Redefining Self Care - Part 1

Redefining Self Care - Part 1

Self-care is a serious buzzword that every single parent has heard. We know we need to take care of ourselves so we have something to give to our kids—that’s why it’s so important. But the self-care advertised by our culture seems to be more about treating ourselves to special things and indulging . . . which might lead to numbing out, ignoring, or even throwing a band-aid on struggles that we really need to address.

These cultural narratives are way off base. What the world tells us about self-care is more about self-indulging because “we deserve it” or even a type of self-sufficiency. Of course, we’re not saying treating yourself to a spa day, getting a manicure/pedicure, or even going shopping is wrong. But there is far more to self-care than what’s being advertised.

It’s time to redefine what self-care should look like. And over the next two weeks, we’re going to break it down into two parts: internal self-care and external self-care. Today, we’re diving head first into the topic of internal self-care. Internal self-care is what you can do for yourself (and what you have control over).

Is self-care . . . selfish?

Sure, you know it’s important, but as single parents, it’s really easy to get caught in the trap of feeling guilty or selfish when we spend time actually taking care of ourselves. It feels like we’re putting our needs over the needs of our children . . . or the things that constantly beckon for our attention (like the pile of bills or the dishes).

But until we realize just how important self-care is for our wellbeing, that guilt will stay at the forefront of our minds. Self-care, believe it or not, actually allows us to thrive in the relationships around us—especially when it comes to our kids. You can only go so long without it before your triggers and behavior patterns start to show up negatively. Maybe you get overwhelmed and react poorly to your kids. Maybe you get angry more easily. Whatever it is, it will come out if you’re not addressing your own wellbeing on a regular basis.

It’s time to change the paradigm. Instead of continuing the narrative of “self-care is selfish”, it’s time to start understanding that it’s the least selfish thing you can do. Especially when it comes to your kids. If you’re not taking care of yourself, your kids are getting the short end of the stick—which is actually more selfish. Then, you’re not thinking of the needs of others or those who depend on you because you’re riding the wave of self-sufficiency. And that wave doesn’t last very long. We are spiritual beings and in order to pour out in healthy ways, we must be filled up.

Becoming More Self-Aware

A big part of becoming self-aware is something called attunement. Attunement is important in understanding your body: how you feel, what you need, and even how you move forward in your life. Attunement is taking the time to ask yourself “What do I need right now?” as you move forward through your day.

We think about self-awareness as the bigger moments in our lives: Should I go out to dinner with ____? Should I take this job? Should I join this Bible study? But really, it’s even smaller than that. It’s checking in with your body in the small moments: Am I lonely? Do I need input? Do I need God to speak to me? Do I need a friend?

We don’t truly know what our needs are until we spend a few moments examining our hearts. It’s tuning in to your mind, heart, and spirit . . . or really, just paying attention.
In the early days of being a solo parent, listening to yourself might be the last thing on your list. Maybe your attunement in this season is meditative. Maybe it’s closing the door to your bedroom and praying, “God I’m here. I don’t know what I need right now, so I’m going to rest in your presence.”

In Matthew 13, Jesus is speaking in parables about a man who finds a treasure and sells all he has to buy the field. It’s tempting to put ourselves into those parables and think through the lens of what we did or what we can do. For instance, you may have thought about the parable as: The treasure is God and I’ve got to hide Him in my heart, giving up everything for Him. But what if that parable has nothing to do with us, but rather the Kingdom of God? Instead, what if it’s God finding us a treasure? Leaving us where we’re at and then going back and selling everything . . . just to claim us? It changes everything.

In the same way, sometimes we may not even know what it means to be attuned or self-aware. But resting in the knowledge that God knows what we need and He’s doing all the work.

In that same chapter (Matthew 13), Jesus also talks about the seed that fell on different types of soil. But in this parable, the only thing that has to do with us is the soil. All we’re responsible for is the soil. And that soil is our hearts. Self-awareness in the sense of self-care is “do I have rocks in my life that I need to pull out? Are there weeds around here? Am I in a position where the birds can come and get that?” All we’re meant to do is tend our soil. That work is attunement.

It may be that you need to go get a mani/pedi. It may be that you need to go for a run. It may be that you need to let out some anger and break some stuff (safely). Maybe you need to ignore the dishes for a night so you can laugh with your kids. Self-attunement doesn’t look the same for all of us. In fact, it may even be something you’ve never explored before—and that’s okay! All self-awareness boils down to is putting away the “tyranny of the urgent” so you can focus on something different. It’s putting away the urgent to ask yourself what’s going on and what you need.

As you practice these things and find healing, you’ll come to love yourself more. And when you love yourself more, you’ll be able to accept and receive God’s love even more. For solo parent Elizabeth, when she’s able to sit and be okay in that, she’s moved to a place of worship. It’s in the contentment and peacefulness that she’s able to praise God and have gratitude.

Everything Costs Something

Everything costs something. So when it comes to self-care, it’s a trade-off. For you, that could mean dishes aren’t getting done or you’re saying no to going out with a friend. But it could also mean saying no to the things that aren’t leading you toward peace and contentment in your life and your relationship with God.

And sometimes the cost of self-care means exactly the opposite: Choosing to dive headfirst into the areas of your life that need healing. As humans, we typically try to stay away from those things and it can be tempting to think that self-care is only supposed to make us feel better. But self-care actually might be going to those places of grief and clearing out the cobwebs of your old life.

The bottom line? Self-care is an investment and it will cost you something. Self-care is about wholeness with God. It’s about understanding the gravity of who we’re spending every day with—the Creator of the Universe who gave up everything for us. What if we let ourselves focus on being held by Him, trusting that He knows exactly what we need?

Don’t rush this season. It may not feel like it, but this is a really precious time with your kids and Jesus. God gives us grace for the season we’re in. Walk day by day with the Creator of the Universe who loves you so much and isn’t surprised by your situation. He’s carrying you through.

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