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The Mamafesto: The importance of self-care

Avital Norman Nathman is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Cosmopolitan.com,...

Why self-care is an essential part of both motherhood and feminism

It can be way too easy to forget about your own needs when you find yourself busily catering to the needs of others. As both a mother and a feminist — two worlds that can be especially draining — it's important to remember to take care of yourself.

For the first few years after giving birth to my son, I was reminded of a parenting analogy by more than one person. Just like on an airplane, when they tell you to place your oxygen mask on before helping to put on your child's, you need to take care of yourself before you're able to care of everyone and everything else. But, in a society that expects women to have it all and be it all, we can sometimes forget to practice self-care.

Many people feel as if self-care is too decadent or self-indulgent, and that mindset needs to change. Women, in particular, are stretched thin from handling motherhood to marriage to work to friendships and everything else in between. There's a sense of martyrdom that is perpetuated in many social circles: who can take on the most volunteer work, who can cart their kids around to the most after-school activities, who can host the most dinner parties, and if you don't run yourself ragged you've clearly failed at something.

Sorry, but playing the martyr card doesn't win you any prize beyond possibly compromising your own mental and physical health, as well as possible friendships. Instead, consider the act of self-care something radical and necessary to be the best person you can be. Step away from work or responsibilities for a bit, even if that's only a half an hour. Be kind to yourself and stop with any negative self-talk or body negativity. Eat something "indulgent." Find a way to make yourself laugh or smile. Nourish your spirit.

Self-care isn't selfish. If anything, it's selfless. It allows you to be a better mother, parent, feminist, employee, wife, partner, and more. Taking some time for yourself (whether it's a bubble bath with no interruptions, binge-watching some Netflix, eating a large french fry or soft serve, going out dancing, etc.) allows you to give more of yourself to others. You don't run a car without filling it up with gasoline, so why would you run your body and mind without filling it up with some fuel?

Check out what Melissa A. Fabello from Everyday Feminism has to say about self-care:

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde

"Treat yo self." — Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford, Parks & Rec

More from The Mamafesto

The Mamafesto: When reality TV sparks a needed conversation on sexual abuse
The Mamafesto: The problem with policing what girls wear to prom
The Mamafesto: U.S. has lowest maternal health ranking in developed world

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