About Me

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New South Wales, Australia
I write to make people smile about the craziness of life with small people - because it IS crazy, no doubt. It is also wonderful.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Self-Care vs. Self-Love

I hadn't intended to write anything today, but at church this morning I was challenged by the message, and I wanted to share my thoughts. 
We've been learning about love, from 1 Corinthians 13. Today, Love is Not Selfish. 

As a mother to four young children, supporting a husband through a law degree while trying to be a good friend, a good daughter, a good stepmother, a good everything - I get depleted rapidly. I struggle with self-care, and today's message challenged me in this area. The difference between self-care and self-love for me is that self-care is really about caring for others. I can't give endlessly of myself without refilling my own tank. Self-love however, declares - "I am doing this because I deserve it. Because I am worth it." It has nothing to do with others. 

I came to the conclusion that self-care isn't selfish. It is making sure I am fit to care for my family, by doing things that restore me. Taking my daughter to creche (church nursery for my American friends), and leaving her there in spite of her repeated pleas to come to church with me - it wasn't selfish. I required time alone (without my children) in worship, so that I can be a more effective and loving mother. I require their absence, in order to cheerfully welcome them back into my presence. Still with me? 
God doesn't require that I be Him. He knows that I am human, with finite patience, energy. My body cannot sustain endless giving, and so I don't think it selfish to take time apart from the demands of raising a small family to recharge and rest. I think the line is drawn between saying "I need this" and "I deserve this", and being honest about what we need is important. This mama absolutely needs time apart from the chaos and noise, spent in prayer and contemplation, in order to calm the chaos and noise in her own head and heart. Without it, I am resentful, irritable, and downright unpleasant. I love my family enough to give them the gift of a wife and mother who is whole, healthy, and (mostly!) sane. 

xo, Sarah

Saturday, August 30, 2014

No One Does It All

When I was depressed after the birth of my second daughter, I used to get inexplicably annoyed at people who would tell me "you have so much to be thankful for". I couldn't put words to my annoyance, even in my own head. After a few years of reflection, and a couple of brushes with depression since then, I can. Being depressed didn't make me ungrateful. And implying that I wasn't thankful for all I had, it didn't make me more thankful. It didn't make me not depressed. What it actually did was to pile on a heap of guilt, which only made the depression heavier and heavier. What I needed was for someone to say "I am here with you, and I will not leave you". I needed someone to tell me that I was not a horrible person, I was not a horrible wife, a horrible mother, and so not worthless. I needed someone to squeeze my hand. I needed sleep. Oh, how I needed sleep. 

These days, when the shadows whisper, my first clue that something is amiss is usually a desire to retreat from everyone and everything. I'm a social being, but when I start to feel introverted, I need to force myself out into the world, resisting the urge to hide from those who love me. 

Then I get angry and irritable about everything. I get annoyed with my children, my husband, people at traffic lights, but most of all I get annoyed with myself for every single (perceived) failure. I start to believe that I am the worst (wife, mother, person, Christian, etc.) EVER. No matter how many people tell me otherwise, I find it so difficult to hear their words over the ones in my brain, telling me I will never ever ever ever measure up to ... well, to anyone. 

If I miss that warning sign, then I start to feel paralyzed by life. A laundry basket seems to be accusing me of failing to deal with it. My own house (and all the evidence of a happy, busy, family living therein) feels as though it's swallowing me up, squeezing the life out of me. I fantasize about running away, and cry a lot. 

I've been fortunate that it never seems to get further than that. I can't explain why, but after a couple of days of that third stage, I revert to "mombot" mode, and start going through the motions. Not because I want to, but because I should. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, I crawl back toward the light, through the shadow and the fog. One weary inch at a time. The negative thoughts come, and I challenge them - sometimes just by saying "I know that is not true". All the while forcing myself to be with people, to do things, to do life. Eventually, I find myself breathing deeply again, and smiling. 

None of this could happen without my faith in God, who is bigger and louder than the shadow. I can think positively, but ultimately, I am not strong enough on my own to ignore the shadows. It is only when I ask the God who knit me together in my mother's womb, to hide me and fight for me, so I can begin to crawl toward the light again. 

I've got a lot on my plate. Not as much as some folks, but it's relative. I manage, with a lot of help. But when I start thinking that I can control the universe, God lets me know good and proper that it is not in fact my job to control the universe. It's His, and in this life of mine, He has placed people in my life as His hands and feet, to help and to mentor me. If I just stop trying to be Him, and learn to be me, I can see that I am not alone, and that this notion of trying to be Supermum, to do all of the things for all of the people, and do them all well? It isn't possible. No one does it all, not alone. 

So here's to not doing all of the things, all of the time. Here's to doing some of the stuff some of the time. :)
xo, Sarah

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Learning to Love Myself

My husband is my biggest cheerleader. In a Biggest Loser trainer kind of way. He calls me out when I'm being ridiculous, and consistently gives me the gentle shove towards self-care which I need. He is the one who reminds me to go get my hair done, to go shopping, to take a breather. 

He sent me last weekend to get my hair done, and it was like a switch was turned on in my mental hallway. I began to see how feeling good could make me a better wife and mother. I remembered how great it felt to exercise, to do something just for me. I thought about my solo camping trip earlier this year, and how marvellous I felt after four days of mental decluttering. 

I don't know how to love myself. I'm learning, though. Little things, here and there. Simple things, which probably aren't even a second thought for most people. Acts of radical kindness to myself, like a cup of tea in the sunshine. Or *gasp* buying new underpants. Taking time to blow my hair dry, and actually style it. Actually using some of the multitude of special creams, perfumes, and beauty potions I've stored away because "I don't have time, it's not practical, it's not like anyone cares, I'm not trying to impress anyone, etc". Honestly I can't believe I've convinced myself that those thoughts are true. How long does it take to slap some hand cream on? And when did looking after myself become impractical? When did my husband, my best friend - when did I start thinking it was okay to not make an effort for him? I remember when we met, I put so much thought into what I'd be wearing for our dates. When did I stop dating him? He has seen me at my absolute worst, and is still here. Isn't that a man worth a bit of effort? Aren't I worth a bit of effort?

I think so. Or at least I'm beginning to think so. And speaking of loving myself, I'm going to give myself the radical kindness of a good night's sleep, and sign off here. 

xo, Sarah