Mom-Self-Care in the Midst of Family Care
Over the past year, I’ve been in high-octane mothering mode. I know all of you are familiar with this. One of more of your kids suddenly has extra needs and everything else seems to pile on during the crisis. But how do we stop and take care ourselves? Who takes care of mom?
With my younger daughter on the autism spectrum and my older daughter facing health issues that have rearranged the plans she had for her high school years, I sometimes feel as if there is not time enough to get everything done, much less to take care of myself.
A few weeks ago, I came down with a bad cold. You know how it goes: Mom might not feel good, but no one has time for her to be sick. My kids had doctor appointments and my older daughter had also entered this nightmare season of constant migraines. For weeks, we tried every single migraine remedy we could find, in addition to specialist appointments to try to get some relief. My younger child had appointments and therapy too. Plus, I had to work. I coughed my way through countless appointments and long drives, all the while trying to convince myself allergies were to blame for my horrible state.
Except I’d never had allergies like this. Instead of the short cold that only had my daughter down for four days, this virus hung onto me like a toddler with separation anxiety. It wrapped fists around my lungs and choked the air out of me. I’ve had to do numerous breathing treatments, miss appointments, and I’ve had to learn that really difficult lesson that sometimes I need to SLOW DOWN.
As moms, we tend to put everyone else’s needs above our own. It took a friend calling and telling me I sounded horrible. She went on to ask me who would take care of everything when I landed in the hospital for weeks or worse. I had to give myself permission to listen to what my body needed. I know we all have a million things to take care of, but really, think of all the stuff we won’t get done if we don’t take care of ourselves.
For my own part, it meant letting a lot go. I have blogs over due by two months. My laundry became my new couch cover, and my family ate a lot of chicken nuggets. But my friend was correct. My body was in trouble and if I hadn’t slowed down I’d be in a real mess. Correction: I was already in a mess, but I’d be in even worse shape if I didn’t stop and rest.
I think, deep down, the biggest thing I had to let go of was my pride. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t do it all. Sometimes I still act like I have something to prove, that I must show that I can be self-sufficient. That I can keep my family going. I want to prove I am SuperMom.
But I’m not, and that’s OK. You’re not either, and that’s OK too.
Why is it this is so difficult to accept? I think something interesting happens to us when we become mothers. We move into a more selfless state of being. While being less focused on self (i.e. being less selfish) is a good thing, it’s hard not to take that selflessness too far. You and I aren’t called to be superhuman. We aren’t expected to be the best at everything. But we act as if we are! We place huge expectations on ourselves to perform in all sorts of areas. We expect an A+ performance from ourselves in ALL areas of our lives and give ourselves a big, fat F- every single time we fail to meet our own demands. We keep this invisible report card and drive ourselves almost to the edge with these huge requirements.
Is this what God wants for us?
I have realized for me that real rest comes from trust. Do I trust what God says? He says he is the bread of life. He is the living water.
…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
God is the one we can trust to sustain us; we can trust in him and in his acceptance of us, exhaustion and all.
Does this mean life will never get hard? No. But it does mean that I don’t have to earn an A+ in order for Jesus to accept me.
In her book Nothing to Prove, Jennie Allen says,
You are enough and you have enough BECAUSE I AM (Jesus is) ENOUGH.
This is how our God works, but we have been functioning in a scarcity mentality. Rather than trusting his abundance, we try to be enough and get enough as if there isn’t enough. And we are exhausted from trying to do all this on our own.
So I say to you what my friend wanted me to hear: you don’t have to do it all. You can drive the greatest sports car in the whole world, but if you don’t stop to refuel you’re still going to end up stranded. Same thing with our bodies and souls. We need rest. We need to stop and take care of ourselves in the midst of caring for others. We need to trust God enough to listen to when our bodies tell us they’ve had enough.
How do you find rest?