When we pit mother against mother, no one wins.
I came across this meme on Facebook today and the resulting debate in the comments. Mother after mother agreed that this was simply not true. A good mother, they stated, puts herself first. You can’t pour water from an empty cup, they said. Getting regular manicures and having your hair done makes you a better mother, they agreed. Honestly, I don’t think the price of your phone or the color of your nails has much to do with your mothering ability. However, that’s not what struck me about the conversation. Rather, it was a theme I see again and again on Facebook, blogs and articles. People who are speaking from a place of privilege who seem to have no idea that they are doing so.
It is easy to say that it is important for mothers to practice self-care. Of course it is. However, what that looks like will vary greatly based on a person’s circumstance. To say that a woman’s mothering ability is tied to how she looks, dresses, etc. immediately discounts the mothering of those women who don’t have the luxury of time and/or money. What of the single mothers with no family to help or mothers living in a strange place while their husbands are deployed. What about mothers who are working two or even three jobs so that they can feed their children? What about mothers of children who have special needs who can’t afford a qualified caregiver so they are with their children 24/7? What self-care looks like to these women will likely look very different than a spa day. For some women, self-care might mean a bubble bath and a glass of wine after the kids are in bed. For others, having a safe home and hot water might be a luxury some days. When we pit mother against mother, everyone loses.
If your life affords you the luxury of self-care being a manicure, pedicure, massage and facial once a week, that is great. Just don’t forget that it is a luxury that not everyone has and it certainly doesn’t make you a better mother. If your self-care means drinking a cup of coffee between job A and job B, then good for you for doing a little something for yourself. And if self-care means that you slept 52 minutes last night after being up with a sick child, I understand. After loving our children, perhaps the best thing that we could do for them is stop judging other people based on arbitrary things. Your kids are far more likely to remember who you were as a person than how your nails looked.