Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Self-care and support advice: helpful or harmful?

I'm reading another self-help book, this one on marriage (First, Kill All the Marriage Counselors). In case you're wondering, the title intrigued me. I am not done, but the content makes me wonder because I have heard this before.

The author starts by saying that in order to save an ailing marriage, self-care is important and so is a strong circle of supportive females.

Oh yeah, all those homeschool pages say the same. When you are running ragged, when you don't know where to turn to advice, just go take a break, focus on yourself, and spend some time talking to like-minded friends.

Oh, and the same goes for motherhood and parenting. When the kids get to you, when running a household and simultaneously taking care of everyone's needs feels stressful, give yourself some pampering and go dish it out with other moms in the same boat.

Before I go further, I have given out the same advice myself. "I said and said and said those words, I said them--but I lied them."

What if this is classic chicken-and-egg situation? What if we are trying to solve various problems with the same solutions when, in reality, the lack of accessibility of these solutions is what's causing these problems in the first place?

Imagine yourself well-rested on a day when you selected what you wanted to do for yourself and did it. Most likely, you would be more pleasant to your spouse and his little quirks and annoyances would not be so annoying. Most likely you would be teeming with ideas for your homeschool. Most likely you would be eager to see your kids, hug them, spend some time with them.

Imagine having a community of women who are there to catch you, watch your kids, spell you for a bit while you run to the store or the doctor, and converse when you need it. They give you valuable advice that sets you straight in all your family relationships because they see you and your family day in and day out, and they truly, really have your best interest at heart. You would feel able to handle any ripples that rock your boat because they are there to catch you.

What if the most important part missing from all this advice is the fact that so many wives/mothers have neither the ability to arrange large chunks of their life according to what's good for them nor this female group of tight-knit friends? What if this is the true reason for high divorce rate, homeschool burnout, and parenting failure?

Maybe I am the only one who has a hard time arranging for self-care that I truly need rather than measly bits that are available. For example, I can stereotypically paint my own nails at home and call it self-care, but what I truly enjoy is a professional massage. I can take a quick walk around the block, but I really crave a couple hours of hiking through the woods. Being told that I just need to make myself a priority when nobody else is jumping in to pick up slack does not miraculously produce time and resources. It just makes me feel even worse. And that gets to this support network business. I am an introvert. We have moved a lot and I am in a city far away both from my high school and college friends. I am far away from friends that I made when we got married. I am far away from friends that I made in two years in Houston. It takes me a long time to warm up to people, and I am at an age when one does not instantly make best friends and confidantes, no matter how bubbly and outgoing a personality. So where am I supposed to dig up this circle of support? On the basic level, who will watch my kids in minor emergencies, but on a deeper level, whom can I confide with my bigger problems? (I am about to do it on a blog for the whole anonymous world to see, which might be introvert's only solution...)

I am not about to bemoan the entire disintegration of society because it appears that many have this all blissfully worked out. Maybe they have supportive family and friends and never moved from their place of origin. Maybe they have other arrangements. Yet, considering the amount of my friends who are on the move, who move into new communities, new cities, new countries, it cannot be that I am the only struggling to figure out how this helpful advice on self-care and support networks is not causing more pain than it was meant to resolve.

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