Holiday Self-Care Is Not (Necessarily)…


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, mama! Didn’t you get the memo? This is the month to enjoy all the things everyone loves best, or at least the good moms who really care about their families. It’s the season of giving, joy, and having to fit into a formal dress for that work party! All the shimmering, twinkling, electrical hazard lights set each room aglow as I expend additional energy trying to keep my dog from eating the delicate, irreplaceable handprint ornament my son “made” at daycare when he was 6 months old — the only ornament I have from him since he’s the middle child and I forgot to save his stuff. I get to constantly feel bloated from eating all the holiday treats at midnight while I compare online prices of the perfect gifts for literally every person I know, from my precious angel-baby children to my mother-in-law to my kids’ teachers to the Amazon delivery woman, and what kind of monster human doesn’t give gifts to the trash pickup guy?? I know we set a budget this year, but what’s more important: saving money or other people assigning me value based on the creativity and thoughtfulness and likely cost of my gifts? I mean, the answer is obvious (haha… pleaseloveme). 

As we say in Tennessee, Lawd-ha-mercy that’s a lot of pressure! I think everyone feels the weight in some way, but we’ve got to admit that moms often carry a disproportionate load when it comes to making the holidays feel merry and bright. In this season of much, it’s important that we remember that we deserve some of that cheer ourselves, and we start thinking about one of the biggest buzzwords of the last decade: self-care.

Oftentimes when we think of or even read about self-care, emphasis is placed on doing something nice for yourself: get a massage, wander the aisles of Target alone, read a good book, take a bubble bath… the list goes on and on. From the time that I was a young working mom, to a stay-at-home mom of 3 age 3 and under, to now as a homeschooling mom with 4 kids from pre-school to middle school, the one thing that has always baffled me about those lists is the TIME. Where on earth are people getting time for this stuff?! On several occasions I have sat down and laid out a strict daily routine to make time for “me time,” and in every instance I found myself scratching my head because there just were not enough hours in the day. The few times I tried to make it work, I ended up even more stressed because — hello! — life does not always happen on my minute-by-minute itinerary. When I got off schedule, I felt like the world was coming apart at the seams. I thought maybe I was doomed to be overworked, overtired, and overstressed until my kids head off to college. You feel me?

Never fear, mama. I have learned that self-care is not necessarily setting aside “me time” to recover from all the things you do. More often, we care for ourselves best by resisting the pressure to do all those things in the first place. I have been inspired by a post I saw shared on Facebook by Brianna Wiest, in which she reminds us, 

“Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure. True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”

Holiday self-care is not (necessarily) shopping alone or sacrificing even more sleep to get up early and drink your coffee hot. Even more importantly, we can choose not to spend money we don’t have trying to prove we are nice or thoughtful; we can say “no” to that Christmas party we really don’t want to go to; we can cut toxic people — yes, even family members — out of our celebrations, even if that means starting new traditions all our own. We can keep our therapy appointments even when we have “sooo much to do this time of year,” and we can be as kind and gentle with ourselves as we want others to be to our precious angel-babies. 

The holiday season belongs to you too, so do whatever you need to feel merry and bright. Pop culture may try to sell us self-care in spa treatments, overpriced coffee, and general escapism, and those things are fine sometimes. But we can take real, healthy measures to make our holidays something we don’t need a break from come January. Check out this genuinely helpful BuzzFeed article for those who just aren’t feeling it this year and could use some tips to get through December and then some. Take care of yourself, mama, and if anybody doesn’t like it… eat them.

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Mary Beth Unthank
Knoxville born and bred, my love for this area is deep and true! I'm a working-turned-stay-at-home mom to 4 kiddos from elementary to high school. My husband and I live in Knoxville where we both lead nonprofit organizations and are trying to become Love in our community. I love watching my kids learn something new, cooking for other people (but not for myself), and telling myself I'm a #fitmom when I go to the gym like once a month. I'm a bottle-feeding, disposable diapering, public-schooling (other than the time I homeschooled for a minute) mom with the stereotypical chill attitude of moms with large(r) broods. I love meeting new people, but I talk way too much and laugh when I'm uncomfortable. If you don't mind long stories and bad jokes, we are sure to be friends! Follow my family adventures on my blog Unthank You Very Much


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