Is Self-Care Selfish?

The modern dilemma, especially in the motherhood space – “is self-care selfish?” I believe the answer isn’t as simple as a yes or no. Let’s break it down.

text overlay - is self-care selfish? African American woman in a bath tub reading a book.

The Definition of Selfish

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”

Dictionary.com defines it as “characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself.”

The definitions above don’t imply that the selfish person has a desire to take away from others. If that were the case, then no, self-care is not selfish. You’re not taking care of yourself in order to take away from others. You are caring for yourself and sometimes that means you are taking from others.

Is Prioritizing Yourself Selfish?

I need my sleep. To get my good sleep, we do not allow our kids to sleep with us. So in those rare, rough nights of them coming to our bed in the middle of the night asking to get into bed with us, my answer is always no. Am I saying no because I want to make my children unhappy? Obviously not. I am saying no because I need to prioritize myself and my sleep. In turn, my decision to now allow my kids to sleep with me means I’m putting my needs above theirs.

Some may say this is “wrong” or “bad.” But one of the best parts of parenting is there really is no “best” that’s the same for everyone. Everyone can do things that work best for their family, as long as they aren’t harming the kids or someone else.

Is Selfish A “Bad” Word?

This is where it gets dicey, in my opinion, on self-care being selfish. The question that needs to first be answered is “is being selfish a negative thing?” If you consider the idea of being selfish specifically to bring someone else down, then yes, it is a negative thing.

If being selfish is JUST prioritizing yourself, even if it means someone else doesn’t get what they need then no, it isn’t a negative thing.

Choosing Self-Care Doesn’t Mean The Other Person Doesn’t (Eventually) Get What They Need

In most instances, I am prioritizing myself in the moment, but that doesn’t mean the person (usually my children) won’t eventually get what they need.

For example, one way I practice self-care is by meeting a friend for dinner occasionally. As a mom, you know how tough organizing this can be.

My kids thrive on routine. Sometimes I have to put our bedtime routine out the window for one night so I can have my night with my friend.

If I’m missing my night to put one of the kids to bed, I prep them during the day and I make a deal with them that I’ll do something special with them the next day. They still likely will have a meltdown when I leave or when it’s bedtime, but I did what I could.

I truly believe that you can’t define self-care as selfish or not. I think there is too much gray area and situational factors to consider.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters. If you put yourself first occasionally and not at the safety risk of your children and family, then you’re doing it right!

Self-care is a necessity, period. Do what you have to do to make it a part of your routine.

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