Have we taken self-care too far?
We have written about the providentially timed and provocative book by Erica Komisar, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. We have stood in awe of the incredible design of a mother’s body to meet the beautifully designed needs of her baby. This is reflected in Absent Mothers Make a Mark. We have also challenged the assertion that more women in the work place is necessarily a good thing: More Women in the Workforce; Who’s Nurturing the Nations?
Perhaps simply “being there” for her children is one of the hardest and least rewarding choices for a woman today, given the vision and demands of the modern anti-maternal culture. Demands like self-care.
Our good friend and modern-to-maternal feminist Naomi Smith writes of her journey towards the joy of being there.
Have we taken self-care too far?
As we were driving to the gym this morning my almost two-year-old kept saying, “No class.” She did NOT want to go to the daycare at the gym. Meanwhile I was pushing through the morning to GET to the gym in order to have a little time to collect my thoughts and exercise my body.
Things at home were stressed as we are working to alleviate financial strain and keep our new business afloat. She absorbs the anxiety in the atmosphere like a little sponge whereas our son more often just disconnects and plays monster trucks.
Her resistance to class, coming from the back seat, got louder and more emphatic. Finally I told her, more like yelled, “I hear you!”
I was watching my needs come head to head with hers.
What’s a mother to do? Everyone’s got needs. And there is a legitimate self-care: putting on your own oxygen mask before you assist your child, for example. And yet … is there still a place for self-denial?
Self-denial is not a popular concept in our modern culture. I think most people would root for me to press through and put her in daycare. After all I have needs, too. And I can’t help her if I’m not healthy, right?
Yes, absolutely. And yet, there is an art to making these decisions. A family is made of individuals. Everyone has to make sacrificial choices for the greater good. It’s healthy to sacrifice the “I” for the “we” from time to time.
After I yelled, I parked the car, picked her up and sat on the curb with her on my lap. She was sobbing.
I was calming down and realizing this choice mattered.
She was not okay. She was feeling stressed, just like me, and maybe a little overlooked and deflated.
I told her I was sorry and asked her to forgive me. And then I made the choice to forgo the gym and take her to the playground.
Was I being manipulated by my daughter’s strong emotions? No. My mother’s intuition said she needed to know I saw her and I would stop for her.
So I did. I stopped. We slowed down. We played on the slide. I pushed her in the swing. We looked at the ducks. And I found myself living in the moment in a way that had eluded me for quite a while.
Somehow, my decision to stop for her released me into freedom. I was free to love and enjoy. I was free from myself. Thank you, Jesus.
What if sometimes the principle of getting our needs met first needs to be overridden by this incredible principle of self-sacrificial love? Sounds like I’m trying to emulate someone!
I’m not saying, “Don’t meet your needs. You should always sacrifice yourself.” But what if our empowerment to care for ourselves—our focus on self-care—has dislodged something in the conversation about motherhood ? What if we’ve lost the joy of dying in order to live?
- Naomi Bloom Smith