are all so obsessed with making sure we are getting our self care in that it is just one more thing we moms are adding to our never ending to do lists. Well I don’t know about you, but that seems like completely not the point. Here’s the crux of the problem we are failing to define what things are actually self care and what things are simply treating ourselves.

I mess this up a lot. Like a lot a lot. In my zoomed in world where I get caught up in my own selfishness and fail to see my own privilege in the trials of daily motherhood (check out Gratitude Attitude), I think hey, I could really go for some self care about now. So let’s start what self care is not.

Self care is not:

Buying yourself clothes you cannot afford because sliding plastic gives you a high.

Treating emotions with food or beverages as bandaids.

Blowing off things that matter to do something fun.

Flirting with a person outside your relationship.

The margarita that tips you over the edge.

Being unkind or selfish while labeling it self care as justification.

Staying up too late and rising too early on a regular basis.

Spending to keep up with other people’s ideas of self care.

Costly beauty regimens that should be your mortgage.

Indulging regularly.

Anything you have to lie to yourself or your spouse about.

These are just a few examples and of course they will look different for each person. For some of us a new wardrobe could be a drop in the financial bucket, while for others it could spell disastrous levels of stress come bill time.

Self care is:

Escaping into a good book.

Crossing things off your to do list.

Going to the doctor.

Making financially responsible decisions.

Going to the gym on a regular, but not excessive basis.

Laughing with a friend.

Sleeping adequate amounts for health.

Eating nourishing foods in appropriate portions without over indulging or depriving yourself.

Learning to manage stress. (Check out Tips for Managing Mom Stress)

Learning to ask for help.

Establishing healthy boundaries with relationships, with technology, with food, with substance, with ourselves.



Praying. And then praying again. Because we cannot care for ourselves alone.

Self care is any action that does not just feel good in the here and now, but will also feel good tomorrow and the day after that.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with treating ourselves. I love a good square of dark chocolate and glass of red wine. I do not deserve those things as a human with value. In our current social media crazed society, it’s not a rarity to see a utopian beachscape with the hashtag #selfcare. This kind of amazing trip is not, dear readers, self care. It’s a treat. A fun one. A great one, but I am of the belief that self care should never spark envy. (Except for maybe sleep from the mama’s with littles going through a regression because we know sleep = life. )

How do you provide yourself with care?

26 thoughts on “Self Care is NOT Treating Yourself

  1. Yesss, great post – especially at the clarification that self care isn’t necessarily about shopping or anything to do with this capitalist society we live in!

  2. Ooo I like the line about self care shouldn’t spark envy! AMEN! I love to wake up before the rest of the house to either work out or drink my coffee in peace!

  3. I think I have been setting my self-care standards a little low. I consider my self-care a daily shower and taking care of my skin. I think I need to set the bar a little higher. Your is list has things I need to start doing. Thank you.

  4. Absolutely! It drives me nuts when I see people promoting trips and cruises and spa days as ‘self-care.’ It shouldn’t be financially taxing to take care of yourself – that’s only going to create more stress!

  5. Great post. I am a huge supporter of self care and this hits the nail on the head. Your two list of what self care is and is not is spot on.

  6. Um this is amazing!! I 100% agree, though I never thought about this before! You’re so right, self care is about taking care of ourselves, not being selfish or irresponsible in an effort to “do things for us”. Such a great perspective

  7. Love this! You’re right, having to spend more money shouldn’t be a version of self care for everyone. I love your list of “positive” self care ideas, especially asking for help! Such a hard thing to learn to do.

  8. I completely agree! We always feel guilty when it comes to self-care but we should be thinking of it as a necessity for us to survive motherhood!

  9. Great post! I didn’t worry much about self care with my first but now I’m really noticing the importance of it with having two under two. Getting a hair cut feels like a day at the spa. Learning to manage the new role, stress and worry is huge for me

  10. For me self-care is nothing elaborate. It’s meeting my basic needs every day. As a mother most of the time your basic needs are not met. So making sure I shower and exercise by making it a priority is my way of taking care of myself. Great post.

  11. So much YES to this! I hate seeing all these articles about ‘treatin’ yo self’….to credit card debt. Uh no! Missing the point, it’s about YOU not material items.

  12. I agree with this to an extent. I plan to make a post about the similiar thought, but for me. Self Care iIS getting new make up and a new pair of shoes. For me, those things allow me to continue the monotinous tasks of brushing teeh + hair, etc.!
    Great article !

  13. Thank You! I get so frustrated when people start blowing off their responsibilities, friends and family in the name of self-care. Taking care of ourselves means making sure I got a shower in today and remembered to eat lunch in the chaos of teething or colic baby. To invite other humans to my home to make sure I’m doing OK. Not to splurge on a vacation or buy a new dress I can’t afford. So many people need to remember these sorts of things.

  14. Great post! Yes becoming a mom does help you put into perspective gratitude for the little things.

  15. Great post! One thing I try to do more this year is ask for help when I need it. It’s not that i cannot do it on my own, it’s just the fact that it’s much easier when you have someone there to help you, to watch the kids or take the kids to the doctor with you.

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