Black Girl Magic, Parenting, White Fragility

Rule #18: True self-care is self-healing and self-preservation.

What does self-care look like for you? Is it a bubble bath at the end of a long day? Is it taking time for yourself away from the kids when they’ve been screaming at you all day? Or are those things a privilege and something more like “treat yo’ self” activities? Is true self-care something entirely different?

To be honest and vulnerable with you, I struggle with the term “self-care.” As someone who has experienced a few health issues since becoming a mother to three beautiful girls, I need to take care of myself. There are times that in order to be a good mom and a good wife, employee, friend, sister and daughter, I have to prioritize myself.

But as a white middle-class woman living a comfortable life in a comfortable home, do I need self-care? To be honest with you, I’m not sure.

Don’t get me wrong. Soaking in the bath at the end of a long week or a day, especially when I’ve struggled staying calm with the girls, does help me relax. Finding time to run, read a good book, and have time to myself also allows me to have a clearer mind and be a better person. But are these things acts of self-care?

What is self-care?

The first time I heard the term “self-care” was on Twitter in August 2014. This term was being used regularly in the protest community as protesters were encouraging one another to take a “Self-care Sunday.” Many protesters were checking in with one another. They wanted to be sure that everyone was taking some time from healing- healing from the pain, exhaustion and trauma of being out on the streets day after day after day. Exhaustion from having to say yet again that their lives mattered. Having to protest yet again the violence and killings of their friends, family, and neighbors. The pain of living in a system that marginalizes them and treats black people less than their white counterparts.

But that form of self-care looks very different than the self-care I described above. 

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – A Burst of Light by Audre Lorde (self-described black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet)

Bubble baths are not an act of political warfare. Going to the spa is not an act of political warfare. And yet, I suppose that reading certain books could be an act of political warfare, as can be a girl receiving an education in certain countries. Oh, and a black person learning to read and write in America hundreds of years ago or maybe even today…

As a white woman, I don’t want to co-opt any words from black women or black culture. My life experience is not their life experience. Even as a white mother to three black girls, I walk a thin line as to how I speak about things and how my daughters do and will speak of things. My girls will experience stereotypes, judgments and racism that I will never experience simply because we do not have the same skin color. But I want them to know that their lives matter; that caring for themselves is important; and if they need self-care Sundays, by all means, I hope they take them.

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