Once upon a time there was a woman (a mother in fact) who was feeling so tired and run down that the only thing that encouraged her to keep on going was her great love for her family. With every need she felt a tug on her compassionate heart. With every chore, she wanted to provide a home of safety, warmth and comfort. With every tear, she wanted to be that shoulder to cry on. As days rolled into months, rolled into years, she felt the well of love for her family begin to slowly deplete. What once was over-flowing became ever close to empty. No matter how much she tried to just continue living on love, droplets of frustration, exhaustion and discouragement began to fill her well. When the needs of her loved ones confronted her each day, instead of meeting them with patience and kindness, she felt herself quickly turning to anger (an emotion that she hated, yet felt powerless to oppose).
Then one day in utter despair, she confided in a friend her growing concern that the cherished well of love that she generously shared with her family was in grave danger of running out. With tears in her eyes she cried, “What should I do?” To this the friend replied, “You need to care for yourself, show yourself a little love. For when you show care for yourself, then your well will begin to fill again. You may be surprised at how quickly a little love can fill your well, then from this love you will continue to bless your family.”
“But how can I care for myself, when the needs of my family are so great? I am so busy for them, I do not have any more time”, the mother despaired. “Ah” said the friend, “But you do have time, you just need to make some of that time be yours, instead of giving it all to others. You must remember, your needs are important too. They may be different, but of no less value; do this and your well will replenish.”
Do you ever feel like the tired mother in this story? I do. It has been put to me many times that self care is part of the solution to the problem. Self care is one of those things that sounds great in theory, but the practice of it is much harder. Most hardworking mother’s feel that while self care would be good, the reality of finding time for oneself is impossible and maybe even decadent. However, just as we give out of a heart of love for our families, we too need to see ourselves as a valuable member of the team and therefore equally deserving of love and attention.
There is a danger in trying to wear the ‘SuperMum’ badge at all times. When we do this, we model to our children that we have no boundaries; we can be all things, to all people, at all times. Once we’ve held this standard, our children come to expect that we can be no less. All too quickly we can become the family slave/robot; devoid of needs and ready and able to do anything. Not only do we do ourselves a disservice, we also do our children one. Modelling to our children the value of balancing work, rest and play is part of being a resilient parent raising resilient children.
As my children have grown up and changed in how they need me, I have seen how much my own needs have changed in the process. What was once the physically demanding season of babies and toddlers (all I dreamed of was time away from them and sleep) has now become the emotionally draining season of adolescence (I now long for activities that sooth my jangled nerves and bring peace to my mind). While 6 hours at school seems like a significant time out, it is very easy to fill that time with work and other people; leaving no time to look after yourself. Indeed, I’ve found the school years much harder to justify self-care, while in reality I’ve needed it more.
The beauty of self-care is that it can be and mean so many things; depending on what you enjoy doing and how much time you have. From taking a walk to reading a book, from sitting to finish a nice cup of tea to having a Nana Nap, from a lunch date with your husband to talking to your Mum on the phone, every intentional choice to do something for yourself helps in reducing the drain on personal resources and brings added moments of joy in what sometimes feels like the hard slog of life. ( True fact: studies have found that talking to your mother on the phone has the same effect as a hug. Your Mum can bring your stress level down.)
So don’t wait for permission to give yourself some love and attention; be kind to yourself and do so regularly.
Photo by: amish.patel