When I was training to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, I had the privilege of attending a university that emphasized the importance of self-care. In fact, during our first week of class, the director of our program gave us all a good ‘talking-to’ about how we must continue to live our lives despite being in Grad School. “Don’t wait to go on vacations, get married, have babies…Life doesn’t have to stop because you started this program.” She had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The gravity of her diagnosis combined with her words “Don’t wait” will forever remain in my heart. Now, as a new mom, her words are deeply impacting how I view this season in my life.
You see, her speech can influence me in two ways: 1) Don’t wait to do fun things just because we have a baby now. Yes, it will be more difficult and will require strategic planning, but we can find a way to make it happen. 2) I shouldn’t wait to take care of myself and do the things I love because I am now a mom. Is Luca my number one priority right now? In most ways, yes. I knew (sort of) what I was signing-up for when I chose to become a mom. I knew that my priority would be to raise a healthy member of society. However, I still need to take care of myself or I can’t be the mom that Luca needs me to be.
In the therapy world, we see people get burned-out all of the time. If therapists don’t have good boundaries and implement consistent self-care, they probably won’t be in the field for long. In fact, I’ve realized that doing therapy is a lot like being a mom. Both require a giving of the self for the benefit of another. They both require deep thought processes on how to respond to different situations. Both require self-awareness and an awareness of the other’s developmental stage so that my reactions are appropriate. We also must be in tune with the Holy Spirit and his guidance. Think of how much effort all of that takes! It’s no wonder that most therapists consider 20 client hours a full work week!
Ok, now think about our jobs as moms. Not only are we working to mold and shape the character of our little ones, but we are also trying to: keep them physically healthy, keep them safe, keep our house looking nice, keep our relationships thriving, and meet our own basic needs (like eating and sleeping- remember sleep? Man, sleep was nice). All of that goes on for 24 hours a day, not 20 hours a week! No wonder we are exhausted, over-whelmed, and sometimes downright bitter. It feels like we never get to just… STOP.
Well, Mama friends, my appeal to you today is to STOP. Or in the words of my matriarchal director from Grad School, “Don’t wait.” Don’t wait to take care of yourself. Truly, you will be a better mom for it. In my post, ‘Turning We Time Into “Me Time,” I threw out some ideas on how to make life with your little one more enjoyable. You don’t need to do anything grand or complicated, just find little ways to bring joy into your life. For me, I make sure to buy some pretty flowers every time I go grocery shopping. Seeing the flowers all week lifts my spirits. It’s little, but it’s something.
Let’s talk a little about prioritizing. I got on this self-care kick, so I tried to start crafting again. Well, I’ve learned now that I can only accomplish this by having Caleb watch Luca. I’ve tried to do it during the day while I was with Luca but that doesn’t fly so well. I start getting into my project while Luca is happily entertained with a toy and then inevitably, he gets upset, I try to ask him to “wait a minute” (yes, I ask my 7-month-old to be patient) and then he gets more upset and then I get super frustrated with him…. it’s not pretty. No crafting is accomplished and I feel like a crappy mom. After all day of “Luca Management” (that’s where I try to keep my kid happy while I clean the house and do other chores) I just wanted to craft. No wonder I was so frustrated and of course he was too. Neither of us had quality time.
So I’ve realized this: I’m not staying home to keep the house clean, to make extravagant homemade meals, to craft Pinterest worthy projects… no. I’m staying home to help our little boy develop and THRIVE. That is my job. That needs to be my number one priority during the day. What this means is, I will have self-care time, I will clean the house, I will cook meals… but it will not be at the expense of interacting with my kid. I think that we as moms get overwhelmed and angry because we are trying to do entirely too much. We think that because we are staying at home, we need to have something to show for it. It’s so hard to remember that we WILL have something to show for it, maybe it’s not as obvious right now, but it will be. When, someday, your kid feels courageous enough to try something new, when they are a good sport when they’ve lost, when they share their favorite snack, when they are able to apologize, when they tell you about their first crush, when they talk you about wanting to try drugs/sex/alcohol, when they admit that they’ll miss you when they go away to college… those are the moments we are investing in. Those are the signs that you have raised a securely attached (read: emotionally healthy) kid. We are investing a heck-of-a lot now, but it is so that we will have those precious moments later. And let’s face it, a kid like that is a lot easier to be around.
The truth remains, all of this time and effort that we put into raising awesome kids takes a lot out of us. Talk to your husband about this. Make a game plan together so that you are on the same page. Figure out realistic ways for you to get some time to recharge daily. Make it happen, get creative if you have to.
Now be easy on yourself, remember what your number one purpose is right now, then go get some fro yo.
If you liked this post, you may also like:
– The Myth of Me-Time (Or I Want My Cake)