I do not recall anyone telling the women in my life to ‘take care of yourself’ when I was young, back in the late fifties/early sixties. No one seemed to think there was a need for women to look after their own needs. Generally, a woman’s duty was to look after her husband, her children and ageing parents. When a woman was encouraged to make herself look nice it was not for the sake of her self esteem or for her own benefit.
I read the following advice to wives of the 1950s on several internet sites. Variations of the advice are accredited to an American Home Economics text book, ‘How to be a Good Wife,’ and the May 13th 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly. Just before the husband was due home the wife was directed to,’take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when he arrives. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting.’ There were suggestions for ways to take care of the husband and help him relax and unwind but no mention of the need for a woman to ever do the same for herself.
A few decades ago there was less research into the importance of taking care of one’s health through adequate sleep, proper nutrition and exercise. People did not know the negative effects of many things including too much sun or smoking.
There was less knowledge of mental health. Society did not realise how damaging ongoing criticism and negativity could be. Recognition of the right of everyone to make decisions about the things that affected them was still a thing of the future.
Over the past few decades the idea of women needing to take care of themselves has evolved. Today, if you asked a female friend what it means to take care of herself she might tell you it includes
• Taking care of her physical needs in the areas of sleep and rest, suitable nutrition, regular health check ups and exercise
• Taking time for herself to do something enjoyable like having a bubble bath or reading a great book
• Catching up with friends for coffee or to see a movie
• Taking time to meditate, daydream, pray or do whatever helps her unwind and handle life’s challenges
• Acknowledging her thoughts and feelings as valid even though they might be different from the mainstream
• Accepting herself and her weaknesses and strengths
• Having hobbies and her own interests
Some women still don’t feel they have the right or the time to take care of their own needs. However, more do than a few decades ago and there is increasing awareness. There are websites and courses dedicated to the topic and articles in magazines. What do you do to take care of yourself?