Anyone who’s ever picked up a women’s magazine has heard the term “self-care.” That includes men, because I know all of you have browsed through an issue or two of Cosmo or Oprah at a dentist’s office.
In the world of the magazines, self-care is about taking some time for yourself to relax and recharge. This may or may not include a pedicure, a mud mask, scented candles, and some sort of soft jazz (all of which require purchasing products from one of the magazine’s advertisers of course). It will probably include wine. It will definitely include a bubble bath.
While all of these things are nice, they don’t really relax or restore me. You know what does?
A clean house.
I love a sparkling-clean, fresh-smelling house. I love mopped dust boards and gleaming countertops and shoes lined up in a row on the closet floor.
All of these things make me feel wonderful. But I have never really thought of them as self-care. Cleaning the house is a “chore,” as are laundry and paying bills and cooking.
When things get busy, chores get short shrift. Mail piles up on the dining table, meals get reduced to anything that can be prepared and consumed in less than five minutes, and the laundry basket teeters toward overflowing.
But not taking care of my house leaves me sad and embarrassed. I can’t relax when I do have a few minutes because I see all the things that need dusting and tidying and wiping down. I’ll rush out the door on the way to the airport and think, “If this plane crashes, people are going to look at the state of my bathroom mirror and be too disgusted to attend my funeral.”
I wish I was kidding.
With this being the situation, I’ve decided I may have to take a radical step. And this radical step involves kicking what those magazines taught me right out the window.
“Self”-care doesn’t have to be all done by yourself. Self-care just means doing what it takes to make your life saner and healthier. It means taking care of your own spirit, mind and body so that you can go out into the world and be of inspiration and service and love to others.
In my case, self-care involves hiring a cleaning service. And boy does saying that raise a whole bunch of resistance.
There is resistance around money and giving strangers a key to my home. Analysis of the budget and searching out reputable, bonded cleaning firms address both of those issues.
The deeper resistance is that hiring a cleaning service, while an act of self-care, is also an act of asking for help. It is, in effect, hiring someone to help care for me. It’s admitting that I can’t do it all on my own. It’s being as generous with myself as I would be with another.
And that is surprisingly hard to do.
We live in a society that values self-sufficiency. Where helping another is often couched as “charity” or “handouts.” Where the narrative of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is revered, even when it’s completely false. (And, let’s face it, it’s usually completely false.)
But on the other hand, if I don’t try to do it all myself, I may find myself energized in new ways. I may be a better friend. I may sleep better which would make me better able to contribute to my job. I may shed layers of anxiety and guilt and instead bask in something that I value so much. Plus, I’ll know that I’m helping a small business right here in my community.
My version of taking care of myself may not look like yours, but it is worth overcoming the resistance to try it out. Maybe this is something that will be restorative for a while and then no longer be necessary. Maybe I won’t find as much value in it as I think I will. But it’s worth it to try.
Besides, no bubble bath is going to happen until I find someone else willing to scrub out the tub afterwards.