Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

By Kimberly Zapata

“If I go out on a run,” I said. “I am taking time away from my family. If I say I need a break — to shower or sleep or simply pee alone — I feel pathetic and selfish. I mean, what kind of person asks for time to shower? I just feel so guilty. Sometimes I … I …”

I paused. I paused because my thoughts were manic, because the “right” words escaped me, and because the more I let myself go on, the worse the I felt.

I paused because I felt selfish.

So I stopped. I leaned back, and I sipped on my lukewarm iced coffee.

However, my therapist didn’t let the silence the linger. “Let me ask you something,” she began. “Do you think I am selfish for putting my children in daycare while I work?”

“No,” I replied. “Of course not!” And I didn’t. I truly didn’t. I mean, we mothers all have things to do. Aside from parenting, many of us work and keep up with the house. We pay the bills, cook most meals, and keep things clean. We keep life in “working order.”

“So what makes you so different?” she asked. “Why … ”

She kept speaking, but her words trailed off. Scratch that: her words were swallowed by the voices in my head. By the sounds of my own mind.

Because you should be able to keep it together, but you can’t. Because you are weak. Because you are not trying hard enough. Because you are not working hard enough. Because you are not doing enough. You are not enough.

“Have you ever considered that maybe — just maybe — your actions aren’t selfish?” I heard her say just then. “Maybe eating a full meal and getting six straight hours of sleep is self-care?”

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