The ways we take care of ourselves

Mothers take care of a lot of people, and all that care takes time. The question is not whether or not a mother is taking care of herself; it is how she is taking care of herself. There are different ways of doing it, and I’m not trying to say one way is wrong and another is right. I think the differences are confusing, so writing about it might help clarify the issue.

I recently read a book by a mother who believes taking care of yourself means turning inward to face your problems, accept them, and then to love yourself. The book is called Breathing Room, and the author, Leeanna Tankersley, encourages her readers to give themselves a little space to breathe. This will give you that chance to change the toxic, negative thoughts swirling around your brain, it will give your soul a chance to reach for Christ, and it will allow you to see yourself so that you can better love yourself.

Reading Tankersley’s book made me realize how differently I have been taught. In my neck of the Christian world, turning outward, to worship God and to serve others, is the solution to any problem. Am I depressed, full of swirling, negative thoughts, feeling like I’m really (really!) going crazy? Then pray, trust God to get you through the low times, do something for someone else, keep busy doing good works. We take care of ourselves by making sure our priorities are inline with God’s priorities. And wasn’t Jesus always doing things for others, even when He was tired and hounded by people? Turning inward is what got me into trouble, not what will get me out of it.

I tried to reconcile these two viewpoints because Tankersley’s book made a lot of sense to me. I want to believe it is right, but what I have been taught does not allow me to. So what if we first face the problem, recognize it is there. Then we pray about it and trust God to provide the door out. Then (and this is where I am feeling an ah-ha! moment), depending on our personality we either go out and keep busy or we clear out some personal time to do something that will focus our minds on a good thing. Like reading a good book, writing poetry, attending an art show. I think I’ve hit on the key. Some people heal better by being around other people. Others heal better in a room alone. Once that healing is going in the right direction, then your works of gratitude can begin again. Is it selfish to be the second type of person? I don’t know. It sounds like it to me, but maybe it is more selfish to let yourself become something bad.

I think it is important to add that no matter what we mothers do, we are still mothers, and we will make sure our children are being cared for. I don’t think many mothers could disagree on that.

If you want to chime in on this issue, please comment and tell me your version of taking care of yourself.

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8 thoughts on “The ways we take care of ourselves”

  1. Casting my mind back to those busy selfless days of early, mid, late mothering, I didn’t take a lot of me-time. I think there were times when I didn’t take care of myself as I might have. But, when I did, I’d say it took the form of being open to good. Good things my husband said to me, good things I observed in my children, progress in my sanctification, revelling and relishing the good. Such as, ‘here I am, after all my miserable younger years, a mother with 3 lovely children. Me! Oh wow, is this real? Oh boy, this is happiness.’
    Some would say a mani-pedi and a toot with the girlfriends is essential, but I took a different, home-based approach and took my blessings when they broke over me.

  2. I’m not sure either, Amy. Being a person charged by other people, I still like to get away at times and yet I don’t always feel ready to take on the tasks of motherhood. When I’m asked what can help me, I’m not sure what to say. I guess I try to focus on my duties to husband, children and home – in that order. I’ve been trying to remember the words “joy” and “patience” a lot lately. And lots of prayer. And I don’t think it’s just a season either. I overheard a woman talking about caring for her sick husband. My same tendencies now might creep up later in life as well. We should always be striving.

    Sorry this got long. There are several thoughts swirling around in my head lately too. 😉

    1. I think the author of Breathing Room addressed the fact that even when we do take time to get away, it is not necessarily a “fix.” So, yes, I understand what you’re saying about not being sure what will help. Focusing and remembering good words are ways to keep out the negative stuff. Maybe we get better at it the more we practice it. I think God’s grace is always there for us to grab onto. We have to learn to grab on and believe it works.

  3. I guess I would say both? Yes, taking care of myself, but also acknowledging that serving others is equally important. I don’t care for the emphasis on self in our modern world, as if that is the only thing that matters. I think we do find ourselves through meeting the needs of other people, but ultimately we need to examine our reasons and motivations and make sure that we’re doing it in the right spirit.

    1. I like how you ended with examining our motivations for serving others. That is both the outward and the inward, all in one. When we take time to think about what we’re doing, then we’re giving ourselves breathing room. It’s not all rushing from one service to the next.

  4. I’d say “both,” too. Jesus did the serving thing, clearly, but he also spent time alone to recharge. I need that balance, too. The tension is where we find ourselves on that spectrum of introvert/ extrovert. At times I just need more space to breathe than other moms I know. 🙂 I appreciate your review here!

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