The kids are finally (!) in bed. I sprint downstairs to the stash of Hershey Almond Chocolate Kisses hidden in the pantry.
It’s fine, you know, because you can have eight of them for 250 calories. Or something like that.
250 calories IF I stop at eight.
After a day of shuttling children to and fro, of helping with homework and kissing skinned knees, of planning/preparing/serving/cleaning-up dinners, I had nothing left by 8 p.m.
My tank was well beyond empty but those Hershey’s kisses . . . They could fill it again – if only temporarily.
And it wasn’t just the Hershey kisses, either. I had a whole artillery of comfort food.
Then one day last fall, I had the courage to step on a scale and I was shocked. I had gained ten pounds in six weeks.
A girl’s gotta work at that. Like it’s a full-time job.
I weighed more than I ever had without being pregnant.
Which maybe explains why I had not been feeling so great about myself. Perhaps the reason why I was short with my kids while wearing very tight-around-the-waist jeans (yes, tight pants around my middle make me angry.) Or maybe why I avoided my husband’s advances.
For years I had put myself down at the bottom of the pole. Three children spaced within three and a half years meant chaos – surviving, not thriving.
I ate the crusts of their sandwiches for lunch. The leftover fries. My exercise consisted of the 1,000 times I went up and down the stairs in a day. I stayed up too late because it was the only time I had to myself and I started my days far too early with the shrill cry of a young one needing her/his/his mommy. And stat.
Somehow, my husband survived but not on any bread from me.
Now that our children are almost nine, six and five, there is finally time to exhale, to think about thriving and not just surviving. As I pull myself out of the self-care train wreck I had become, I realized my choice to binge eat in the evenings was having a negative impact on every area of my life.
Tight pants make me cranky so I was cranky with my kids. I didn’t feel like loving on my husband much. And I struggled with more bitterness and resentment than I wanted to admit.
When I stepped off those scales, I knew: it was time to focus on my own self-care.
The cliche about the airplane oxygen masks is overused but it’s true – we need to give life to ourselves before we can give life to others.
Even Jesus knew the power of self-care – there are repeated examples of Him leaving the crowds to sleep, spend time with His father, and eat dinner.
We cannot exude love and grace to the outside when on the inside, there is exhaustion, bitterness, and resentment.
We cannot care for others when it’s ourselves that needs the care.
We cannot encourage those around us to drink from the well when our own well ran dry years ago.
I began Weight Watchers and started an intense exercise program.
I fell in love with running again.
I met with God every morning.
I tried to prioritize rest by going to bed earlier but admittedly, this was my biggest challenge.
My children learned to make toast and started to have more responsibility around the house.
And get this – a few times, I sat down in the middle of the day and read my book. On the couch. Uninterrupted. Oh yes I did.
The pounds went down but my mind went up.
I found myself more patient, laughing more. Having fun with my husband instead of just living with him.
For a while, I had let my unhappiness with myself be masked by ingratitude – it was the small amount of space we have making me cranky. It was my overly-needy children making me cranky (well, OK. Sometimes it still is but I react better now . . .) My husband just didn’t listen to me or understand me.
When we prioritize self-care, we say “I am worth it.”
When we prioritize self-care, we model what it looks like for our children instead of telling them they should do it but then run around like a crazy woman in hell wearing gasoline panties.
When we prioritize self-care, we put skin on “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” because we see that we are strong. That we can do it. And that we are worth it.
What will you do for yourself this week? On Thursday, we’ll talk about the ways God meets us when we prioritize self-care.
I just found your blog, Natalie, and I think I’m going to enjoy it so much. Yes, self care is SO IMPORTANT, but we moms are often the lowest ones on the totem pole when it comes to care. I love that you can read a book on the couch during the day without feeling guilty! I’m going to do two things this week: read on the couch myself and enroll in Compel training for writers! :-)
Hi, Betsy! So glad to “meet” you here!
Go, you! I am a part of the Compel group as well. Though I have been signed up since October, I just now started utilizing it and it’s wonderful! You will LOVE it.
Enjoy that time on the couch! :)
Amen!!! You are so right about modeling it for our kids. I AM A PERSON and do matter!!! Serving is important but it's easy as a mom to get that out of balance. Some days carving out that time to work out or read is crazy stressful but SO worth it! Keep going!
Thank you for this Natalie! I just became a full time working mom after being a stay at home mom and then a part-time employee for 18 years. Talking about not having any time for myself! My children are 18, 17, 9, and 7 and I am exhausted! I so appreciate your blog and your encouragement. Keep up the great work and keep shining Christ’s light! You are such an encouragement to me! By the way, we are nearly neighbors as I live in Indiana too! :)
Oh how fun! Us Hoosier girls must stick together. :)
Working outside and inside the home means you ABSOLUTELY need time for yourself, mama! Do it without guilt, sister!
Thank you for your encouraging words. I adore all you readers with open hearts…:)
I know – we forget sometimes we can't ALWAYS serve. And yes, carving out the time is difficult but absolutely crucial for our mental health!
Hello, are you writing just for me, because really…this is so where I am. “Staying up too late because it’s the only time for myself”, surviving, always surviving the chaos. Oh keep writing and sharing your wisdom on these years with us. I’m really so glad I found you via twitter!