I read a NY Times article about women taking on most of the additional labor caused by the pandemic and by a slowed economy. Now, you and I know that “additional labor” is on top of the stressed and overworked life that females were already strapped with. Prioritizing a woman’s personal happiness isn’t thought of at all. Or, a woman’s happiness is a last consideration.
I know professional women (and others) who come home in the evening only to slip immediately into their second job of domestic responsibilities. Family members may think of this as natural; it is expected. Perhaps, no one means her any harm but no one thinks of asking her about her needs either.
Among other myths, lies, and distortions about femaleness we are enculturated to believe that we are supposed to take care of others. If you flip that notion the other way round it might sound like “you, the girl or woman, are selfish to think about your own needs.” Recently, a woman told me that she was practicing self-care by lounging on the living room couch one evening. Her husband came home and demanded to know what she was doing. She replied, “Absolutely nothing.” She was self-loving rather than tricked into accepting undeserved guilt. Another woman was at Buddhist services with us. We were meditating. Afterwards, the woman visitor told us that she had experienced difficulty trying to relax. She was feeling guilty as she sat there doing “nothing.”
I would like for you to consider that we, women, are stronger and healthier when we prioritize our own needs. A Haitian friend told me about some cultural symbolism—the central house post. It holds up everything else. Without it we have tragedy for all. Okay. Let’s use that metaphor to represent a woman’s life, just as it was originally intended. We would not spend our time kicking at the central house post for fear of weakening the whole structure and yet what societies prioritize the importance of caring for and honoring women and girls? We are the house post holding up the world, for real.
Yes, I do want others to recognize us and all of our amazing accomplishments. However, my teaching and coaching and counseling is aimed at women recognizing how crucial it is that we take care of ourselves and other women, too. We must replenish the well as the author, Julia Cameron, would say. It is imperative that we centralize and prioritize our own care rather than work ourselves into exhaustion and illness.
It is foolish to wait for a male-dominated world to give us our due. And, really, what is there to stand around waiting for? Nothing. We can shift into a more natural, stronger mental/emotional gear by prioritizing our own personal happiness. Yes! This would be a very positive thing for the world’s wellbeing. This would be transformative for humankind and the planet.
So, here is another metaphor. The airplane attendants tell us to put our own oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency before we try to help someone else. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Replenishing our energy and spirit, feeding our hearts, and practicing daily self-care makes sense, too. Women are being valiant when we give ourselves what we need to be happy. When we prioritize our own personal happiness we are modeling female leadership. It’s our rightful place in the world. We would be teaching other people, including our loved ones, to see a woman’s personal happiness as fundamental to the good health of any society. Everyone wins.
© 2021 Aisha-Sky Gates and Elevate Women Collaborative