One Mom Shows the Absurdity of Calling the Basic Needs 'Self-Care'

PSA: Pooping with the door closed is not relaxing "me time"—it's the bare minimum.

The emotional, physical, and mental toll of being a parent can be overwhelming and even unbearable. Add in other common stressors from illness to economic insecurity, and it's enough to bring someone to their breaking point.

Without appropriate support to deal with stress, parents are at risk of burning out on a whole new level. It's no wonder well-meaning friends, family, and even strangers point to ideas to help parents—and especially moms—take that much-needed break and prioritize "me time."

An image of a woman brushing her hair.
Getty Images.

Unfortunately, what is often held up as self-care includes things like taking a hot shower, using lotion, going to the dentist (so relaxing, right?), going to the bathroom alone, and so on.

But let us just get a few things straight: Meeting your basic human needs is not actually self-care, and it's certainly not an adequate approach to attending to your physical, emotional, and mental health needs.

As puts it in her viral video, "Golly, I wonder why I'm still so tired with all this 'relaxing' me time!" In the hysterical-because-it's-so-true video, this mom sarcastically points out just some of the super fulfilling things moms are encouraged to do as forms of self-care, such as:

  • "Cleaning yourself! Super!"
  • "Driving to the grocery shop alone! Dreamy!"
  • "Sitting down when you eat! Delightful!"
  • "Pooping with no one watching! My cup is full!"

The viral video has me wondering when parents who are elbow-deep in the trenches can get a break (or at least more help!) from the nonstop cleaning, planning, working, and child-rearing to afford the time and mental bandwidth to do something for ourselves.

The reality is that effective self-care should include things that help anyone feel whole and functional. And that broad definition can include things like hiring a babysitter, working out, sleeping more, eating better, or even talking to a therapist and taking medication. The point is that self-care is all about filling the gaps of unmet needs that need to be filled so that a parent can feel healthy and confident raising their child and not always stressed and exhausted.

In a study published by the International Journal of Nursing Studies, people who engage with regular self-care that attends to their true needs (and we mean beyond peeing with the door closed) aren't just in a better mood, they benefit from higher quality overall wellness that can translate to lower health care costs and lower mortality.

Imagine telling a single, childless friend who's stressed out to "Just go enjoy a nice pee with the door locked; you deserve it!" Or telling a parent to go wild and "Take those extra 10 minutes to blow dry your hair!" Yeah, pretty helpful, huh?

And, listen, as a mom of two, I'm really not picky when it comes to me-time. There are going to be days when a solo car ride blasting my favorite music, even if it happens to be on the way to a doctor's appointment, counts as self-care. Sometimes, that time away can recharge the batteries. Those kinds of self-care actions can be meaningful and lovely, but they shouldn't be the cure-all we assume every parent needs or benefits from.

More than anything, we need to stop assuming that parents can handle everything we throw at them and that the only thing they need to do to "recharge" is as simple as bathing or eating food. Meeting basic needs is not the same as being well-rested, recharged, and reinspired to be the best parents and people we can be.

It's time we set the bar higher for what counts as self-care, and we begin to include conversations around what kinds of daily struggles parents face and how we as a society can help.

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