Funny this picture of a monkey cradling its baby comes up when I search images for “self care.” The first time I heard the expression “self care” was from a neighbor dad who mentioned that he was leaving a neighborhood BBQ for an hour of “self-care.” It made me laugh. It sounded first of all like something you wouldn’t mention in public, if you’d engage in it at all. Definitely something you’d keep to yourself. I’ve since changed my mind. I would still feel funny mentioning “self care” in public, but I now see that as my problem, driven by a misguided loyalty to capitalism’s infatuation with productivity.
Anne Lamott in an interview once spoke about how radical it is to protect time for rest. Some people don’t place a high value on sleeping very little, always getting something done. I admire them. I’m trying to be more like them.
I’m in Houston now, working on an evaluation for a teacher training program. The days (only two so far, though it feels like far more! yesterday I couldn’t get online at night and therefore couldn’t post here) are full and tiring in a great way. In the evenings I can practice self care in a way it’s hard for me to do at home. I can shower. Put on a robe! Read in bed. Write in my journal. Or watch HGTV. (My parents were planning to move my entire childhood. Those house hunter shows bring back good memories of all those Sundays going to open houses.) This kind of self care—king-size bed to myself!—does feel a bit indulgent. But the kind that I’ve heard people at this conference mention seems essential. They are talking about self care for teachers. Teachers are, of course, always caring for others. Without finding ways to unwind and refuel, they won’t be able to sustain the challenges of day.
Teachers, mothers, women in general— maybe the quickest to laugh at the idea of self-care are the ones most often in need of it. Yet like the monkey, the instinct is always to care for someone else. The conventional wisdom goes that we need to care for ourselves before we can care for others effectively, like the oxygen mask. But the instinct is hard to overcome.