As a mom, my time is spent (mostly) thinking through my husband’s and my son’s needs. Are they fed? Clothes clean? Does our house feel like a home? Dishes done? Etc. It’s not that husband-man needs to be tended to like a child; he has man-sized responsibilities caring and providing for our family, in light of which coking dinner becomes a very small thing. Little Bear…he is purely a consumer in our family at this point, and it’s a joy being the “one” to meet most of his basic needs. We are all in our roles.
But in all of the attention towards caring for the family – which is my calling and one that I delight in – there has to be time for self-care. The line between indulgence and wisdom is fine, but let’s attempt to walk it.
What self-care isn’t, in one word – entitlement. It’s so easy to go through a hard morning of missed naps, cold coffee, an unmovable pile of laundry, and get to lunch and reach for the freezer and that pint of almond-milk ice cream because, “I worked hard today and I deserve it.” That just leads to extra weight, an energy crash around dinnertime, and a bandaid on the real issue. (Note that ice cream isn’t bad all the time. By all means, by stock in Ben and Jerry’s , because I’m an avid consumer.) Entitlement is a dangerous road to walk that leads to feeling under-appreciated, overworked, and overall pride. This path doesn’t lead to life. Promise.
What self-care IS NOT, in one word – neglect. It’s easy to approach the dinner hour and exclaim, “I’m done.” Hand off our son to husband-man and retreat into a hot shower, abandoning any attempt at dinner and simply not caring what anybody’s needs are beside my own. Why? Because I’m exhausted. I have nothing left to give, and I’m not even functioning properly. How did I get here? And – the crazy part – it is all super justifiable. But you can only say, “I didn’t sleep well last night,” for so many months before it stops becoming the exception and it’s a norm to embrace and overcome.
What self-care IS NOT, in one word – laziness. Sometimes it’s hard to jumpstart in the morning, and I’ll linger on the couch surfing social media. Before I know it, baby’s morning nap is almost over, and I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve not even truly rested. I’ve just been lazy.
What self-care IS, in one word – wisdom. If I am called to serve my family, the best way that I can do that is by taking breaks. Counter-intuitive but nevertheless true. I reach dinner flustered and ready to give up, because I haven’t stopped all day. I haven’t paced myself. I’ve stayed up late, struggled to get my morning going, and ran out of energy around lunchtime.
What self-care IS, in one word – humility. You can’t do it all. That’s fact. Accept it. You can’t. And you won’t. What you will do in your attempt is fail to do the very thing that you’re striving for because you’ll self-distruct. Not literally, but you may find yourself drowning in ice cream on the bathroom floor because you are finite. You have limits. Have you Googled, “Can I die from lack of sleep?” I have. Because I’ve pushed so hard to that line of Wonder Woman, that sleeplessness started to become a real concern. You’re not meant to go that far. Take car of yourself.
What self-care IS, in one word – intentionality. It’s hard, and there definitely are days when there simply isn’t an opportunity to slow down. I get it. I’ve been there. It’ll help to plan out your days, and be creative if you need to. Prioritize time when you can recharge. Make it a priority to eat lunch. Ya, I’m the mom eating scoops of peanut butter on the way to the grocery store, because I didn’t have time to meet the most basic of needs. While I feel like a caffeine-fueled mom-of-the-year now, I’m going to crash. Not if; when. And I can almost guarantee that it’ll come at an inopportune time. So eat lunch, and you’ll be better for it.
NOTE: You may not get a preferred hour to rest but 10 golden minutes. That’s okay. Those minutes add up and can mean the difference between a hectic bedtime with exhausted baby and exhausted mom and a calmer evening when at least one of your is functioning at your best.
What self-care IS, in one word – introspection. GK Chesterton said something in Orthodoxy like, “You can know the nearest sun but not know yourself.” It’s hard. And as a mom, it’s even harder. But strive to know yourself by asking these questions: What recharges me? What motivates me? So that when you have a few minutes of down time, use that time wisely. I can surf social media for 10 minutes, or I can walk to the mailbox. For me personally, one will feed my soul and the other will drain it. Take those little moments all throughout the day to recharge so that you are able to continue loving and serving. There lies your joy.
Through it all, the hard mornings and long nights, remember that you don’t toil alone. For most of us, we have a co-parent in this race. Use them. Ask for help. Apologize often for careless words. Receive grace.
More than anything else, you have grace. Much grace. New each morning. Without limit. Grace from a Heavenly Father who extends patience and love and wisdom to us that we might be able to give it to our children. Rely on that strength. Rest in His love that loves the sleep-deprived, coffee-riddled, spit-up wearing, to-do list weary, ever striving, ever “failing,” always dependent mama eating peanut butter in the Target parking lot.