Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Self Care

I have been a mom for almost nine years- more than that really, if you count the time I carried my first baby in my womb! By God's grace, I have done some things right during these years. I have also made many mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes I made is one that I see many women who are mothers make- I became Mommy. I gave up Natalie and much of who God had created me to be. I believed that Mommy was the new me and my prior interests and inclinations had to be forgotten so as not to interfere with the new me. I never thought about any of this, mind you. Oh sure, I was frustrated and resentful, at times, but I never consciously considered this transformation from Natalie to Mommy objectively. I rarely examined the feelings of frustration and resentment as warning signs of a problem, I just did what I thought I was supposed to do.

As my children grew and entered school, I added more tasks to my long list of responsibilities such as Sunday School Teacher, Class Mom, PTO board member. Whatever crossed my path that would make me a better Mommy, I did. And the truth is, I did not begrudge these things. In fact, I even enjoyed them most of the time.

Over this past year, however, I have begun to see that this abdication of the unique person God had created me to be was not wise. It was not unselfish and sacrificial, as was my intention. In fact, losing myself was detrimental to the very people I was trying to serve- my family. The problem was not the roles I took on but the things I neglected. The problem was not the tasks I engaged in but the manner I entered in to them- without consideration and prayer. The problem was not that I wanted to be the best Mommy I could be but that I forgot all about Natalie in the process. I stopped honoring the unique gifts, inclinations and desires that God had so graciously bestowed on me. In clumsily crucifying my flesh, I trampled my spirit. Instead of taking on a new and precious role as mommy, while honoring the rest of me, I became Mommy and forgot about the rest of me.

When I started to consider these things, it was out of necessity. I found myself in a very precarious emotional state at the end of this summer and it was scary. Our family had just suffered the unexpected and painful loss of a loved one and the added pressure from that experience was like the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. I was stressed to the max and felt unable to relate to my family appropriately anymore. The high paced schedule I had developed for our crew was now too much for me to bear.

With the help of godly counsel, I began to see that if I did not start to take care of myself, I was hurting everyone in my family. I also began to realize that I was actually disrespecting my Lord by ignoring the special way He made me. It took awhile for me to understand and believe these things. It took a clear mind to see that a woman who desires to be a wonderful Mommy must also be a woman whose personal needs are met. I cannot pour myself out for anyone if I am empty and dry!

I began a prayerful process then that continues to this day of self-reflection and self-understanding. After some prayer, I excused myself from a couple of on-going commitments and refrained from taking on new ones as the school year began. I learned to balance the needs of my family with my own needs. As I saw the dramatic difference in my mood and parenting and the positive effects on my husband and children, I finally began to believe I was doing the right thing for everyone.

It is still difficult to choose something for myself over something for one of the children. I try to make these decisions with the Lord's help and guidance. I also remind myself that just because a decision is hard does not mean it is wrong and that almost nothing is irreversible. Just knowing that I can choose to take care of one of my own needs even if it will preclude meeting a want of one of my children has given me such a sense of freedom. My desire on this journey is to "live as a free woman, but not use my freedom as a cover-up for evil; to live as a servant of God." (based on 1 Peter 2:16)


Aimee said...

Brilliant post, girl...seriously. And so so so true. I love the line "in clumsily crucifying my flesh, I trampled my spirit"

Catherine said...

Excellent post - I can absolutely relate. Last fall I looked up one day and wondered where Catherine was, because I had done a lot of what you described, plus the fog of having three kids in under three years etc. Now that my youngest is 15 months old I'm trying to regain a more of myself and, as you said, take on the role of Mommy without becoming JUST Mommy. I think my husband is especially glad to see me back. :) Thanks for your post!

Natalie said...

Thank you for the encouragement, ladies!

TeamOSM said...

Luckily, I realized that I needed to make time for me very early on in my motherhood journey. By my son's ninth month, I knew I needed to take time out for me, to be social, to have fun, and to nurture myself. So glad you are doing the same! I know this post is old, but I enjoyed it thoroughly!


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