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It is that important!

“I don’t know how you do it.”  I hear this statement (question?) from women all the time.  What I hear them asking is, “how do you live with so much peace and calm and joy?”  (while a full-time mom to five kids, wife of an ambitious entrepreneur, committee member of a youth ministry, and taking on the great task of home school).  “How do you find time for yourself?”

After thinking about this question for years on end, I have finally got an answer.  The answer to how I take care of myself as a woman is easy:  I meditate and pray.  I assign my youngest out to the care of others so that I can exercise alone.  I pursue topics that fascinate me.  I set goals for myself and enjoy the challenge of achieving them.  I think back to what I did for fun when I was single, and I DO IT!

But there is a real problem here: that answer doesn’t solve the dilemma for anybody.  Women, both with and without children, are still perplexed (and sometimes irritated) with the idea of self-love, self-compassion, and self-prioritization, even given my quick and easy solution.  The struggle continues because… the wrong question is being asked.  It turns out, women don’t need to know how I actually go about doing it.

The more definitive question would be, “why?”

I grew up in the care of a deeply loving mother.  She was the product of a broken home where she was not provided a model of parenting that met her standards.  And so, when she became a mother herself, she gritted her teeth and gave her all.  Quitting her job, giving up her own ambitions and dreams, she became only “Mother”.  Even sleep became secondary to adorable birthday cakes, neighborhood preschools, incredible Halloween costumes made to order, Girls Scout cookies and badges, service in the classroom and church, play-dates, sports teams, piano lessons, and hand-sewn matching clothing for the whole family.  We, of course, took advantage of all that was offered, leaving in the end, only a shadow of a woman we called Mom.  When the door closed at the end of each day, all that was left was a hollow frame.  She was exhausted.  Unfulfilled.  Angry.  Overwhelmed.  Depressed.  Resentful.  The mental hospital became the only place she could go for respite.  I don’t have a single memory of my mom laughing.

I am grateful for this experience.  Deeper-than-words grateful.  Because of where I came from, I feel surer than ever that, as a woman, an individual, I matter.  Just like every other mother on this earth, I want my children to have a great childhood and grow up to be successful, joyful adults.  This is why I prioritize time for myself.

I prioritize time for myself, because I know that when I am well rested, I am more patient and kind.
When I exercise my body first, I have the energy to physically engage in their active lives.  
When I prioritize time for connection with God, I open the door for grace to light my way.  
When I make time to study my own topics of interest, I am mentally available to hear about theirs.  
When I eat what I want to eat, resentment doesn't follow me to the dinner table.  
When I play regularly in a way that feels fun to me, it is easier to play in a way that feels fun to them.  
I am the integral part of the livelihood of our family.  I am that important.

Our children become who we are.  More than anything, I want to raise empowered adults who take ownership of their own happiness.  And so, I must teach them about boundaries.  I must be a model of someone who says YES to things that matter most, and NO to things that don’t.  I must teach them that they are ultimately responsible to create the life they dream of.  That it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do this, nor is it reasonable to expect that.  I must teach that selfless sacrifice is a vital trait of a loving parent, AND that it does not have to be at the expense of one’s own joy.  I teach my children these things by clearly setting the example for them.  It’s worth carving out time for.  It’s worth making a way!

I see nobility in the call to motherhood and I feel great reverence for its importance.  With the endless to-do lists that accompany family life, for what sake am I willing to keep honoring me as my top priority?  For the sake of the highest aspirations that I hold for myself, and the dreams I have for my children and my grandchildren.  For my sake, and for their sake.  That is why I do it.  It is that important.

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