Self-care. It’s one of the popular buzzwords in the realm of Mommy Blogs. But – while so many people tell you the importance of it and ways you can self-care – there is very little out there to tell you how to balance self-care against taking care of your spouse and/or children.
So here you go: the Chaotic Life edition to the debate.
Balancing Self-care vs. Caring for Your Family
Can I just stop for a moment? Why is searching for self-care ideas even a thing? Maybe I’m unique, but my list of fun ideas to preoccupy myself is pretty extensive by itself. However, when it comes to giving myself a break, I’m going to choose an old favorite:
- Reading a book/manga
- At home spa day (does thirty minutes count as a day?)
- Walking into a gas station to get something delectably sugary and carbonated to drink. (Hey! Don’t laugh. Going to the gas station can be a chore with a child in tow, so I relish these few moments that I’m child-free and can move unhindered.)
If I want to try something new, I’m not going to look for it under a self-care blog post. I’m going to think, “What do I want to try? Sewing? Crochet? Baking? Let me spend forty-five minutes looking at things that I’m never actually going to follow through on.” And I feel blissful and refreshed after doing this.
All of this has a point. When we’re pursuing self-care, we need to make sure we’re not overdoing self-care. We can do this by:
#1 – Check Your Self-Centeredness
Listen, I’m not knocking self-care. I’ve said that self-care is important plenty of times already on Chaotic Life. Self-centeredness is just a pitfall that comes along with putting too much emphasis on the self. Even self-analysis, my favorite tool for personal growth, can lead to this pitfall.
You see, self-centeredness is a problem for Christians in their faith. When we are called to love God with our all – heart, strength, mind, and soul – there isn’t any room left for self. Self-centeredness takes our eyes off of God and His will for us. It stops us from growing and moving forward in our faith.
Please note, I’m not saying that self-care is selfish. Selfishness seeks to better oneself or to grant a desire at the expense of another. Selfishness is when a child takes the last ice-cream bar knowing that their sibling will also want it.
While self-centeredness goes hand-in-hand with selfishness, the real danger is in creating obliviousness. You stop seeing past yourself. You become the small child that unknowingly cuts somebody off in the grocery store. And you stop seeing God.
Self-centeredness also becomes the breeding ground for sin. In this case, reading through self-care advice can lead you to envy the women who seem able to do more to take care of themselves. It’s easy to think, “If only my child was a little more independent, or if only my kids didn’t destroy the home if left unattended.” That, my dear Busy Mom, is one step from resentment.
These are all possible, but hypothetical, scenarios. I don’t want to scare you into not doing nice things for yourselves. All I’m saying is, if you’re trying to balance self-care vs. caring for your family, you need to first ask yourself, “Am I focusing a little too much on myself?”
If you need to rest – and we all do because it’s commanded by God – then you’re good. If you feel a little zing of nastiness in your chest when you think about the question, you might want to do some praying as you examine the heart of your desire.
#2 – Cultivate an Attitude of Service
If you’re used to having everything and being able to do everything, then you’re going to crave self-care more than others. Why? Because learning to serve others is a discipline that takes practice. Learning to deny self and to live humbly? That takes discipline, too.
You see, we talk about taking care of her family like it’s a bad thing. While most days I want to pull my hair out while dealing with my daughter, there are a lot of really fun or amazing moments from being her full-time caretaker. I get to watch her sense of wonder as she tries to figure out the flying flowers (butterflies) or hears a woodpecker. And while I get tired of reading Mr. Brown Can Moo 3x a week, I also knew exactly how to soothe my daughter’s fears during the giant storm last week because we’ve read that book so much.
I’ve learned to see how small acts of service impact somebody else’s life for the better. That makes it fun. Fun makes it addictive.
Because I’ve cultivated this attitude of serving my family, it’s not something I want a lot of breaks from. Just as long as I get a break.
If you feel like you want to escape from your family more than you want to be with them on most days, then you have a problem. It’s time to dig deep and ask yourself, “Why am I so stressed? Where is my joy in this?”
- Learn to manage your to-do list for more effective time organization.
- Learn strategies to stay calm during the chaotic times.
- Be intentional about your time with your family. Tell yourself, “For this period of time, I will be with my children.” Devote however much time you are able.
- Look for ways to make memories with your children. Remember, sometimes it’s the small things they remember most.
#3 – You Need More Self-Care Some Weeks than Others
This is a truth that I need to get through my own thick-skull. Some weeks I need more time to rest and relax than others. That is okay.
If you’re feeling more drained than usual, if you’re struggling with your emotions more than usual, or if you just feel weird, it is okay to take some more time to yourself. You don’t have to keep a perfect home. You don’t have to do everything with your children. You’re not the only one who can cook. (If nothing else, there’s always McDonalds!)
Do what you need to do to rest. If you can learn this skill of listening to your body, then I promise you that you’ll be much better off. When we don’t give ourselves that extra time off when we need it, then we end up feeling even more burnt out and exhausted. Then, when we finally do stop to rest, we’ll need even more time to recover.
Put simply, delayed self-care has a very heavy interest rate on it. So don’t miss your balance due date!
#4 – Don’t Make Self-Care a Habit
“Wait – what?”
I know, it’s confusing. I’m trying to tell you to do make time for self-care, but don’t turn any one thing into a habit. It’s been proven that we don’t place as high of a value on the things that we’re used to having. If you buy a latte every single day of the week, you’re not going to enjoy it as much as if you keep it as a rare treat.
So whatever you’re planning on doing as special treat for self-care, don’t make that a daily event. That turns it into a habit. Pretty soon it will be something that you expect in your schedule instead of something that makes you feel all pampered, special, and rested.
Let’s Draw a Distinction Between Self-Care Needs and Wants
And while we’re at it, let’s stop lumping everything into self-care like it’s all the same thing. Hair cuts are a necessity. Plucking eyebrows is a necessity. Showers, cutting fingernails, shaving, face lotion? Those are all necessities.
You see, those are the things that should truly be under self-care. In fact, those things should be under a non-negotiable list of things for you. It’s basic healthcare and upkeep so you can stay in touch with your human side.
If you’re looking for a blog post to tell you to do those things, then here you go:
Stop reading posts you find on Pinterest and go spend some time on you.
There are ways to make it work. Leave me a comment if you need help figuring out how to manage a small baby and/or toddler for this. I’ll help you.
As for the wants? All those fun things that people list for self-care? This is what I’m talking about limiting.
#5 – Rest in God
Somebody recently reminded me that learning to rest in God is the best self-care habit you can have. You see, I have an entire post dedicated to resting, yet it never even occurred to me to highlight this fact. I’m remedying that now.
As part of living an unbalanced life as Christians, it should be expected that our idea of self-care will be a little bit different than the average mommy blogger’s idea of self-care. Resting in God is how.
What would be your answer if I asked you, “What is the ultimate goal of self-care?” I’m going to guess you would respond:
- “To feel better about myself.”
- “To not feel so tired.”
- “To let me enjoy my family again.”
In all honesty, aren’t we just looking for peace in our lives?
But the Bible teaches us that peace is a gift that comes alongside the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 14:25-27). If we want to access that peace, we need to learn to stop stifling the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This can be achieved by learning to rest in God.
So how do you rest in God? You:
- Hand over any burdens that you’re carrying
- Meditate on His Word
- You pray
- You listen for His voice
- You learn to deal with your doubts
In short, you spend time worshiping Him. I know, I make it sound so simple. That’s because it truly is.
You don’t need coloring pencils to color in your Bible, and you don’t need to know Greek. You just need to be willing to respond.
I promise you, God will meet you wherever you are in whatever means He is able. I know this because I also know that God has a desire to speak with you.
Resting in God is a discipline that has to be practiced. However, the great news is that it is also one that you can learn to practice right alongside the rest of your family.
Can I be honest? I don’t have a clue what happened with this post. I cringed when I saw the topic in my editorial calendar and I thought, “Well, that will be 800 words long.” Then I started writing, and kept writing, and finally finished the first two points.
My first instinct when I finished writing this was that I had completely veered off topic in some God-inspired word vomit. But after a casual readthrough I am convinced that this is really how Christian mothers can balance self-care with caring for their families.
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments.