“A Lesson In Self Care” is an excerpt from my upcoming eBook A Fierce Love: Reinventing the early years of #momlife, which is a faith-based take on modern motherhood of infants and toddlers.
You probably know by now being a mom is hard work. That’s no secret. But have you ever watched other moms you admire wonder how they seem to “have it all together”? The answer to that has a few layers. First of all, they probably don’t feel like they remotely have it all together. And they’d probably laugh if you told them that. Second of all, they’ve more than likely figured out that the way to keep their sanity is this: Let go of the guilt, and take care of yourself.
I have a confession to make. I used to judge working moms. I thought that being a stay-at-home-mom was God’s work and that if I allowed myself to think my self-worth was tied up in anything other than that, well I just wasn’t doing it right. I could not have been more wrong.
Social media has changed the face of parenting in this country dramatically in the last decade. Suddenly what used to be an opinion that resided only in someone’s head about a stranger, now could be typed in a comment on a website for all the world to read. We are bombarded on the daily by articles, pins, status updates, tweets, snapchat stories…the list goes on and on. And there are only a select few who’ve managed to escape Facebook. And the ones I’ve spoken to who have, admit they often reconsider because they inevitably get left out by even their closest community members, if only unintentionally.
For what seems like an eternity we can scroll through our Instagram feeds or Pinterest clicking on this link or that, promising a better way to parent, a better way to organize, a better way to live (would you stop trying to make minimalism a thing?!). And those of us who like a strong dose of Jesus with our coffee have fallen just as victim to it. Shoot, you read this blog, right? We are flooded with devotional email subscriptions, prayer journal printables and whatever else is out there.
Don’t misread me, I’m not saying it’s all useless. I am inspired throughout the week by extraordinary grace-filled women in my own generation whom God has gifted to encourage, lead and serve. And it often spurs my own writing itch, showing me that God can use the gifts He’s given me to reach whomever He chooses.
But when is it too much? When do we draw the line trying to do all the mom things to be the best mom, and start trying to be our best selves? In “Wild & Free” by Jess Connolly and Haley Morgan there’s something so profound it nearly brought me to my knees: “I see women believing and repeating the lie that motherhood is the highest calling for all women. Did you know that’s nowhere in the Bible? The only reference to a chief call on anyone’s life is found in Matthew 6:33: Seek first the Father’s kingdom and His righteousness. We watch as that lie discourages those unable to be mothers and immobilizes those who love their children and still feel called to serve in other contexts.”
Did you catch that? Did you read it again and again letting it sink into your bones? I don’t know about you, but I am ready to stop believing a lie. I’m ready to stop putting God in a tiny mom-sized box where I must minimize my abilities and stop taking care of myself because the martyrdom of motherhood is the “season” I’m in. I choose to seek first the kingdom. I choose a grace filled life that doesn’t require beating myself with the “maybe I just suck at being a mom sometimes” stick, daily.
So draw your line in the sand, friend. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself and work hard at what you love. Because God put us on this earth to glorify Him. Not motherhood. It is a noble cause, and part of His creation. But He created us to be so much more. Yes the Bible does talk about dying to self, but so that we can become new creations in Christ. Not so that you can watch yourself fall apart before your own eyes so your kids can have perfect Pinterest birthday parties and your house always HGTV ready.
Take a break. Hire a babysitter. Enlist a college student from your church. Offer to watch your friend’s kids so she can get some time alone, and then let her return the favor. If you are consistently at the end of your rope, you will be always giving your kids, and your partner, the very worst version of yourself. So let go of the guilt. Stop allowing it to creep into your thoughts and destroy your self-worth. There’s no need for it. You matter. You are important. Your health, your needs, your wants, they all matter. Sure we make sacrifices for our kids, but at some point you must balance that with self care.
Start with small things like getting dressed every day. I know that sounds silly, and sure we all have pajama & Netflix days; but spending that 10 minutes to put on an outfit, brush our hair, it matters. If having quiet time is important to you, then figure out when you can carve that out. Maybe it’s 30 minutes before you go to bed, with a book and a cup of tea. Perhaps it’s going to bed earlier so you can get up earlier (before your kids) and enjoy that first cup of coffee alone.
When we have littles, I know it’s hard to not feel guilty when we make them occupy themselves for a little while so we can get stuff done. But learning to play on their own or with their siblings is an important developmental skill. Don’t be afraid to give them an activity they can do with minimal supervision so you can, I don’t know, use the restroom? (wild and crazy, I know)
Make a list of the things that really fill your soul with joy. Then try and do just one of those things once a week. And see what happens. You may be shocked at the difference it makes in your attitude toward your kids, your spouse and how you feel about yourself. Invest in relationships just for you (I’ll talk about this more in a later chapter). Take a couple hours on the weekend, and leave the kids with your spouse and go grocery shopping alone. You guys, this is the best thing ever. And if your spouse isn’t on board with this, maybe you need a new spouse. I’m kidding. But perhaps you do need to have some serious conversations explaining why it’s so important that your self care should be important to them.
The bottom line is this, if you’re pouring yourself out to your kids and your spouse and your mom friends all week long; you need to be plugged into something that replenishes what you’re pouring out. Otherwise you’re just an empty vessel, always in survival mode, hanging on by a thread. And that thread will eventually break.