I know that as a mom you need to take care of yourself, but to be frank, I’m not very good at it. I’ve known this for a long time, but currently each day in this incredibly wonderful, yet often overwhelming, season of transition, I find myself numb and empty from life.
It’s hard, as a mom, to make sure that all of the little wonderful people we have brought into this world, or taken into our home, are loved, cared for, and guided, while also ensuring that I am also ensuring my own care, self-love, and attention. I have struggled in the past with internalizing “self-love” as selfish, but in these beautiful years of aging wisdom, I have come to realize the incredible value of ensuring that my own oxygen mask is in place in order to truly embrace and take care of those I love.
And, I’m not good at securing my own mask yet…but, I’m getting there.
It takes a lot of intention and focus to slow down, be still, and connect with myself to realize my own needs, while also being open and willing to extend myself further as the Lord guides.
It’s a balancing act to take care of yourself while also being available to the Lord; making sure that I’m stable while also being careful not to try to maneuver my children so carefully that they can’t experience the value of struggle, hardship, and the victory of success.
Being a mom is hard work.
Yes, Mama, You Need to Take Care of Yourself Too…
If you’re like me you’re probably tired. Poured out, empty, and often feeling over-extended with life. The kids seem to never have enough: enough of your time, enough of your focus, enough food, enough play, enough noise, enough books…enough. Maybe your life is nothing like this and your child is perfectly content with a realistic amount of attention or care, but for most of us, there is at least one child who fits the bill.
I actually never really internalized how difficult being a mom would be, since I was the child who was generally content to just be. My kids, however, are very different beings. With 7 of them, we surely have the gamut of emotions, personalities, preferences, expectations, etc. It is never easy and simple.
This is why I was brought to my knees a few years ago. It took me a long time to internalize the fact that I will never be able to please all of my children all of the time in everything. With so many different personalities, ages, and stages of development going on simultaneously every day, there is always bound to be some child having a fit about something for some reason.
I. was. worn. out.
Everything felt like a fight. Everything felt like a mountain of emotion and chaos that I could never seem to climb and conquer.
But, then I heard the still small voice whisper something so profound, so needed, that it changed me forever:
Since when did I say that it was your job to make everyone happy…?
The question was so simple, yet so profound that it probably took me months of reflection to really wrap my head around its meaning. You see, I have kids, and it seems that each and every one of them has an innate assumption that it is my sole job and purpose in life to make and keep them happy…or at least that’s the general tone and intention that emits from them each day.
I had not, however, until this time, internalized that I really have no control over that, especially since I have more than one child (and even if I did only have one child, I know I’d still hit my limits with such a thought).
The thing is, though, that I had some emotional “growing up” to do, maturing in the realization that it is not anyone else’s job to handle my emotions but mine, which also inherently means that it is not my job to handle other people’s emotions, either.
For me, this realization was so incredibly freeing. You see, my father died when I was six years old from a sudden heart attack at only 38 years of age. The years that followed were some of the most tumultuous, difficult, emotionally numbing years I have ever known. My family was reeling from the sudden loss, and I’m not even sure all of us have yet worked through all of the emotional upset that occurred, even now 28 years later…
In the midst of so much emotional turbulence all around me in those following years, I learned not to rock the boat in my house. I took on co-ownership of the emotions of everyone around me, internalizing that it was my job to be the rock of the family, even though no one ever asked me to be.
I became the “peacekeeper” rather than a peacemaker.
I took on a persona of non-personhood with no preferences because to have opinions or preferences inevitably meant controversy, and I was emotionally drained.
These emotional struggles have thankfully been consistently getting worked out by the grace of God, but hitting the apex of my limits as a mom was definitively a turning point in my recognition of the separation of my responsibilities and those of others.
The realization that I was not responsible for controlling someone else’s emotions freed me to welcome in and accept my own emotions as they came, seeing them as neither right nor wrong, good nor bad.
For me, this was a huge turning point of self-love because it opened the door to recognizing and embracing my own limits and boundaries as okay and acceptable.
It freed me to say yes and no as I deemed to be right and appropriate, regardless of whether or not someone else approved.
Suddenly I could focus solely on what the Lord and I decided I needed to do, and release the grips of control of others (that so ironically controlled me) into the hands of the God of Love I’d come to know so intimately and well. I was faced with one of many faith choices:
Will I trust Him with the hearts and lives of those I love, or continue to live as though only I could truly help them become whole and healthy?
It was not until I was able to separate myself from others and embrace the Truth that God alone could handle all of the emotional ups and downs they would have, that I was able to fully accept them for who they are.
Only then could I truly extend love in its fullness, because I no longer felt responsible for carrying them through their struggles.
If God was showing me that my emotions were acceptable and safe in God’s eyes as one of His children, then the same had to be true for others as well.
And, if emotions were not something to be judged on, then even in the midst of the darkest and heaviest ones, God could handle it.
Suddenly the Cross was the source of a whole new level of freedom in Christ:
the freedom to struggle, the freedom to fall, the freedom to break, the freedom to cry out, the freedom to fail, the freedom to feel, the freedom to have an opinion, limit, boundary, preference, difference of understanding from others, and so. much. more.
Suddenly the idea of liberty in Christ meant that I was free to be authentic and real in the midst of my struggles, accepting and embracing my limitations and breaking points, handing them over to this God who truly loved and welcomed me exactly as I am so that He could help me walk when I could no longer stand.
And, it. changed. EVERYTHING.
I don’t know about you, but this Truth was news to me somehow. So much of what I’ve ever had spoken over and into me through the years was about the limitations, rules, expectations, etc. of this God who loves us enough to send His Son, but also expects a really high level of behavioral perfection that is “not of works” but by faith, yet shared without that cushioning safety zone to fall. Maybe I just didn’t hear right. I cannot say.
But, what I do know is learning this Truth was like meeting God all over again for the first time.
It still astounds me how much our Abba loves to break Himself free from the boxes we place around Him. But, let me tell you, I’m so glad He explodes them over and over again.
Do you have God in a box?
Do you know this kind of love, that welcomes you with open arms when you’re at your absolute and comprehensive worst? Do you know the open embrace of the Savior who holds no condemnation for His children, but rather compassion, understanding, and mercy?
Motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is unrelenting, constant, uphill most days, and ongoing, and in our own strength we can only go so far…but, this is a good thing.
What good do we do for each other or ourselves if we think that in our own strength, we are able to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and press on? How does that help the least of these to walk when they cannot even stand anymore?
We do ourselves and each other a disservice when we live as though we are strong enough, and it is the grace of God to open His hand to the pits and trials of life so that we realize how little we truly can give in our own strength to this fallen world.
He does not expect us to be able. That is not how this whole shebang was designed.
…for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” ~ Ps. 103: 14
In the beginning, we were created to need Him. He has never forgotten that Truth. It is we who continually fail to remember…and inevitably have to be reminded.
So, sweet sister, you are not responsible for it all. You cannot carry those sweet beloved ones in your life, but rather are only responsible for loving them as much as you welcome in the Love of our Abba.
Take care of yourself first in Him, and He will reveal how to continue to love others in His strength, not your own.
Does the Love that you welcome allow for you to have the room to break? the room to fail? the room to need? the room to struggle?
If not, then how can you meet others and truly love them in the midst of their hardest, darkest times?
I know your heart; your desire to serve our loving Abba. But, we cannot serve well when we have not yet truly received the care He extends to us at our lowest.
It’s okay to break with Him, for this is the fullness of what it means to be human.
It’s okay to take care of yourself.
It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to have limits. It’s okay to leave the mess. It’s okay to fall apart.
Brokenness is the pathway to grasping His Grace.
Don’t be afraid to be broken.
It’s the greatest gift you’ll ever know.