As a homeschool mom, I often find it impossible to implement self-care. But as a counselor, I spend much of my time telling people that self-care is crucial. Self-care is above all the most needed resource for mental wellness. So how does someone like me, who balances so much activity, practice self-care? And how can you do the same when you find yourself trying to tackle what can feel like an overwhelming existence?
Self-care is not selfish. Many times hard-working women-of-faith feel that if they stopped to care for themselves, they are stealing from someone else, and therefore that must not be a godly action. God has already provided everything that we need, and we are therefore to serve others, yet it is important that we also implement another ideal we find in God’s Word. In the famous chapter on love, we read that love “beareth all things.” The Greek word used there can also convey the idea of protecting and preserving. That doesn’t just mean that love protects outwardly, but love must protect inwardly, as well. It is crucial that if we are to remain balanced, well-adjusted mothers, we need to make sure that we are protecting the very temple that God has given us to use in glorifying Him. Self-care is not selfish—it’s a mandate for truly healthy living and kingdom building.
So then, what is self-care? It is a quite simple concept: self-care is a combination of both doing and not doing things that help us to enjoy leisure time, satisfying activities and meaningful moments.
Self-care is a combination of both doing and not doing things that help us to enjoy leisure time, satisfying activities and meaningful moments.
You can begin to explore what self-care means for you by answering these questions:
What do I like to do to relax? What activities, when I am finished doing them, do not leave me feeling tense or exhausted? What things can I do with little prompting, and I find myself at ease while doing?
What is my favorite way to socialize? Do I like to be with people, or do I like to be alone? What leisure activity do I like that helps me feel physically fit? This can be walking, hiking, or fishing.
What mentally stimulates me? Is digging into a great book written by a classic author your kind of thing, or is listening to a great podcast your cup of tea?
What leisure activity do I do to be creative? Sometimes, after we have children, we give up the very things that brought us so much joy before our family started. Maybe your hobbies include woodworking or sculpting or painting. Think back to the things that make you feel creative, and fit some time into your life to do those things. I love visiting art museums, popping in my headphones and just letting my mind wander from painting to painting. This activity spurs me on to other creative activities, and it brings me great joy and calm.
What’s my favorite thing to do when I’m alone? Some people like to read, some people like to nap, some people like to sit outside and enjoy the sound of birds and watch clouds pass by. Whatever it is, determine what your best alone time is spent doing or not doing. The art of doing nothing can be a welcome respite from the constant go-go-go of the homeschooling life.
What do I like to do to learn something new? Maybe you are a fan of YouTube cooking classes, or you like to paint something new. Sometimes we get so focused on finding the best co-op or online courses for our children that we forget that we can learn something new, as well.
What leisure activity do I do that can help me spiritually? We are often very busy serving at church, taking care of kids in the nursery, or leading Bible study groups. But we must ask, “What helps me spiritually to feel revived and renewed and refreshed?” Maybe it's listening to your favorite worship music while running errands or stealing some well-earned hammock time while praying or listening to a sermon.
What leisure activity do I enjoy as a spectator? That may be watching your favorite sport or sipping a cup of tea while watching your mother roll out her famous pie dough. Your favorite spectating may not be watching people but animals or nature programs on TV. Maybe you like to people-watch on a park bench with an ice cream cone, one that is not being shared with your two-year-old. Maybe your spectating is best done by listening. So listen to a great symphony or an old Sound of Music album you remember from your childhood. Let your ears soak up the peace of the moment!
What activities do I do that help me feel accomplished? Making progress in our life is crucial to growth. When we feel like we are not moving forward, we become stagnant. Then we often can find ourselves in the belly of depression and discouragement. It is important to identify things that make you feel accomplished. This doesn’t mean going back to school and getting your degree; this can be a simple challenge like trying to master baking the perfect French baguette. Maybe it’s picking up the violin again and trying out that section in the second stanza you haven’t yet mastered. You may push yourself an extra minute or two on the treadmill, or you may determine to finish a book. Whatever it is that makes you feel accomplished, it is very important that you find out what it is and that you apply some of your own time towards it.
I cannot tell you how many mothers I talk with that feel guilty for giving time to themselves. I understand and empathize, but, quite frankly, this is not a godly perspective. Jesus calls us to be like Mary, resting at His feet, soaking up all His goodness. He shows us time and time again, throughout His Word, how we are to retreat and rest and do things that bring us joy.
Remember that all good things come from the Lord. That doesn’t just mean all good things for other people, or for our children—it means all good things for us, too. When we are healthy and mentally well, we can give more of ourselves to those who need us.
Homeschooling is challenging at best, so it makes sense to want to enter that world with more energy and fervor. Remember that love chapter I mentioned earlier? There’s another line, too. It reads, “Love always perseveres.” We simply cannot persevere in our calling as homeschooling parents if we do not take care of the teacher.