"What do I ever do that's just for me?" This is a question that most moms wrestle with from time to time. And once we've asked the question, we begin to wrestle with the validity of the question. "Is it okay to even think about what I need to do for me?" We have to be able to answer, "yes" to the second question, before we can even be real with the first one.
I have a few patterns that I repeat frequently:
Go to the gym three times a week. I am a creative person not an athletic one. In fact, the history of my intentional physical exertion prior to now could be bullet pointed like this...
- 20+ years ago: marching band for three years of high school.
- 17 years ago: weight training for a semester in college with a goal of fitting into my wedding dress.
- 9 years ago: walking the neighborhood with the toddler in the stroller and the baby strapped to my back to sweat off some baby weight.
I did seek out a gym membership in college once after my grandmother died of heart disease. But you can correctly guess that fear of a cholesterol-laden death was not quite the motivator I needed ... and I was already in the best shape of my life. But, as is true for everyone with age, I recently began to see negative physical changes. Couple that with a downturn in my emotional well-being and I had the means and motivation I needed to make room for purposeful, challenging, regular exercise. The emotional and spiritual effects of working out have been amazing. And so I will press on.
Volunteer in my church within my giftings and never outside of them. This is a life-giving activity for me. My husband gets paid to work for the church. I don't. But the fact that I still do it outside of a paycheck is a good clue that this is the work that excites me. If you ask me to plan an event, I'll likely say no. If you ask me to organize volunteers, I'll likely say no. If you ask me to work in the children's ministry, I'll for certain say, "no." But, if I get to do what I feel passionate about doing -- which, as of lately, is leading book groups, connecting moms, exploring scripture together, mentoring, extending justice, and supporting marriages -- I'll be there with the energy of a thousand burning suns.
Accomplish school planning and prep in the morning and not at night. Why? Nighttime is when I recharge. I put the boys to bed and then I read and journal. Oh man, I look forward to this time all day sometimes. If I spend all the quiet hours of the evening reviewing curriculum and cutting out letters for my preschooler I. will. burn. out. I am not so new to home education that I don't have a large "tool box" to pull from. And so, I fine-tune my sketched-out lesson plans in the a.m., collect some online resources and we're off and running.
In addition, there are a few things I do for myself occasionally:
Take two or three days a year to spend in silence and solitude. This one is new in the past two years and my introverted self rejoices whenever I get to type one of these days into my calendar. I take an inspiring book -- maybe one with probing questions at the chapter ends --The Message, my journal, a writing notebook, some notecards, a pen and my lunch and I go off to a retreat center to rest, pray, seek, walk, chew, and write. The day is completely unplugged, quiet, and wrapped in nature and mystery. I have one coming up in June...
Take Mother's Day off from mothering. I imagine this might send shocks rippling through you, but I actually leave my family on Mother's Day. Way back when my very young Active Alert / Inflexible /ADHD/Explosive/ODD son had the hardest time with special days, I set myself up for disappointment thinking he could treat Mother's Day with a sense of specialness. After a couple heartbreaking years, I gave myself permission to let those expectations go. My understanding husband then began to take my children to worship without me on Mother's Day and I would go for a walk through the fields near our house, work on photo albums, or take a nap and before they came home I'd leave the house and treat myself to lunch, shopping, writing in a sunny spot or maybe a movie. I come back a refreshed mother... one who was so appreciated as to be given the day off.
Have coffee with friends. I sometimes get this mixed up with ministry, but I try not to. There are coffee dates that are really counseling dates in disguise. And then there are coffee dates with friends who genuinely want to catch up with you. You can tell these because they ask me very little to do with homeschooling methods and they aren't probing to find out the backstory of stuff going on in the church. I'm talking about coffee with friends who can offer true give and take. I seek these out at least monthly if not more often.
Attend a conference that has nothing to do with homeschooling. I attend an annual home educator's conference as well but I view that weekend as more of a "teacher inservice" time that's attached to my work. This year I'm looking into attending a conference on life-mapping, another on spiritual formation and I'm actually signed up for one regarding mentoring. I look forward to finding new avenues that help me become the me I'm intended to be.
Your habits may look very different from mine, but you may want to explore the idea of repeating something daily/weekly or with more regularity as well as incorporating activities that only happen seasonally or annually. Just having coffee with friends once in a while isn't enough for me. So, I've found a way to balance the schooling, family, ministry and friends that helps me recharge with a mind toward wholeness.
I'd be interested in finding out what other things you do just for you.