I’m thinking today about what we, as women, are modeling for our daughters.
This topic has been coming up for me quite often of late — perhaps because my now teen-aged girls are giving me a hint at the women they are becoming–smart, insightful, caring, aware, and funny (definitely funny.) And when I see that glimpse, I think about what else I can give them, what other things I can add to their tool kit before they go out into the world.
As a whole, I’ve done a pretty good job parenting these two wonders. Oh, I have my shortcomings for sure, a list of things I wish I got a “do over” on. And that list only gets longer every time I read some “ten ways to grow a compassionate child” article on Pinterest, just to find it only works if your kids are still toddlers. But for the most part I think we’ve got it down: Be brave. Be true. Be kind.
Today, as I bumbled around the kitchen, tossing moldy leftovers into the compost and wedging Tupperware lids into the dishwasher, my daughter Eden walked into the room and said, “Mom! What are you doing up?”
You see, last night I was in the ER. A minor illness flashed into a major infection and I ended up lying on a gurney with three IV lines and a complimentary trip to the cat-scan. Things seem under control now and I’m on the mend. I know my body is working hard to fight this off, I know I will be tired and not at 100% for at least the next week. I know this. Yet the minute the pain was gone–just the pain, not the illness–I was out of bed doing my mothering thing.
Something about the mature tone in Eden’s voice — reason and care mixed with a touch of disapproval–brought me to a flash of insight.
What am I modeling to my children about self-care when I’m sick?
You see, I’m a religious fanatic when it comes to self-care. I believe in morning meditation and bubble baths and speaking your story—all the things that nurture you body and soul. (How can you be brave, be true, be kind if you are all wrung out?) But taking care of myself when I’m sick? Not so much.
When I’m sick I try to rise to the culture challenge to be busy. I panic over the to-do list that isn’t getting crossed off. I step out of presence, ignoring my need to rest. Instead I leap into the imagined future, where the dishes are stacked in leaning piles, and everyone get scurvy from eating nothing but mac n’ cheese for days on end. And in this mix of ego and panic, I forget to take care of myself, right when I need it most.
Now, I recognize my privilege in this situation. I have insurance, a partner with a living wage, work that affords me time off, friends with cars and big hearts, and children grown enough to boil their own pasta. Very few women are lucky enough to have all of those things in their hand at the same time. Many of us work hourly, and lost work is lost rent. Or have infants, when you can’t just crawl under the sheets all day to fight off a bug. Or live far from family and friends where there’s no one to ask for help.
Still, I’d like to think that we could support each other in this. That we could give each other permission for self-care by saying, “Rest as much as you can, friend.” Or, “What do you need — can I drive a kid to soccer? Can I pick up orange juice and eggs? Can I take the baby for a couple hours?” Moreover, I like to think that we can step past our own strong-but-subtle desire to be seen as unstoppable, that we could push our ego out of the way and ask or accept help. We aren’t programmed by society to do this, but we can make the choice to model something different to our daughters.
Let’s make a pact right now, you and I, that we won’t play the martyr.
Let’s nap when we’re ill.
Let’s call to our partners with a request for more tea.
Let’s take up the neighbor’s offer to go pick up some probiodics.
Let’s model good self-care for our children — in times of sickness as well as in times of health.
Right now, as I’m writing this, Eden has crawled into my bed with a library book in hand. A friend had called to cancel their plans for the day. When they were little, the kids climbed into bed with me all the time. But in these teen and tween years, not so much. So today my self-care comes with an added bonus, one of those sweet windows of connection where we are side by side in this womanly work, my daughter and I. Today this is our place. This is our now. And here we will be, with a stack of books (and a heap of self-care) between us.
Do you need support for your self-care commitment? Some of my favorite caregivers are joining me for a weekend of workshops and second-winds. Click here for your invitation.