Loneliness and Self Care...
My husband Zac works really hard for me and Lucy. He is a RN who works three 12 hour shifts per week, and is currently in school to become a Nurse Practitioner. This means a day or two of class per week plus weekly clinical hours. Hopefully he gets 1 day off every week. To his credit, he does a really nice job on this day of spending time with Lucy and me, and squeezing in whatever school work and studying he can. He misses us, and we miss him. Days he’s home we affectionately refer to Lucy as his “monkey” for how tightly she clings to him. It’s not rare that her fist is clutched tightly around his shirt while he holds her. I feel her—I really do.
Inevitably, as a stay at home mom, this leaves me alone. A lot. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful support system that I see regularly, and who encourage me daily. But play dates end. Family members return home to their families, and it’s me and Lucy again. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I understood how it’s possible to feel alone in the presence of another person. Sometimes while spooning noodles and chicken onto Lucy’s high chair tray during dinner time I am struck by how deafeningly quiet it is. I wipe her hands and mouth and we play on the living room floor, the two of us for the sixth time that day. The quietness can be oppressive. The sameness can be exhausting. The loneliness can be paralyzing.
So do I hate this job the Lord has asked me to do? Are my days miserable? Do I resent the greatest blessing I’ve ever been given, the privilege of motherhood?
I praise Jesus for the opportunity to be Lucy’s mom and spend my days with her. The joy it gives me is absolutely incomparable. Sometimes I “joke” with Zac that I’d like to have 10 more babies. BUT…the isolation sometimes is all too real, and living in a state of constant self-sacrifice and pouring out leaves me depleted on just about every level.
One of my greatest supporters is my very wise older sister who is a mother to three. I regularly pick her brain, and one time when I was pregnant I asked her what I should do to help me keep my sanity as a new mom. She explained to me the importance of self-care. Know what you need, and do what you need to do to take care of yourself, so you can take care of your baby. Great advice.
So, with this in mind, I have endeavored to take care of me. I have done this by doing what feels good in the moment when I have the opportunity to do so, i.e. while my child is asleep or someone can watch her. This is where I’ve gone wrong. Because as an exhausted mom of a toddler, what feels good to me 100% of the time is turning on mindless reality television, while I get on social media, and scroll through Instagram or Facebook, preferably while eating something fattening. Heaven.
Do I think this is what self-care means for me sometimes? Heck yes. Do I think moms shouldn’t do this when they feel like they need to zone out and give their weary, depleted brains a break? Heck no.
What I have begun to realize, however, is that while this feels good to do for a little while, hours of social media and Keeping Up with the Kardashians a day any chance I get isn’t actually self-care. It makes me more tired. It makes me less content. It actually makes me depressed. I have also noticed that when I’m totally overwhelmed and depleted I tend to further draw away from others. I ignore calls and texts instead of reaching out. I’m too deep into my own loneliness to be in relationship.
I am starting to learn that self-care for me isn’t doing everything that feels good in the moment, but rather, doing things that nourish me and fill me up. I think it looks different for every mom, and figuring out what it is for you is a journey and discovery.
For me it may look like…
Calling a friend or family member, or going to visit someone
writing down Bible verses, journaling, praying, taking deep breaths
moving my body…walking, running, yoga
getting out of the house, and getting a cup of coffee
baking or cooking something (*without a little person asking to be held the whole time with big, sad
Diffusing oils or burning a candle and reading a book
And yes, of course, going as brain dead as possible in front of Netflix or my phone as I eat a half empty, 3 month old carton of “Chubby Hubby” …
I am slowly learning what these things are for me and realizing how right my sister was. We pour out. We do good work all day. We do important work that makes a difference. It is a privilege and it is exhausting. Some of us have more help than others. Some of us have very long days on our own…alone…with our babies. I encourage you, as I encourage myself that our Lord sees us and knows us. He knows how quiet it is in our living rooms and he watches our weary hearts as we redirect a “no touch” one. more. time. He treasures our babies and He treasure us. He wants us to enter into resting places with Him when we can. He’ll meet us there.
I may feel alone, but I’m not. You may too, but you’re not.
(**Moms of multiple children are permitted unlimited eye rolls as I repeatedly reference the exhaustion I feel with my one baby. Allow me the grace to “oh honey…” myself when I read this in 5 years with my 3 babies. Carry on, brave soldiers…)