Radical Acts of Self Care

Anne Lamott talks from time to time about radical acts of self care.


Or maybe it’s Oprah.

Or Betty Lou from Sesame Street who’s one of the spiritual gurus of our time with her calm focus on kindness and sharing and befriending our fellow monsters.

A wise woman said it, anyway, except I feel they should be called RADICAL ACTS of SELF CARE, like that, in bold and all caps so we might announce them in our 1950’s-style Broadcaster Voice when they descend from the sky like super heroes to save us from ourselves.

What’s that?
Up in the sky!

And then we can clutch our hearts and swoon theatrically to give our acts of valor the adoration and attention they deserve.

Today, for example, I engaged in two whole Radical Acts of Self Care, and they were worthy of some theatrical clutching and adoration for sure.


1.      I went to the bathroom at the very first sign that I needed to go,
2.      I drank my entire cup of coffee while it was still warm.

I know. Not to be braggy, but I really did.

Furthermore, during both acts, I sat all the way down, and I focused on them ‘til I was done.

Call me a liar if you must, but for five whole minutes – the duration of two Radical Acts – I didn’t read anyone a Clifford story. Or Berenstain Bears. Or Franklin. Or play Legos or blocks or trains where my legs are the tunnels and someone’s noggin hits me – KAPOW! – in the crotch bone.

For five minutes, I didn’t balance my checkbook.

For five minutes, I didn’t sign a permission slip

For five minutes, I didn’t referee a fight or kiss a boo boo or braid my daughter’s crunchy, candy-coated hair.

I didn’t holler reminders to “Hurry up or we’ll be late for school!” And I didn’t visit the Pioneer Woman or the Bloggess or Facebook – not even once.

For five whole minutes, I did two radical things, and, although I had an attentive audience for one, I managed to do the other all by myself without the usual cast of thousands sitting at my feet on the sticky floor waiting anxiously for me to finish. Drinking that cup of coffee alone was like a miracle.

The truth is, I like Radical Acts of Self Care far more than Me Time even if that’s just semantics. It’s just that Me Time never manages to show up at my house without a little person clinging desperately to one leg and my mama guilt clinging harder to the other. I’ve tried Me Time – I have – and it’s like the Agony and the Ecstasy, except mostly agony which makes it hardly worth inviting over. I end up feeling more selfish than refreshed, and I, frankly, do not have the time for that much angst.

Radical Acts of Self Care, on the other hand, are small gifts I can give to myself; random kindnesses, silly victories and breaths of air in the middle of the madness. They’re opportunities for grace, and they come with tiny bits of optimism and caffeine stuffed in their pockets like the hard candies Earl sneaks the kids at church on Sunday.

We were late for school this morning, FYI, by five minutes.

Five minutes and two radical acts that were totally worth it.


And so I throw down the gauntlet and challenge YOU to a RADICAL ACT OF SELF-CARE. What silly victory will you have today? What breath in the middle of the madness? What opportunity for grace? Will you share it with us?


I originally wrote this for Families in the Loop.
Republished here with permission as part of:

40DaysofGraceLogoYou can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.



ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. […] faith before. Faith and doubt and learning to breathe. Faith and the freedom to be imperfectly me. Authenticity, asshattery, faith and fear. So it’ll be no surprise to you to learn that church is an ebb-and-flow process for me, like […]

  2. I sat down to eat breakfast…

    tomorrow my radical act will be to sit down to eat before my eggs get cold!!

  3. I read this post. Because laughing about parenthood during “naptime” is an act of self care.

  4. […] Radical Acts of Self-Care @ Five Kids is a Lot of Kids […]

  5. A mom-friend of mine says “It ain’t coffee till it’s been microwaved 3 times.”

    My RADICAL ACT OF SELF-CARE: I stayed in bed this morning with my husband instead of going to Pilates.

  6. Radical Act of Self Care vs Me Time. I get it. I can maybe make that work.

  7. I went to the chiropractor on Tuesday. I made an appt. for tomorrow before I even left her office, and a promise to myself that I will go every other week, instead of skipping two months and having to go every couple days for a couple weeks to get my neck to move.

    There is chocolate almond milk in the fridge so I can make a mocha tomorrow when the kids are at school.

    And you read the Bloggess. How awesome is that. (:

  8. […] I deeply admire you mommy bloggers who stick to a schedule and regularly post. For real: you’re amazing. Ever actually finishing anything that I start is a feat – taking the time specifically to write something just because I want to is next to impossible. Currently, I am seizing the 45 minutes of Evan’s violin lesson to write as a Radical Act of Self Care. […]

  9. I’m throwing away my scale. Yup. IN THE GARBAGE. The one *outside* where things can never be retrieved.

  10. This totally doesn’t sound like self-care but I promise it is. I’m a preschool English teacher and I only have my students (six classes of them) for 30 minutes a day. We have to be pretty focused and down to business and sometimes all I want to do is PLAY with the cutie pies. Yesterday instead of handing out stickers at the end of class for good behavior (as I sometimes do), I gave each four year old darling a big ol’ raspberry on their cheek. They loved it and we all laughed and I wasn’t yelling at anyone to sit down and nobody was tapping my arm repeating, “Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher.” It was great. And radical.

  11. I’m 36 weeks preggo and on Thursday I got a haircut (way overdue), on Sunday I shaved my legs (way way way overdue), and on Monday I used my prenatal massage gift certificate from my hubs and two boys!!! Three Radical Acts of Self Care in five days! Completely unsual but beyond wonderful!

  12. I committed this fall to getting back into bible study. It is once a week for two hours with about 15 minutes a day of homework. Best radical act of self care I have done in a while. And it makes me feel sooooooo much better each day when I have spent some time in the Word.
    i would love to be an early riser as this just adds so much bliss to my day as well but it just isn’t happening right now. Maybe in a couple years when I’m not staying up until 11 or midnight getting all my stuff done. It’s something to shoot for!
    Thanks for encouraging us in this area. So important!

  13. I was trying to remember where I read about someone grumbling at a friend who tried to offer them a lift while they were taking a walk along the road, “I’m doing self-care, dammit!”
    As I wandered the internet searching for the source, I came across this article about “tiny habits” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/26/life-changes-how-to-create-habits_n_1970105.html, and, long story short, I’ve now committed to a) taking a sip of water each time a student asks to leave the room (this means GALLONS, I’m sure), b) checking on my knitting each time I shut my computer down (just checking! no actual committment to knit!), and c) stretching out my back each night after brushing my teeth.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Wow… the waiting to pee thing is a thing. I keep expecting to get a UTI but I guess motherhood just gives us Wonder Woman bladders. No one else in my family has my super powers. Anyway, after thinking about it for months but never doing it, I FINALLY brought a chair all the way from the dining room to the kitchen (like five feet), got up on the counter, looked in the dark corner of my top shelf that I haven’t seen since we moved into this house over six years ago, and got down my milk frother so I could have my pretend steamed milk in my (albeit, usually cold) coffee! I ALSO discovered that I already own the maple syrup dispenser I have been meaning to go buy for about six months so there isn’t maple syrup making everything in my refrigerator sticky… it was like finding a present! I have no memory of owning it, but I was so happy to see it. Sure, it will stick to the syrup from before but at least it won’t ADD to the brown stickiness all over the fridge. Who knows when that will get cleaned… helping one cancer vet heal and the feeding and general care of two small people takes top billing around here. But now I will have frothy milk! Provided I can drink it soon enough…

  15. I ate a bag of M&M’s with a Pop tart today at work. Totally worth whatever it did to my innards.

  16. I’ve started getting up early (GASP!), before anyone else is awake. I sneak to the kitchen, brew my coffee as quietly as possible, and spend some time in my chair, easing into my day. That bit of self care has made a huge impact on how kind and understanding I am during the day. (My coffee making always has an audience. The cat who thinks I don’t pet her enough and the dog who is sure that she’s starving to death.)

    1. I’ve started doing this too!! It is good for me and my children… I’m much nicer waking up to quiet than “mom, I want oatmeal!”

  17. My son who has autism and is non-verbal was taking a short walk with me while we were waiting for the bus. He was a bit antsy and I said “do you want to go farther or go home?” He looked at me and said “home.” That is all of the self care I need today…

    1. This comment made me cry, Kerry. In the very best way. xo

    2. I have an autistic son … and this made me cry too.

  18. Every new mom should be given an insulated travel coffee mug before she’s discharged – like in the free diaper bag with all the coupons and formula. My coffee stays hot for a good hour and a half, just enough time to get all the kids to school. Multitasking radical act of self-care: in my comfy pajamas, driving kids in three different directions, drinking hot coffee. Bam.

    1. That is an AWESOME idea!

  19. This made me realize I intended to go to the bathroom like an hour ago. My radical act of self-care was reading THIS!

  20. Wait…coffee is supposed to be warm when you drink it?!??!?

    I consider just getting to my cold coffee before the two year old does to be pretty radical!

    1. I got dressed. And re-braided my hair…

      1. Oops. My iPod tricked me (or I’m just that tired). Thought I was replying to the blog- not a blog comment.

        That being said, some people like their coffee hot, some like it cold. I have yet to find a parent who likes it nine days old.

  21. I took a shower this morning and just stood there under the hot water for at least two minutes. I was late for work as always and didn’t finish my coffee warm, even after 2 warm-ups, but the hot shower was nice. 🙂

  22. Thank you for brightening my day as always! I warm up my coffee sometimes three or four times, before 8:30 am.

  23. My RADICAL ACT of SELF CARE(!) is now, reading your blog and guzzling a Chai Latte in a FOR HERE mug while zero children are with me. 🙂

  24. I’m waxing my eyebrows today so help me god! (Especially since two people asked if I was my 24yr old sister’s mother yesterday!) Ps: I’m 32!

  25. I finished 2 whole donuts all by myself. Even if I did find out when I got home that I had left the front door completely open, it was totally worth it!

    1. One time, Greg and I left for vacation and accidentally left our apartment door open. The neighbors called the police because there’d obviously been a break-in since the place was so trashed. :/ yeah – no break-in.

      1. you make me feel better about my house …

        on a regular basis!!! 🙂

      2. One time, my house WAS broken into. I pretended that the intruders trashed it. Really all they did was steal some pizza out of the fridge, and break my slider.

        1. Omg that’s genius!
          Self care = I’m commenting when I should probably be changing the baby so I can get the older kids to school on time.

          Also… I think the coffee is supposed to be microwaved between 3 and 4 times. Developes the flavor!!! 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.