Okay, this is going to sound like the most obvious statement of all time:
If I make time to do things for myself, I am better for everyone around me.
Duh. But while this may seem silly, slap-in-the-forehead duh-mb, and obvious, it's also really important to say out loud. To notice. To make note of. Especially today, of all days.
Today is Mother's Day 2011, and, for me, it started off pretty horribly.
My three-year-old had kept my husband up until 1 a.m. the morning of. As a result, all my husband's great intentions - for presents and cards at breakfast, for letting me sleep and have quiet time - went down the proverbial drain. He slept in (because, frankly, he had to), I cooked myself breakfast and explained to my son why it was a special day, and I took the kids to church with me, sans hubby.
I knew it was the best choice. My son has been testy this week, and he's been pushing us both to our limit. He's kept us up late, gotten us up early, and pushed us hard all day long. We're both really tired. But my husband is by far the more exhausted of the two of us. He's worked a six-day week while creating an amazing birthday week for me, staying up late, getting up early. He was just done, Mother's Day or not.
So, I was "on" this morning. I wish I could say I had a good attitude about it. I didn't. I was testy and grumbly and resentful. I was short with my kids, both of them, and definitely at my limit. I was less than gracious toward my husband. And worst of all, I felt entitled to every negative thought and behavior.
Can I just say...YUCK?!?
But then, the winds shifted. We finished with church and brunch (my husband met us at the restaurant) and got the kids down for a nap (my son slept four-and-a-half hours!). My husband and I both slept for two hours!
And when we woke up, I made a choice. Fighting against the internal voices of "should's" and guilt...battling the really annoying tendency of mom's everywhere to subjugate our needs to everyone else's...I looked at my husband and said, "I'm going to leave now and go do whatever I want."
Knowing he was still tired. Knowing my kids would be sad when they woke up and I was gone. Knowing that I would be disappointing people I love, I chose myself.
I did the things that replenish me: I went for a swim; I showered in peace (at the gym, of course); I had quiet time in my tuned-out world of ear buds and iPhone playlist; I flipped through new books that looked interesting at my local Barnes & Noble - slowly, nonchalantly; and I wrote.
I had a major breakthrough in my novel, getting past a block I've been facing for a few weeks now. I heard a specific word from the Lord during my quiet time (don't you love it when He's specific?). I began to make a rather interesting plan for the summer months, based on that word. And at the end of my nearly three hours alone?
I felt fantastic!
I'm serious. It was like a new person had come and inhabited my body. My outlook on life was better. I felt happy, joyful, content, satisfied. I could smile at the homeless guy on the corner on my way home, pause to let people cut in front of me and then wave at them, and eagerly drive home to see my waiting family. I felt so thankful on my way home. It reminded me of the simple statement I wrote at the beginning of this post: I have to get better at filling myself up so that I can pour into others. The people around me - especially my family - suffer when I don't.
(Side note: my family felt better too. I had worried about the kids and my husband for nothing. They were all great when I returned. Somehow, they had managed to survive without me. Please, note the sarcasm!)
I know we all know this (mothers and non-mothers alike). I know we've all lived this. So why is it so hard to live it out?
I don't know. I wish I had some helpful insight into this cycle we can all walk in. Maybe it's pride, this believing that we can self-sustain without refueling? I don't know. I just know that Jesus' words are sooooo true:
"Love you neighbor as you love yourself."
(This is found in Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 22:37-40, among other places in Scripture.)
You have to start with you. That means knowing yourself - knowing what fuels you versus what drains you. That means choosing yourself - even when you're disappointing others (not all the time, of course; this road calls for balance; but that's another post). That means loving yourself - going easy on yourself when you make the wrong choice, letting your needs take precedence every once in a while, and doing the things that you love just because they give you life.
This post reminds me of Mary and Martha, of course - another good reference to think on during Mother's Day. I have spent most of my life as a Martha, only becoming a Mary when I was forced to, when I had no more to give and all I could do was sit. I have to tell you: I like being Mary much, much more. The house may not be swept, but I definitely have a better perspective on that little problem after sitting at Jesus' feet for a while.
I'll wrap this up by wishing all the moms (biological and otherwise) out there much love and fulFILLment today and every day. I hope you get some time to yourselves. You deserve it!