An Empty Cup: When Mom Neglects Herself

Running on empty

The other day, Rafe was up all night with a fever. The next morning, I took him to the doctor first thing. When Emmy swallowed a kiddies’ domino a few months ago, Jacques took her to casualty right away. When the girls were playing and Angie hurt her eye, I took her to the doctor immediately. When I had some recurring pain I attributed it to gas, and ignored it – for almost a year. Because when you’re a mom you don’t have time for silly things like looking after your own health, right?

Sure. If you want to end up in casualty (on a public holiday, nogal), hooked up to a drip for two hours, waiting for blood results and X-rays to come back, then ignoring recurring pain is absolutely the thing to do. (Just a peptic ulcer in the end – I named it Voldemort, after my brother insisted it needed a name – and not, as Dr. Google thought, a slow and painful death.)

An Empty Cup: When Mom Neglects Herself

But seriously, though, what is it with us moms, waiting until we’re literally dying before we accept that it might be okay to take some time to look after ourselves? If I hadn’t been in so much agony that I couldn’t even move, I would have still been soldiering on, drinking Eno as if my life depended on it.

Anyway, I know I’d been bemoaning my lack of me-time, but this wasn’t how I wanted to get it. If I’d known I was going to be stuck in casualty that long, I would have brought a book. As it is, after I’d got bored with social media and Whatsapp, I didn’t have much to do except think.

And think, I did.

I thought about how stupid I’d been to ignore the pain and hope that it would stop by itself. I could have prevented months of pain if I had been as quick to care for myself as I am for my children. I resolved, then and there, to start taking better care of myself. Not just for my family’s sake, by for my own sake too.

Of course, it’s all good and well to make plans – especially when there’s a pretty strong painkiller flowing into your veins. Putting those plans into actions has been slightly more challenging. Because, you know, three kids, one of whom is in the clingy “I only want my mama” stage. (Have kids, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.)

Filling my cup

My quiet times have been inconsistent. When I’ve been up four or five times during the night, it’s so much easier to pull the covers over my head and try to get that extra bit of sleep in the mornings. Instead of opening my Bible, it’s tempting to lie in bed and check Facebook. And then, once all the kids are up and asking for breakfast, it’s one thing and then the next, and before I know it, it’s bedtime and I just want to sleep. And I tell myself, well, we did Bible Road Trip together and I’ve prayed for certain things during the day so it’s okay, I’ll just have a proper quiet time tomorrow. Except, tomorrow often plays out the same way.

And, while I believe God has grace for the frazzled mom of busy little ones, I know that I am more of the mother I am supposed to be when I spend time with Him before facing the day. When I start the morning reading the Bible, praying for my family, soaking up His presence – then I’m less frazzled, less prone to snap at my children or hide in the bathroom because it’s all just too much.

I have also started listening to podcasts of sermons – new phone, yay! – which is a lot more beneficial than browsing Pinterest when I’m up with Rafe at three a.m. I recently finished listening to Chip Ingram’s series on spiritual warfare. (It’s an in-depth exploration of Ephesians 6. You should listen to it.)

I’ve downloaded a Bible app on my phone, so that I no longer have the excuse of being too cold to get out of bed, or awake too early to switch the lamp on.

Earlier this year, I decided to give up eating gluten because I’d read that a gluten-free diet could benefit my hypothyroidism. I decided, at the same time, to give up sugar. The perfect time to do it was just before Easter, because what better way to test my resolve than with a house full of chocolate. Right?

After the initial sugar-detox headache, I could already feel a difference. I had more energy, despite the sleep-deprivation. I felt good. I lost weight – and I hadn’t even been exercising! It’s a bit of mission having to take my own snacks and food to family gatherings, and I will admit to sneaking some chocolate on occasion, but I am determined to stick with it.

I have also realised I need to carve out some time to just chill. The girls have ballet and kung fu. Jacques does kung fu. I have . . . ten minutes (if I’m lucky) when I’m showering. And that doesn’t really count. So, excuse me while I print off some knitting patterns. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be behind that mountain of wool over there.

How do you prioritise self-care when life gets busy?

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