The Importance of Self-Care

When Zu was around 22 months old and June was a colicky, fussy newborn I felt like the worst mom in the world. Like if it were a title, I would win it. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed, drowning in the never-ending rip-tide of Need.

So the one who could wait—me, obviously—would just have to wait for whatever that one needed. I’d put off meals because the girls needed to be fed (then changed and naps and then one would need one thing while the other needed something else), or showers, or make-up, or time alone, I reasoned that since I was the grown-up, I could just put some of those things off until the kids got what they needed.

The problem was I was sometimes skipping entirely what I needed because the kids were both babies and needed me constantly—as a result, I wasn’t just grumpy, frazzled and overwhelmed, I was snappy with my family and sometimes almost panicked feeling, especially when June had her crying fits (11 to 3a.m., her Angry Hours).

I don’t remember when it was exactly, maybe when June was around 6 months old, that I knew I had to change something, so I started having snacks. And I found it was a lot easier to feel patient and not-overwhelmed when I wasn’t so hungry. Then I started making it more of a priority to shower and get “dressed for the day” every morning. Little by little, things were getting better.

In various other crazy hectic survival-mode times of life with littles, I’ve found that one of the most important things for me to keep doing is taking care of myself. It sounds selfish and is counter-intuitive to me—I thought it would make more sense to just take care of them first, then what I needed later—but the kids never stop needing, so if I don’t take care of what I need, then I’m not able to be as good of a mom as I could be. ( the “oxygen-mask” metaphor, Mom’s Night Out).

Every person has their different priorities of needs, and I think its important to know what those are before going into a new busy season. I’ve been thinking on mine lately, and on my husband’s, so that when babygirl #3 makes her appearance, we can slow down and enjoy her as much as possible.

For my husband, sleep is #1 priority, but for me, my list is more like this:

Self-Care Needs
(for Me To be a Good Momma and Not a Cranky, Overwhelmed Crazy Woman)

  1. Food
    When trying to lose the baby weight, it is tempting for me to skip snacks and skimp on meals, but when I don’t get enough to eat, I get snappy or faint, neither of which is good.
  2. Some Personal Hygiene
    (I’m not one that NEEDS a full face of make up and my hair perfect, but I must have a shower, wear my contacts, and wear real clothes—no sweatpants.)
  3. Somewhat Clean Environment
    (Everyone has different priorities with cleanliness—what bothers me the most is when the house starts to feel too cluttered or the dishes pile up too high.)
  4. Some Alone Time
    (this is the hardest one to come by, but I really do need it and I’m willing to make some sacrifices to get it—lately that’s meant waking up at 5a.m. to have an hour to myself before the girls wake up. as an introvert—INTJ personality—I need some quiet before the chaos, to pray, to be alone with my thoughts, to write.)
  1. One-on-One Time with Bryan
    (oh to have a conversation un-interrupted by mommy, mommy, mommy… or waaaaaahhhhh)

Sleep isn’t a huge deal for me—I mean, obviously I am not a robot and so I must sleep—I just do ok with having less sleep or cat-naps here and there. I can also do fine without socialization or lots of time outside the house. Both of those things would be high up on my husband’s needs list but barely make it to mine.

So though I guess it sounds selfish, I do plan on taking time to take care of myself (the oxygen mask!), even with three little girls needing me this fall.

~

What is your self-care priority list? Similar or very different from mine?

on being “overprotective”, taking risks, and santa claus.

Every decision we make involves some sort of risk, whether the risk is missed opportunity or weighty consequences. I think an assumption people make, when they consider you an “over-protective” parent, is that your decisions are fear-based (and maybe that is the case with some who are called over-protective) when really, at least for us, they are based on weighing risk and consequences. Consequences, risk, not only for us as parents but, predominately, for our children.

To use a “light” example: we decided we aren’t going to celebrate Santa at Christmas. The risk in “santa” is distracting from Jesus—a high-cost risk—while the cost of Not celebrating santa is mainly people thinking we are weird / our children telling other kids that there is no santa much to their parents’ dismay / no kids-on-santa’s-lap pictures.

There’s also the future risk—that our children will one day tell us how they wish we had let us celebrate santa (we celebrate plenty else around Christmas, so we’re not overly worried about this one). And, on the other side, if we did “believe in santa”, the risk that our children would tell us that they wish we had Not confused them about an already socially-materialistic holiday.

Easy decision—we had a lot of fun this year without any red-suited tubby men next to the manger scenes.

Sometimes these things become hard when you have outside family, friends, strangers, weighing in on what risks they think you should take with your children. Maybe they think Santa is fine, and fun, and that it is ridiculous to keep Santa from your kids. Ok—then celebrate santa with your own family. Maybe it is best for your kids! But your kids are not my kids.

I think the key is to respect other parent’s decisions with their children, whether those decisions involve homeschool vs. public school, vaccinating or not vaccinating, breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding. If that family has prayerfully and thoughtfully considered the issue, then respect that they may have come to a different conclusion than you did—they aren’t parenting the same kids that you are parenting.

Thankfully, the Bible does not tell us how to parent in the same way that Dr. Sears or Spock or La Leche League or whoever else does. We’re given freedom with discernment—if, as parents, we’re studying God’s word, seeking godly counsel, and praying over an issue, God has entrusted us to make certain decisions as parents, no matter how popular (or Unpopular) those decisions might be.

Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 1

The laundry turns over and over again, in the heat of the dryer, buttons clicking together in the tumbling. Outside, crickets—no heavy hum of cicada, now that fall is here. The children are finally sleeping peacefully in their beds, my husband is in the middle of his late-shift job, and I enjoy the quiet of the last couple hours before I sleep.

downloadExcept the “quiet” of those hours doesn’t mean that they are necessarily restful hours—there’s always grading to catch up on, and dishes, and preparing for meals tomorrow, work tomorrow, odds and ends of housecleaning I didn’t get to during the day.

Even when the girls are asleep and I have time to myself, it is difficult to use that time for writing. Men have their own challenges with finding time to write, I’m sure, and I can’t speak to those, but what I can tell you is that it is difficult to make time for writing, even if it is your passion, when you are a mom.

My family’s needs are more pressing—there’s keeping house, cooking, grocery shopping, and making time for fun, then add a full-time job on top of that and where does writing fit in? Is it that important?

I say yes. Not only as a spiritual practice, but, if you are made to be a writer, like me, then it’s something you need to be doing, it’s part of your DNA, your make-up, making and creating like our Maker, our Creator.

I realize though too that there are some seasons of life where it is easier to put more time into your art than others, and the years where Bryan and I are growing our family are likely Not going to be the years that I am most productive in my writing. At first this idea made me feel like a failure. If I was a man, I would be free to write like I was meant to. If I didn’t have a family, I’d be free to write like I was meant to.

But those are lies! Sure, I probably would have more time to write—but that is not the only thing God created me to do, and God takes as much pleasure in his creation creating at the snails-pace of a work-mostly-at-home poet-mom like me as he does in the super-charged career-poet guy who can wake up writing and go to sleep writing.

So, making time to write—while I do think it is important and can be done in the busiest of schedules, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how much art you must “produce” in a year.

No need to beat yourself up as an artist for not writing as much as so-and-so or as you used to, or winning that prize, or snagging that publication. No need to doubt your calling if you don’t write everyday.

Especially when you are busy raising blue-eyed, lanky-limbed poems, wild and running free.

God gave us art just like he gave us his creation—to enjoy it, and, in enjoying it, to worship and enjoy Him.

31  Days

tomorrow, part 2!