Thursday, September 14, 2017

What a Pig and Taylor Swift are Teaching Me About Self-Care

Have you seen the movie Sing? It's actually pretty cute. It's about a koala (all the characters in the movie are animals) who owns a failing theater. In a last ditch effort to save it, he puts on a singing competition. My kids are really into it, and since my husband and I enjoy it too it's been our go-to for family movie night.

Having seen this movie a few times now, I can't help relating a little bit to one of the characters. Her name is Rosita, and she is a stay-at-home piggy-mama of 25. That's right. 25. She does an awesome job juggling the many responsibilities of caring for her family, and she loves to sing. So when she happens upon a flier for the singing competition, she goes to audition, is selected, and finds a way to make it work, even while caring for her large family.

Now, maybe I've seen this movie a few too many times and am reading into things more than I should, but I think Rosita's experience in the singing competition teaches a lot of great lessons about the importance of self-care that her fellow stay-at-home mamas would to do well to learn from. 

Self-care is important. Being a mom amazing! But it's also hard, monotonous, and sometimes isolating. I do the same set of tasks day after day, often with a child in my arms or on my lap. It's meaningful work, but let's be honest, it also gets a little boring. If I don't get a little time to myself to pursue some sort of creative outlet, I start to go a little crazy.

I like to think Rosita feels the same way. She loves being a mom, but she is swamped with all the work that caring for a large family entails. She's probably feeling a little burned out. Rosita also loves to sing. Music helps her get through the day when the kids are crazy and the laundry is piling up. When she finds out about the singing competition she sees it as an opportunity to get out for some much needed Rosita-time, do something she loves, and maybe even win some cash for her family.

Don't feel guilty about doing something that is just for you. It's ok to want to take a break from child rearing. In fact, it's good for you to get out by yourself once in a while for some self-care.   

Sometimes you need to think outside the box to make it happen. One of the biggest obstacles for moms in pursuing some self-care or a hobby is that it's really hard to get away from the kids.  Rosita knows what that's like. Her husband isn't able to help with childcare because of the demands of his job. And she can't get a babysitter to commit because, hello, 25 children. So she gets creative. 

Now let me be clear, I'm not advocating for rigging up a system of gears and pulleys, powered by an electric toy train set to do your chores and take care of your children for you while you leave the house. Not a good idea!!

That being said, don't give up on making time for yourself just because the obvious solutions aren't available to you. If your baby is difficult in the evening, try getting out during the day. If you don't have family near by, or a reliable babysitter, ask a girlfriend with similarly aged children if she'd like to trade some babysitting once or twice a month. Or, if what you really need is just 30 minutes to read a book without being interrupted, get your kids a snack, set them up with an age appropriate movie, and don't feel guilty about it. It won't ruin them, I promise. 

No one else goes days on end without a little break from their jobs, and neither should you.

Don't give up if it doesn't seem to be working right away.  One day after a particularly frustrating rehearsal Rosita is ready to give up. "It's never going to happen," she sighs, "I should just be getting groceries." 

This has definitely happened to me before. I had carved out some time on a Saturday morning when my husband was home to go do some writing at a coffee shop. It had been so long since I had done something like that I wasn't even sure where I should go. I tried one cafe near our house, it was completely packed. So I went to the coffee shop down the street from there, and their WiFi wasn't working. By the time I got to a Starbucks and figured out how to get on their WiFi I had 10 minutes left to write before I needed to go home to put the baby down for her nap. It felt like a complete waste of time and I felt foolish for even attempting to do something on my own. When I got home I told my husband through hot tears that I would have been better off just staying home and cleaning the house.  

Lucky for me I have an understanding husband who said "no" and made me try it again the next weekend. And you know what? The second time around went so much better. 

Maybe you tried leaving your kids with a babysitter and it was a disaster, or maybe you tried going to a book club or exercise class and you hated it and felt like it was a waste if time. That's OK! Sometimes things don't go well. But don't let that stop you from trying again.

You do real work and you deserve real self-care. My favorite part of the movie Sing, the part that makes me cry every time, is at the end during the show, when Rosita gets her groove back. Her performance starts with her in a kitchen, wearing her mom uniform, and heaving a laundry basket full of clothes. She starts singing Shake If Off. That's right, the Taylor Swift song that we've all heard a thousand times. 

"I stay out too late, got nothing in my brain, That's what people say."

It's Taylor Swift, and it's ridiculous, but hearing those words come out the mouth of a stay-at-home mom completely changed the meaning of that song for me.

How many times have I heard other stay-at-home moms say that they feel like people think they stay home because they can't do anything else. That's it's not a "real job". How many times have I felt embarrassed when people ask me what I do and I all I have to say is that I stay home with my kids. Will they think I'm uneducated? Or that I don't have other experiences or interests besides that of playing with Play-doh and making macaroni and cheese? It's a good reminder that there is always more to a person than what meets the eye, and it's never fair to make assumptions. 

Then there is a dramatic set change, and Rosita bursts out of the refrigerator (you just have to see it) wearing a super fly costume, which, by the way, her child bearing hips look great in.

"I'm lightning on my feet, I never miss a beat, and that's what they don't see." 

Rosita may look like a quiet, boring, stay-at-home mom. But she is an amazing woman! She keeps herself, her husband, and their 25 children alive, doing all their cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping. She manages everyone's schedules and gets everyone to where they need to be. She is creative, hardworking and determined. The kindness and compassion that she has cultivated as a mother extends beyond her family members to the people she has met in the singing competition, and probably a lot of other people too. AND she can sing and dance!

Moms. Don't ever let anyone tell you that what you're doing isn't important. Every job requires talent and intellect and the job of raising children is no exception. What you're doing is important. What you're doing matters. Even if no one else sees it, and no one else knows exactly what you're doing through. 

Taking care of yourself benefits all your other relationships. It may sound obvious. But people like to be around people who are happy. When I am touched out, burned out, and tired out, I am not at my mothering best, and I'm probably not very pleasant to be around. But even just taking an hour to shut the door to our bedroom and do some knitting while listening to a podcast can do wonders for my mental well-being, enabling me to come back to my mothering duties with joy.

Being able spread her wings and shine a little bit made Rosita really happy, and it made her husband and children see a different side of her. It made them happy and exited to see her doing something she loves.

Now, a note on Rosita's husband, Norman. Norman is a pretty extreme example of a husband taking his wife for granted. (i.e. he doesn't even notice when his wife is gone and toy train has made breakfast and put the children to bed.) I think most husbands are a little more woke than Norman. But even the greatest husband isn't a mind reader. He may not be able to tell when you're in need of a break. It's ok to tell your husband you're feeling burned out, and that you need some time to do something on your own. I bet he will be more than happy to help you find a way to make it happen.  

Epilogue. I would like to think that after being in the singing competition Rosita went home refreshed and ready to care for her family again. I'd also like to think that she made it a priority to have some regular time for herself. Maybe she joined a choir, or started taking voice lessons. Whatever the activity may be, I'm sure she's learned the transformative power of a little self-care. And of course, she and Norbert now have a much healthier marriage, with good communication and plenty of date nights.


  1. I loved that movie and totally felt a kinship with Rosita, too 😊

  2. This is such a great post, Anna! I've never even heard of this movie, will have to check it out. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Thanks for putting this out there!

  3. I actually really liked the movie too. I'm a little critical of movies so that's saying something! It had some twists and scoundrels, but it was full of hope and kindness too. Good insights!


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