Each morning, I roll out of the bed quickly in efforts to stop the tiny toddler trotting happily across my floor, making a beeline for his baby sister’s crib. I scoop him up, try not to trip over the dog, and plod to the kitchen, shushing my son along the way. Coffee is poured. Oatmeal is heated in the microwave. I realize I left my glasses on my dresser and squint, bleary-eyed, at the clock. 5:39 AM.
These days are exhausting. I know I’m not the only mom on the planet that’s tired.
I live in the world of #firstworldproblems. So many of the parenting podcasts I listen to stress the importance of self-care. “Moms, take care of yourselves!” or “Put your own oxygen mask on so you can take care of your children!” I get it. There’s definitely truth to these things or they wouldn’t say it.
Now, I’m not going to be that mom that says we aren’t allowed to complain or lament the woes of parenting littles. It is for sure a challenge and there is some degree of needing to take care of ourselves so we don’t take it out on our kiddos. But in that same vein, I think maybe we have made self-care an expectation. I think if you were to poll moms around the world, they might look at you blankly if you asked them about their self-care routine. It’s interesting how we, the country of independence, have established habits of moving away from family and community to find ourselves and make it on our own, only to lament the denial of self-care when we are stuck in the emotionally and physically draining season of shepherding tiny hearts. I wonder if self-care was as much of an issue to the mothers of my grandparents’ generation, since they lived so close to sisters and aunts and parents.
I am less than an hour’s drive from family. I by no means got away to exert my independence as some of my friends did. But there is a part of me that has started to become a bit of a mommy martyr. Feeling as if I am sacrificing all of myself for these children, as if I am some sort of mommy hero for all that I’ve given up. Anytime I see a woman out running during the day I think to myself, longingly, “I could go for a run. But, these kids..” as if the eternal task of discipling these tiny souls entrusted to me is worth disregarding for the short-term effects of a 5-mile run.
To be a mother is a call to sacrifice. Philippians 2 says that we are to look to Christ as our example who, though he was in the form of GOD, did not count equality with God something to be grasped but rather humbled himself, taking the form of a servant. How does this apply to me? How do I set Christ as my example in these years?
I cannot push on in my own strength. But maybe looking to Christ as my example means, while I do not negate self-care, I redefine self-care. Maybe redefining self-care looks like, as 2 Corinthians 4 says, looking to things that are unseen and eternal. Maybe self-care doesn’t involve getting to run everyday. Maybe self-care doesn’t look like an afternoon at Starbucks with a book and a journal.
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In this season, self-care looks a little more like reading my Bible out loud to help me focus on getting the Word in… which shows my kids that it is a priority to me and also gets them some extra Bible as well. Self-care looks like prioritizing prayer and reading my Bible during rest time rather than doing a workout video. Because, while a workout video would definitely curb my calorie intake and maybe give me a slightly smaller waistline, it’s eternity that matters.
So, press on, Moms. Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. Take care of yourselves, please. But take care of yourselves in light of eternity.
Kara Garis lives in central Oklahoma with her husband and three small children. She studied biology and chemistry at the University of Central Oklahoma and taught science prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom. She contributes regularly for Mom’s Milk Boutique blog, Oklahoma City Moms’ Blog, her personal blog and has written for Desiring God. Instagram. Facebook.