Kids played around us while we sat on my front room floor. Crackers crunched under tiny running feet. Toys flew past us while we chatted. We were having one of our weekly playdates and talking about teething, tantrums, and toilets; potty training little boys is a beast.
My friend exhaled loudly and the sag in her shoulders carried more than the weight of a tired mama.
“I just need some time to breathe. If I could just have a day to myself every once in a while, then I think I’d be a better mom, you know?” she asked me with pleading eyes, hoping I had an answer for her weary heart.
As she told me about her need for alone time, I saw the fog in her eyes. I know that fog all too well.
I was there only a week ago when my two-year-old son decided to use crayons all over our bathroom. His one-year-old sister was chewing on a blue crayon while coloring the floor with a green one. Two tiny humans turned my bathroom into a Picasso wannabe in under a minute flat. And that was only on a Monday.
When my friend finished pouring out her heart, I almost instinctively responded that she schedule some time for self-care. If her husband couldn’t help her, I was happy to watch her kids while she got a haircut or pedicure, whatever thing she needed to take care of herself.
But that answer didn’t seem right. It felt formulaic, like I was reading it directly from a women’s magazine.
My suggested answer to her exhausted heart felt empty.
We hear a lot about self-care as mamas. We’re told we should take a day at the spa or leave the house for a little bit so our brains can quiet. “Let the men take over!” magazines shout at us from the checkout aisle. Maybe a ladies night out with friends will fill us back up so we can start Monday off with a bang. If we’d just take some time for ourselves, then we could take on life like a boss.
I get it. It’s important to nurture my emotions and body. I need to step away from my responsibilities from time to time to care for myself. I mean, these wolf eyebrows won’t wax themselves. And a ladies night can be good for the soul; my friends need to know I’m still alive during the trenches of toddlerhood. But nights with friends and freshly painted toenails don’t fill up my heart like I need on a consistent basis, so how could I offer this as a solution to my friend? I could not bring myself to tell her that taking time for herself was the only answer she needed.
Because I know self-care without God’s love as the foundation is only a band-aid to an exhausted heart. I shared with her how being in the trenches is an exhausting yet beautiful opportunity to draw closer to Christ. We don’t have to feel like we need to “take on motherhood like a boss.” God calls us to know Him more, and in that calling, He gives us strength in return for our weakness.
We don’t need to draw from our own well to muster strength for Monday. The well of Christ quenches our thirst when we love ourselves as Christ loves us, when we see ourselves as He sees us.
You are strong when you have nothing left to give but His love.
You are enough when you see you are nothing without Him.
It’s not that I don’t take time for myself or plan self-care. But I know when my heart is heavy and exhausted, a ladies night isn’t going to help me respond with God’s truth when my kids color all over my walls with crayons.
My cup is quietly and consistently being refilled when I reach for my Bible for strength instead of a good pedicure, and the result is God’s love spilling over.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16 (NIV)