Self-Care: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Point

I want to talk about self-care. I’m sure you’ve seen the memes.
latte and book on a sunlit table“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”… “Self-care is not selfish.”…etc.
As mothers, we often must put our children before our own needs or desires. Not only that, but we live in a culture full of busy schedules, long commutes, and not enough family time. Because of this, we can be tempted to feel selfish when taking time to do something we enjoy, or worse, to feel incapable when we need to take a break.  
But the reality is that we are all in dire need of rest. And the self-care movement has finally given us permission to take some time off. In a culture that tends to define self-worth by what we accomplish, this is a much needed breath of fresh air.
However, I think this message can become twisted into something it may not have intended, something destructive, especially for our kids.

The Good

Rest is important. It pulls us out of the daily grind so we can recharge and reprioritize. It reminds us that we are a very small part of a very big world, a world that keeps turning even when we take ourselves out of the equation to go sit on a beach and stare at the ocean for a week. woman lying down on a dockRest is good stewardship of our hearts, our health and our time. It prevents burnout and shifts our perspective so we can keep living faithfully in the lives we’ve been given. 
Everyone needs to rest, but our approach to rest MATTERS.
Think about why you rest. Do you rest because you love your family and you want to be able to serve them well? Do you rest so you can work faithfully in your career? Do you plan your time wisely to include margin in your weeks for rest and fun? Do you prepare things ahead of time so you can be fully present in each moment? 
Is resting what you do to breathe life into your days, weeks, and months or is it what you’re living for?

The Bad

We work hard as moms. Maybe you have a full-time job, on top of being a primary caretaker; your weekdays are non-stop and you live for the weekends. Or maybe you stay home with your kids, spending your days exhausted, maybe a little annoyed, and praying for bedtime.
Maybe you’ve gradually let a normal human need for rest become something you feel entitled to. And now the self-care movement has become an excuse to hide behind, a mantra to put yourself first because you deserve it after all you do.
I’ve been there. I’ve been in seasons where I’m just scraping by, crawling through the day from one activity to the next or one toddler tantrum to the next. In these seasons I rarely take time to rest in a way that actually sustains me, yet I end up drifting through my life in never-ending survival mode dreaming of the next time I can get a break.

The Ugly

It’s surprisingly easy to start with a healthy desire for rest and to end up with a bitter attitude, resenting all the obstacles that prevent it.
I have watched the self-care movement go from:
“Put your own oxygen mask on first,”
“It turns out, love doesn’t actually change anything. Except self-love. Self-love changes a lot…namely you.” 
Is this really the message we’re accepting now? Is this what we want to model to our children? Maybe you don’t think it sounds so bad. But, if everyone believes they have the right to put themselves first, to love themselves more than others, think of the world it will create. When everyone’s priority is taking care of themselves first, let me assure you, no one will be taken care of.
I don’t know anyone who has found lasting contentment by putting themselves first. I believe you’re more likely to find lasting happiness when laying down your own desires, making sacrifices and giving to others. Isn’t this the kinds of behavior we want to encourage in our kids? To share, to be kind, to be responsible?
As a Christian, I believe we can learn a lot from Jesus’ example when it comes to living a self-less life while still needing and prioritizing rest. His rest fueled his work while his work never took precedent over his rest. What a wonderful model that we can all learn from no matter our faith.

Behind the Memeshappy mother and daughter laying in the grass

The point is this: We all need rest, but when we make it about US it becomes poison. We have a responsibility to rest, to teach our children that building margin into our lives to slow down, spend time with friends, and do things we enjoy is an essential part of life. It should be something that creates gratitude in our hearts and breathes life into our days and relationships. Self-care has a place in this, but, if we’re not careful, what began as much needed permission to take a break can slip into a “me first” attitude, so watch your motives, your children certainly are.