I learned some new lessons in self-care last week and I was reminded of how much I need it. Last week was a whirlwind of my birthday, Halloween, everyone catching colds and a mouse in the house. The latter resulted in about 5 additional loads of laundry and sanitizing every imaginable surface. Needless to say, I am emotionally drained. (Reality check: I have limits and I need breaks.) So, Saturday night I told my husband that I was going out for the morning. My Sunday plans were:
- Go to mass
- Spend time in adoration
- Send some thank you messages and call my Grandma
- Work on my blog
- Enjoy a cup of coffee while it’s still hot
- Check out Starbucks’ Holiday setup (really? That’s it guys? )
All of these things are 10,000 times harder to do when I have kids and a dog in tow. Because:
You should practice self-care because it is essential to serve long term and maintain healthy relationships. As a wife and mom of two young children and a puppy, I am one busy lady. If I am not intentional with my time, I will go days and weeks without a single moment to myself. And it’s not healthy. I become very ornery and overwhelmed when I don’t take time for a breather. And this message isn’t just for moms. It’s for caregivers of any sort. I think all Christians need to get really good at self-care because if you are a truly committed Christian, you’re never really going to be done serving. (Even if your children have grown up and moved out.)
My Definition of Self-Care
Things you do, uninterrupted, that nurture your mind, body, and soul. Sometimes they are spiritual like spending time in prayer or adoration, sometimes they take discipline like exercise, sometimes they are social like visiting a close friend, and other times they are pure pleasure like taking a nice hot bath, getting a pedicure, smelling flowers or savoring dark chocolate. It’s doing things that remind you, you are are a diverse human being who is more than just a mom, caregiver, grandparent, etc. You may also be a sister, daughter, artist, seamstress, avid reader, etc. All parts of you need nurturing and attention.
Times When Self-Care May Not Be Possible
You just had a newborn. Someone is sick. You are going through a very difficult season where someone needs care around the clock. This is okay and normal. But please, constantly evaluate whether or not it is time to thrive again and if there is help available. Assess and reassess your life to try to find pockets of time for rest.
Signs You Need to Practice Self-Care
The simplest way to know if you need self-care is ask yourself, do you feel happy? If not, it’s time. Here are some other signs:
- Exhaustion has taken over.
- You feel lonely.
- You’re angry.
- You are snapping at those in your care constantly.
- You just can’t deal, even with small things like putting your kids shoes on.
- Little things your husband (or other people living with you) does like breathe and exist are irritating you
- Another mess or bang makes you want to scream
Why You Can Do It And Still Be a Good Christian
I think as Christians we think if we are strong we will serve at all times no matter what and never take a break – because we are called to a life of service and sacrifice, right? But we must not forget we are human. And we have human needs. Here are some examples to give you permission to practice self-care as a Christian:
- Jesus drank wine, took a nap in a storm, and went off by himself to pray.
- Saint Teresa of Calcutta spent 4+ hours in prayer and solitude.
- Monks and nuns around the world spend time in recreation daily and have time to socialize and relax daily.
Importance of a Self-Care Sabbath
I got the idea of a “self-care sabbath” from the book, a Mother’s Rule of Life. The idea is to take time away from care-giving and refresh your soul through prayer, and solitude and even some activities you enjoy. It can be for the whole day or just 4 hours. It’s completely up to you and your unique life circumstances.
It’s important to know, though, you don’t need to wait until the weekend to practice self-care! You can find ways to make it work in your daily routine.
- Take a nap.
- Wake up early and spend time in the quiet or do something creative
- Slip away after dinner and take a bath
- Pack everyone up and take a walk so you can get some exercise.
A Special Message to Wives
I can already hear the wives reading this saying, “but my husband won’t let me do that”. Ladies, you don’t ask, you tell. Your husband is not your boss or your father. He is your partner. If he has a serious need, you need to trust he will let you know. All you have to do is communicate what you are going to do, and do it.
But he doesn’t know how to take care of our kids
The kids will be fine. They might eat cookies for breakfast but they won’t go hungry. They might have mismatched clothes, but oh well. Let him father them in his own way. They will probably all be so glad you are taking time away so you aren’t snapping at them left and right. You want what’s best for them, that’s what keeps you from leaving, but sometimes what’s best for them is to be away from you believe it or not! Because they need time with their Dad. And your name doesn’t start with a “G”. Yep, that’s right. You aren’t God and you can’t control everything. So do everyone a favor and take a break.
My husband still won’t step up
What if you try to follow my advice and it still doesn’t work? It sounds like your husband may have some more serious issues and that’s not good and I hope you will seek counseling. But I have a feeling most of the ladies out there haven’t tried this because they fear they are not being a good wife. I think all of us Christians can agree our number one job is to help our husbands and children get to heaven, Amen? Well let me ask you something: what is most likely to help them get to heaven? Doing everything for them and running yourself ragged or teaching them that everyone has needs, including you, and thereby teach them to step up to the plate, to support you and sacrifice and grow spiritually? I’d say it’s the latter, folks.
Some great videos:
There’s a part in the video below perfectly exemplifies how I can get with my kids when I need self-care. (When she talks about telling her kids to go play with their toys.) Besides that, it’s just hilarious!
The video below is Jennifer Fulwiler speaking about balancing service to family and personal passions.
Some great articles on self-care:
Some excellent books:
And here’s a cute mug I designed!
So, now you have been given permission to take a break
Even though it feels impossible to practice self-care when you have so many responsibilities, it is so necessary to make time for it so you can keep going. No one can do that for you. It is a choice you have to make.