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.