I see this turn up in my Facebook feed nearly every day.
It is always, ALWAYS, shared by women. Mothers. It is shared by the women, and apparently there are many because different people keep sharing it, who give too much. It is shared by people who, like me, spend virtually all of their waking hours either working or caring for their children. It is shared by people who no longer have time to relax in the bath or read a book or even just take a quick shower.
And I hate it.
I HATE IT.
…Why do I hate a picture that delivers an important message of self care to a demographic which is notoriously overworked and under appreciated?
Because it doesn’t address the root problem.
When I was in my early twenties, my best friend got pregnant. It was unplanned. In fact, she was on birth control. But she had the baby and loved her and never once complained to me about the cards that life handed her, even when the father turned out to be utterly useless. She didn’t let it stop her, either. She went to school. She worked retail on weekends to help pay for room and board for herself and her daughter. She basically sacrificed every waking hour to the triple demons of child care, work, and education.
But she didn’t find it easy. How could she?
So she sought out the school counsellor for advice, because she felt like she was drowning. Maybe there was a grant available so she wouldn’t have to work. Maybe there was a free daycare program that she didn’t know about. Maybe help was available somewhere.
The counsellor asked my friend a lot of questions about her life, and then drew a pie chart showing the distribution of her waking hours.Work. Classes. Childcare. Then, when the baby was sleeping, homework.
There was no time left over in the chart.
“There’s something missing,” said the counsellor. “Where is the YOU time?”
My friend stared at her.
“You need to make some time for YOU,” said the counsellor wisely. “Self care is very important.”
She said this as if it was news, as if my friend was some kind of automaton who didn’t yearn for rest and recreation.
Of course my friend knew that she needed rest and fun. She didn’t need to be told that she deserved it. She needed help in getting it. But the counsellor clearly indicated that for the single working mother, you-time is a you-problem. Another thing that you are responsible to provide for yourself, making it magically appear out of nothing.
All the mothers I know fret about how to get their me-time. Do father’s do this too? Do men stand around and try to help each other strategize ways to get an hour here or there that isn’t taken up with work? And if they do, why aren’t they sharing that goddamn tea cup?
I don’t think it should be a woman’s job to find time to care for themselves. Women will rest when given the opportunity. When someone takes on the burden of child care or housework or wage-earning, they will eat or nap or go out for coffee with a friend.
Instead, though, women are tasked with finding someone to take this stuff on so that they can have that time. Which just adds another burden of work into their plate. Now, on top of caring for the kids and cleaning the house and going to work, it is her job to go around asking friends to babysit or to coworker’s to trade shifts, so she can get some much-needed “me time”.
Many women are too tired to go to all that trouble, and so they go without.
Meanwhile, do Dads feel this way? Are the men so exhausted by their daily workload that they feel too tired to arrange an hour to themselves? Do men give up golf and an afternoon watching sports on tv or naps because they are too overworked to arrange the free time?
If so, why aren’t we worried about me time for men?
And if not, then why the hell aren’t they offering to take on some of the woman’s burden, like making sure that she gets an hour or two of recreation time every week?
Why aren’t men being brought into this equation somewhere?
A woman I know told me about how she got asked to work late after a busy day. She asked her husband to pick up their daughter (normally her job). He did. And then he did nothing else. When she got home from an extra shift at work, she discovered that her husband had been playing video games (he got his me time! Good for him!) and their daughter still needed to be fed dinner, bathed, and put to bed – way past her bed time.
So not only did she do more work at work, but she still had the usual work waiting for her at home.
And the worst part is that this isn’t an unusual story.
I hear a story like this from a woman at least once a week.
Then they share that god damned tea cup.
No, it should not be up to you.
If a woman is feeling like an empty cup, then something is severely out of balance in her world and chances are that inspirational images won’t fix that.
I often feel like that empty cup. But knowing that my cup is empty doesn’t change the situation that I am in.
I have a disabled husband.
He is not the kind of husband who would play video games while our kid went without dinner. He is not the kind of person who would leave laundry or dishes for me and then complain about the lack of clean plates and underwear.
He takes good care of the kids and the house… When he can.
But the fact is that most of the time he can’t. His cup has a leak in it. As it is, he is pouring from an empty cup when he needs to pick up Owl from school and Fritter from daycare on days when I work. He is pouring from an empty cup when he puts the kids to bed on nights that I train dogs.
So I can’t very well ask him to pile another night of putting kids to bed while I go to a movie with a friend. I can’t even get him to go out with me. Our eighth anniversary, like our seventh, has passed uncelebrated.
And it isn’t for lack of support. We got two gift cards to two different nice restaurants. One of our friends offered to take the kids. But we didn’t go because my husband’s cup is so empty that he can barely get his pants on most days.
So it doesn’t matter that his idea of a terribly draining day is my idea of a vacation (only deal with the kids for a few hours after school? I can sleep in and spend the day alone doing whatever and then someone will come home and put them to bed for me? Hot DAMN! I haven’t had a day like that in a year at least!). Because both of us are just doing the best we can and this is how it is.
I could share that picture of the tea cup every day and it still wouldn’t make a solution magically appear.
So I call bullshit on Me-time memes. I’m not failing at self care just because I haven’t pulled the time and money for a day at the spa out of my own ear. In fact, my husband even gave me a gift card for a massage but I haven’t used it because you can’t get gift cards for free time.
So I will pour from that empty cup, condescending meme. WATCH ME DO IT. I refuse to blame myself for my own difficult circumstances right now. I will survive them and then I will get some me time and I won’t die in the meantime.