“But I was a pregnant goddess! The queen of self-care! A mindful master!” I told my therapist in our last session.
And it’s true. Every morning for nine months, I drank a cup of raspberry leaf tea, making sure to steep it exactly as the teabag indicated for optimum herbal goodness. This was followed by a nutrient-dense green smoothie and a pricey prenatal exercise routine I had purchased online.
In between warrior posing and kegels, I somehow managed to join hypnobirthing classes, replete with reading materials, breathing exercises, audio affirmations, visualization techniques, and more. I was going to zen this baby out of me, whatever it took. In fact, I was one kombucha away from becoming a full-blown Berkley-esque crunchy woo-woo mom-to-be, a wellness-obsessed Hollywood celeb, or literally anyone on the TV sitcom “American Housewife”.
Fast forward to the days following my very non-hypnobirthing birth (thanks for nothing, raspberry leaf tea), and my mental health was in shambles. What at first appeared to be standard baby blues had escalated into full-blown postpartum depression and anxiety, an anxiety that mental health professionals claimed had been there bubbling beneath the surface all along.
Was this avocado toast-loving millennial who takes her “me time” seriously really just running from the realities of life?
Which is why I found myself sitting dumbfounded on my therapist’s couch. Me?! Anxious? Me, who practices mindfulness and meditation. Me, a journal-writing ninja. I listen to Meik Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge on audiobook. Enya is like the soundtrack to my life, for goodness’ sake. I mean, sure, I had yet to crack open an adult coloring book, but I wasn’t too far off. And that’s when my therapist cut off my tirade, stopping me in my tracks…
“You know, there’s such a thing as too much self-care,” she told me.
“I mean, I had a patient once who spent her days horseback riding on the beach to escape from her anxieties.”
It was a total mindshift, an “aha moment”, if you will. Could it be true? Was this avocado toast-loving millennial who takes her “me time” seriously really just running from the realities of life? Life, and all of the stresses, fears, dangers, and risks that it inevitably comes with? Maybe it was time to let go of some of the kumbaya and embrace a little more of the nitty-gritty. Sometimes you have to put down the sheet masks and pick up the moxie, if you know what I mean.
And not to sound cliché, but motherhood has been one of the greatest teachers in this area. I can already see how developmentally necessary risky play is for children. And while I’d appreciate it if my one-year-old didn’t think nose-diving off the couch was a good idea, I know that children have a natural propensity to engage in challenging behaviors, overcome their fears, hone their skills. To the chagrin of many a parent, they are actually wired to be drawn to danger in order to master it, to feel capable and strong. It’s only instinctual to blurt out “be careful!” at every turn, an all-too-often-used phrase which really isn’t helping anyone (no, seriously, it’s time to drop it).
Don’t get me wrong, cozying up with a hot cup of matcha and a good book (can I recommend Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids?) for some quality self-care is a must. But don’t hide behind it. And maybe the next time your kid asks to help chop vegetables (like, with a real knife) or light a match, perhaps reconsider before jumping to a quick “no”.
P.S. If you’d like to see some of my glowing
maternity shots, you can find me on FB or Instagram. (Spoiler Alert: it’s
called Benefit Cosmetics Highlighter). I also supply super cute baby pictures
free of charge.