A chart on my Facebook feed offered a humorous look at what “taking care of yourself” looks like before, and after, kids. According to the chart, taking daily vitamins turns into eating “one of the orange gummy vitamins your toddler won’t eat.” Reading a novel becomes reading the yogurt’s expiration date so you don’t poison the kids. 60 minutes of daily exercise into 60 minutes of weekly hiding in the bathroom to restore your sanity.
All joking aside, it is all too easy for moms to fall prey to the notion that their own needs are the ones that can be dismissed and go unmet. But over the long haul, this hurts both ourselves and our families.
When we lived overseas, Doug and I were blessed to be able to attend a class about avoiding burnout as an ex-pat… essentially, it was all about stewardship of the soul. It was written by and for believers, and helped us to learn the rhythm and necessity of self-care while living in perpetually high-stress situations.
While unpacking boxes recently, I came across those old notes. I’ve adapted them here for moms.
“Our bodies were created to function by breathing in and out on a continual basis. Likewise our souls were created to continually take in good as we give out good to others. The term ‘self-care’ refers to that intentional care that [moms] need to give themselves in order to function at optimal levels,” just like breathing in and out.
By doing this, we honor and glorify God through good stewardship of ourselves as image bearers of God.
CONSIDER– which of these areas need your focus in the coming weeks?
- REST– The Creator of all the world rested on the 7th day. Jesus rested. Purposefully set aside times for rest and recovery, and guard them diligently. Get quality solitude as you are able. Know your own signs of fatigue and burnout (this can include things like irritability, lack of concentration, spiritual apathy, loss of appetite, panic, anxiety, anger, resentment, restlessness, withdrawal from people you normally love to be with), which tell you that you need rest.
- KEEP EXPECTATIONS REALISTIC- Seek God first; prioritize your life behind that. Evaluate yourself honestly. Some moms labor under too-high of expectations of themselves, and others tend toward laziness and expect too little. Know yourself and set appropriate expectations for the season you are in.
- ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES- God has called and gifted you to do what He requires of you as a mom… but that doesn’t make you Super-Mom! “Learn to set limits for yourself, so that you will neither promise more than you can give nor overwork yourself, stifling your effectiveness. Boundaries help us and reassure others that we will not abuse ourselves.” Say ‘NO’ (without guilt) to some things– even worthwhile things– so that you will have room for the most important things in your life.
- REGAIN PERSPECTIVE- Sabbath was established to orient us toward a focus on God. Set time for regular Sabbath rest in your life. This may be a new idea for you… in our fast-paced society, it is rare for anyone to set aside an entire day for restful focus on God. “Remember that you are a child of the Father. Take moments to get away or relax for the purpose of reflection.” Replant yourself in the soil of God’s goodness; remind yourself of His grace and truth. “Let memories of God’s work in your life help you celebrate His goodness” and look forward to His continued work around you.
- EXERCISE- Be a good steward of your earthen vessel. “Have some form of regular exercise. You may not feel like doing this, but you know you need it.” Physical well-being doesn’t merely extend to our weight and muscle mass. By taking care of our physical form, we are better equipped to love the people in our lives, and it can even help with depression, stress levels, and sleep problems.
- ACTIVELY PRAY- Living and active prayer connects us with God’s power and presence. Take time to commune with your Maker. As moms it can be difficult to “find time to pray” but this is an important part of growing in faith and connecting with our Father. Most women know this instinctively– we feel closer to people we converse with, and more distant toward those we rarely speak to or hear from. Purposefully speak with your Creator about the concerns of your heart– your husband and children, the relationships and challenges of your life– and listen to His Spirit as He counsels your heart with truth from the Word.
- READ- Transformation of our mind is essential for Christlikeness. Take time to read from Scripture, devotional classics, and books that give you fresh spiritual insight and greater depth and maturity. “Strengthen your soul by study, reflection, and meditation on the Word of God.” I have found, as a mom, that one way for me to rest and recharge my soul is to read while taking a hot bath at the end of the day. [Another way that I keep my mind engaged is by filling our home with Godward words from Scripture and books… I write them out on paper and post them on the fridge, above the stove, and on my mirror. I also paint and sew them in various places. It’s a great way to keep yourself challenged and focused on what matters.]
- STRETCH YOURSELF- Life in the Spirit is to be bold, not timid. “Exercise your spiritual life by ‘reaching’ further into your understanding of truths such as faithfulness, forgiveness, grace, hope, joy, patience, sacrifice, salvation. Dig out some of those old workbooks [or sermon notes!] you meant to follow-up on.” Start a reading club or ask an older woman to meet with you to read through a book of the Bible together. “Get into some good dialogue that stretches those intellectual muscles you haven’t used since school.”
- BUILD SUPPORT- Let others “one another” and carry your burdens when needed. “Join or create a small group whom you can share your journey, struggles, and strain with, as well as your celebrations and joys. Schedule time with these people. Let them speak into your life. Remember, Jesus surrounded Himself with His own specially selected group of such people.” Do not let yourself fade into isolation and self-pitying loneliness.
- SCHEDULE JOY- Rejoice intentionally! Schedule a few activities into your routine that take you away from the kitchen sink and laundry bin, and that give you a boost. Laugh with, and kiss, your husband. Go to coffee with a friend. Join a monthly moms’ group. Purposefully play WITH the kids. “If you don’t supply yourself with some lightheartedness and joy, you’ll eventually have little to give to others.”
IN THE COMMENTS:
- Share which of these self-care habits you need to be purposeful about implementing in your life. (Bonus points for specific stories and examples!) 🙂