The Fight For (and Against) Mom's Self-Care

It was about two and a half years ago when it all started. Which makes sense because that's about the time I had my first baby and earned the coveted yet catastrophic title of "mom." Before that time, I never really understood what people were talking about. Why it could ever be hard for them to do it. Why they literally had to carve out "special time" for it, and even then it was tough to commit.

But now I understand. Now I know the struggle intimately. Now I don't look at those words with a turned up nose, pride in my heart, smugness on my face.

"Self-care."  Two stupid words that have tormented me in waves over the course of being a mom. Two words that I detest and despise. Two words that I desire and crave.

Pre-kids it seemed like self-care was just built into my wiring. If I'd had a long day or week, I could take a few hours before bed to read a book or go out for dinner with friends to unwind. At the very least, I had time to make a coffee run and drink it hot all the way to the bottom, surrounded by silence or the car radio. Heck, I even had the luxury to pick which one I wanted! It came so easily, I never even noticed its importance.

But after kids, self-care all but disappears, right along with free Saturdays, high heels, movies in theaters and my waistline. It's no longer something just built-in to my life, it's something I have to fight for, not just for the time, but for my conscious to actually be okay with taking. I think for some reason, even though by now I would hope this isn't true - it's awfully hard for moms to admit they aren't able to do it all.

After having my second baby (complete with colic and reflux), moving to a new state, living in temporary housing and doing a decent amount of work on a new house before we moved in, all of this in just five months, I was spent. I was at the figurative end of my rope, wiped out with nothing left to give. Nothing for my friends, extended family, my kids, my husband or even for me.

I was at a mid-life crisis of sorts, my natural self-starter, driven personality told me I should be able to keep going, that if I took a break, my kids wouldn't be fed, my husband wouldn't feel loved and yes, quite possibly the world would stop spinning. I carried the weight of my family's happiness, health and comfort fully, squarely on my shoulders, telling myself  I didn't deserve a break because there were so many people dependent on me - I was a SAHM, this is my JOB. I told myself this was a more difficult season than usual. It won't be often that I have a baby and decide to move within the span of five days. I can do this for a time. Eventually things will let up and I'll be fine again. I should be able to take care of everyone, meet ALL THE NEEDS, and somehow still be able to function well and feel fulfilled without sacrificing any of my duties.

Because taking break for myself felt selfish and prideful. It felt weak and pitiful.

And I couldn't stand being any of those things.

But really, the fact that I couldn't, wouldn't take time for self-care was what was selfish. It was pitiful of me to think I could do it all without help.

Here's what I had to learn the hard way about self-care, and maybe you need to learn this too: It's not a luxury. It's not self-indulgent. It's a necessity.
Moving away from family and friends, I didn't even realize how much a support system and self-care was built into my life. Having everything stripped away from me revealed the ugly side of my natural ambition, initiative and drive: My desire for self-sufficiency. For self-reliance. For control.

"Are you exhausted? Are you distracted? Do you wonder who you even are any more?" Those are questions I was asking myself and all the answers were a tired, spent, begrudging, "Yes."

If this is you momma, if you are here with me, this is what we will do. We will first take our raw, bleeding, tired hearts straight to the cross. We will not clean them up or scrub them pretty, spit shining the extra ugly parts. Instead we will seek out the worst looking parts, those extra tender areas, the ones full of pride, selfishness and distrust of anyone caring for your family but you, and lay them at the base. We will take them with shaking, sweating hands to the Healer, the great Cleaner, the Answer to all our fears and leave them there.

Then we will take the time. The time we've been needing, but have so desperately resisted. Talk with our husbands, suck it up and pay for babysitters, bite the bullet and wake up early, drop our kids at the in-laws for a few days break. In short, we will make the ask.

Then we will work it into our schedule, a regular part of our routine. We'll find self-care in the small things that are often the most hard to force ourselves to do - drinking coffee hot during a quiet time before the kids wake up, reading a book before bed instead of feeling like not-enough on Pinterest, taking an hour on a Saturday morning to go on a walk without pushing a stroller. We'll build in self-care in the big things too. Scheduling a vacation without kids six months in advance - even if it's just a night or two away at a hotel in the next city over, plan dinner with friends a month out, carve out time for hobbies or goals to pursue those dreams we dream in secret and are terrified to even utter aloud.

We'll plan it because we know if we don't, our self-sufficiency will get the better of us and we won't go. We'll plan it because looking forward to it is half of what fills us up.

And then we'll do it because we are important. We will do it because we matter.  We will do it because no one will do it for us. We will do it because it serves not only ourselves, but our family. We will do it to remember who we are. Not just our dreams and hopes and goals, while important - we'll do it because it is a tangible recognition that we cannot do it all. That we are weak. That we are not enough. That we need Jesus. That it is only when we stop and rest that we can be filled up.

We will stop fighting it and do self-care because we will be better moms for it. 

Who's with me?

*Want to know how to find what really fills you up? Right here. 

Like this post? I share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!

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