As mothers, we often joke about what a “hot mess” we are 24/7. We don’t shower as often as we used to. Our houses are often left in shambles. We often slack on seeing a dentist for years. And most of us haven’t had a haircut, or so much as a relaxing bubble bath in ages. When we do stumble upon these rare occasions, we are praised for setting some precious time aside to “spoil” ourselves with self-care.
Yay us, we did the bare minimum.
But please, spare us your ovation. Because in case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t how it should be.
We should be showering as often as we want. We need to tend to our physical and mental health. We deserve to wear our hair in a way that makes us happy and/or suits our lifestyle. And dammit, we earned our bubbles in the bath after those long days with the kids that leaves our bones achy.
This isn’t self-care. This is what mothers need and deserve in order to feel good about themselves.
These are the things fathers do, and they don’t get praised for “treating themselves.” I have never, ever, ever heard a shower be referred to as “self-care” for a dad. But when a mom takes a soak in the tub, or sneaks away for a solo trip to the grocery store, the world stops spinning and folks deem it “self-care.”
Society tells us that when we fulfill today’s definition for “self-care” (a haircut, three minutes hiding in the pantry from our kids, etc.), that our cups should be filled. All the while, failing to realize that these acts only ready our cup to be filled. Our cup is cleaned, the gunk gets scrubbed away, and looks brand new from the outside. But, it’s still waiting to be filled up.
And if these basic, day-to-day tasks of being a human now qualify as self-care for mothers, then the fact of the matter is that so many mothers all around us are hurting. This heavy weight placed upon our shoulders has been weighing us down for a very long time, and it has a name — sexism.
It takes two to tango. We know this… and still, it’s socially acceptable, the “norm” even, for mothers to carry the brunt of the load in parenting, even when the mother works outside of the home too. Of course, this isn’t always true for every single family. But when it is, let’s be honest, it never comes as a true surprise.
We aren’t shocked to hear that a mother was up all night with the wailing baby, while her husband snoozed away with his useless nipples. It’s not so unbelievable that a dad has showered every single day during the week, meanwhile, the mom hasn’t. We might not always agree or like these things, but they aren’t baffling. But what makes it truly astounding when you stop to think about it is the fact that, socially, we’ve accepted it.
Parenting isn’t recognized by the world as being a 50-50 gig, even though it should be. Some fathers view their time with their own children as “helping out,” or worse, “babysitting.” Otherfathers believe things like giving baths, changing diapers and doing all-of-the-laundry is a “mother’s job.” And strangers applaud fathers for taking the kids out of the house and being a freaking parent.
Most always, mothers are the ones remembering and doing all of the things. We carry the mental load, and it’s expected. When a baby cries in the middle of the night, it is most often expected that mom gets up with him. But what if mom didn’t?
What if a mother refused to wake up with her screaming infant in the middle of the night, so the father had to do it and he was too exhausted to shower the next day as a result? And what if this cycle kept on repeating? Would we just accept this as normal and call his basic hygiene needs “self-care?”
I don’t think we would. But, this is what many (most?) moms are going through.
It’s not okay to put every responsibility and to-do on a single person and then expect them to never find themselves feeling depleted. More so, it’s not okay to strip a mother of her basic needs, personal hygiene, and health — and then suggest that those basic needs for our health and hygiene are considered “self-care.” Like we are just really treating ourselves if we get to use the toilet alone, or brush our teeth and wash our face.
It’s insulting at best and degrading at worst.
The bare minimum needs of a father have become the pinnacle of self-care for mothers. But if these basic tasks of being a human now qualify as “somethin’ extra” for mothers, then the fact of the matter is that millions are struggling in broad daylight. Because we deserve more than the ordinary we already miss out on.
We need our worth recognized. We aren’t asking to go to the moon and back, for heaven’s sake, we just want some equality. In the midst of chaos of parenting, we just want to be seen.
And we are done with everyone else’s “normal” being a mother’s “reward.”
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