Mothers win the prize for sacrifice. Seriously. The degree to which moms forsake, forego, and forget our own needs and desires…it’s pretty admirable, but it’s also dangerous. “Family first,” is a spiritual and appropriate thing, but only when it’s done right.
How do you know when it’s done wrong? You’re mostly miserable.
It’s not motherhood that’s the problem though. It’s our wrong ideas about it. And somewhere along the line, that serpent on this trail we’re walking convinces many moms that only the children deserve to refresh themselves in that waterfall over yonder; and only the children deserve to snap photos and enjoy the view; and only the children get to collect the pretty stones, and drink the water, and bring their friends, or rest a spell.
Why is it that when the children barely sneeze, we rush them to the doctor, but we go years without tending to our own medical care?
Why do we prioritize their education over our own; and their friendships over ours?
Why do we buy clothes for them and not for ourselves?
Why do we pour money into their birthday parties, and Disney trips, and concert tickets, and Happy Meals without doing the same for ourselves?
Hey, I am not advocating selfishness. It’s just that when my children were younger:
- I put my education on hold too long
- I shelved my hobbies and focused only on what the children wanted to do
- I didn’t socialize enough with friends my age
- I rarely had time alone aside from my time of Bible reading
- I didn’t invest in clothes, or hair care, or dental care
I denied myself all these things while encouraging my children to do and have them. And of course it led to burnout and regret. In my perfectionism, I thought what I needed was to love mothering more. What I really needed was to love Mary more.
If I had to do it over again, I would seek balance. Self care for moms is not about having everything we want whenever we want it. It’s about ensuring everyone in the house is included in the family’s allocation of time and money. Wealthy moms may have more purchasing power and child care options, enabling them to strike that balance easily. But too many of us live as though we are utterly destitute, claiming we can’t tend to our own needs when maybe we aren’t even trying. If we lack self care and feel resentful, it’s not the kids’ fault.
But hey, don’t feel guilty. We moms can revisit our desires, our goals and our gifts. Yes, God made us moms, but we were his daughters first. And just like we want our daughters to freely enjoy life, be creative, play an instrument, giggle with friends, and care for their bodies, so also our heavenly Father desires that for each of us.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37.4
View from the Top: I have learned that sometimes self care is relaxing alone on my own porch.