I’m going to preface this post with the public admission that I sometimes find it difficult to do the very things I encourage others to do – especially when it comes to making time to take care of myself. I hope my readers will find this admission humanizing and maybe even endearing. I completely get how hard it is to find the time and energy to exercise, to eat well and to make good health a priority when you’re busy building a career, looking after a family, taking care of aging parents or maybe even trying to spend time with friends. Of course, if making good choices was always easy, the weight-loss and women’s magazine industries would all take a major financial hit, wouldn’t they?
But I digress…
My point is that many women find it easy to put their health last on the priority list. There’s always one more email to answer before you head out for the night, one more call to return, a child who needs help with homework or a ride to practice, or some other demand that gets between us and our workout or us and our preparation of a healthy meal. Before long, we’re tired, stressed and less-equipped to cope with the demands of our pressure-filled lives.
But let’s stop and consider the effect that this “last on the list” placement we give ourselves has on our children. Maybe our girls learn that making time to hit the gym makes us “selfish” and that a good mom always sacrifices for the sake of her family. Maybe our boys come to expect that moms always put their own needs last (think about the ripple effect of that expectation when the women they love someday become mothers).
Still, there’s a further ripple I hadn’t considered – at least not until I read an op-ed about Hillary Clinton’s recent illness. The writer wrote: “It pains me to bring up the woman angle here, but you wonder whether a man would have overscheduled himself to the point of collapse.” The writer further adds that President Obama and former President Bush both recognized the value of rest and exercise, and goes on to imply that Clinton’s flat-out work pace and its companion lack of self-care has led some to question her fitness for the presidency, should she decide to pursue it.
It’s no secret to most women — especially women who work in traditionally male-dominated fields — that they often need to work harder to achieve a particular level of career success. That’s why I have to admit it’s an interesting and disturbing twist to see Clinton being judged in the context of self-care as an indicator of potential success. Are healthy habits (or lack thereof) the next way that women are going to be judged professionally?
What do you think? Is caring for yourself at the top or bottom of your list when life gets hectic?