I’ve heard it time and again, “Practice self care to avoid mom burnout.” I’ve been heeding this amazing advice for a few months now and let me tell you, I have been in a much better mood. When I’ve taken time by myself to prepare for the day, I’m much more relaxed, much more motivated, and much more patient.
But as with all things, this must be done in moderation. If left unchecked, I could spend hours pursuing self care in the name of being a better mother, all the while the very people I say I’m doing it for get shoved out of my life. In short, I’ve come to realize that there is a very fine line between self-care and self-obsession.
What is self-care?
Self-care is defined by psychcentral.com as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”. It’s the idea of pouring into yourself so you have something to pour into the lives of others.
For me this looks like doing things that relax me or improve my mood. Getting away for an hour to go to the gym is self-care. Caring for my skin with good hygiene and moisturising is self-care. Taking time to assemble and outfit that is both practical and cute, putting on make-up and fixing my hair, these all help me feel more human and give me motivation to start the day. These are all acts of self-care.
None of these things in and of themselves is wrong. It’s our motives behind them, that can turn the practice of self-care into an act of just plain selfishness.
The Dark Side
How can you know if your self-care rituals have turned into self-obsessive acts? By doing a little self evaluation of course! (Who knew I was going to say that?)
What does your house look like? Are neglecting housekeeping by spending more time than necessary investing in your self-care hobbies? Do you ask yourself where you’ve been spending all your time when you look around and see a disaster in your living room? Again I’m not saying taking time to yourself is wrong. But when you are spending most of your day practice self care and ignoring your household responsibilities, then you may be guilty of self obsession.
What does your attitude look like? I notice that my kids become insanely whiny and needy when I’ve spent to long getting ready for the day. They come to my bathroom more and more frequently asking for more and more things because they are bored. They are fighting for my attention which has been fixated on my mirror. So often I find myself annoyed partially because my bathroom is small and their presence makes it very tight in there. But also because getting dressed and make-up on is “MY TIME” and they are interrupting it. This attitude of frustration just goes to show that I have made “me time” and idol, placing it above obedience to God in loving others as myself.
What does your budget look like? “It’s not shopping, it’s retail therapy.” How often have we heard this phrase? Women shop as a form of self-care. We like to buy things that make us feel pretty. There is nothing wrong with that. But when we start spending more that we should or can that’s when it becomes a problem. We are to be good stewards of our money, budgeting and making sure all the essentials are covered. Are you having to make sacrifices on essentials so you can afford a new dress/shirt/accessory? It may be your priorities are out of whack and you are falling into the trap of self-obsession.
Glorify God in Body and Spirit
Every teen who has grown up in the church has heard this verse.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV)
As Christians we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. We are His temple, His dwelling place, and we have been given the responsibility to care for our temples in a way that reflects God’s beauty.
But when we get carried away, when we become more focused on ourselves rather than how we can point to Christ, we become in danger of practicing selfishness instead of self-care.
So how can we use self-care to glorify God? How can we avoid self-obsession?
Cultivate Thankfulness. Thankfulness is the perfect weapon against discontentment and self-pity. Thank God for what you have, what He has done, and for his promise that even on those exhausting, stressful, burnout prone days, he will give you the strength to press on.
Put others first. This is where I struggle. I want to finish my hair and makeup and my boys have right now, this second type needs. I could ignore those needs in the name of teaching them patience, or I could heed the Apostle Paul’s command to esteem others’ needs more highly than my own. I must remember that my duty as a mom is to care for my children.
Budget time. This is also hard for me because it falls in the realm of self sacrifice. (And how many actually like that part of Christianity?) I’ve started playing a 20-30 minute podcast while getting ready for my day. This is my timer. I have to be done with my self-care (getting dressed, makeup, hair) before the episode is over. This way, I’m not wasting time by pausing and scrolling through facebook but am being a good steward of the time I do have that way I have more time set aside to focus on what matters in eternity.
Using Self-Care Wisely
Please hear me again when I say self-care is not bad. I believe it to be an important part of my day as it helps keep my sane and feeling like a human. But when that act which is merely supposed to keep you sane becomes a huge chunk of your day, to the neglect of everything and everyone else, that’s when there is a problem.
Take time to care for yourself. Get rest. Eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. Take time to find a refreshing hobby. Make yourself feel pretty by getting dressed and putting on make-up. Do whatever it takes to make you feel human.
But don’t forget the most important act of self-care. Refresh your soul. Take time alone with God. Talk with Him and read HIs word. All your external acts and habits mean nothing if you have a restless spirit. This act of soul-care, will give you the strength and peace to get through an exhausting and chaotic day.