Until we moved to the country, I was notorious for letting my gas gauge get too low. I rarely got gas before my gas light alerted me it was time, and a few times I let it go all the way to the warning *ding.* My husband was constantly warning me that one day I was going to get stranded on the side of the road if I kept trying to run on empty. Once we moved to the country, I tried really hard to change that habit. I knew that a gas station every few blocks was not going to be a luxury I could count on anymore.
Why did I change my habits? I recognized the dangers of trying to drive my vehicle on an empty gas tank.
I did not, however, recognize the same dangers of running through life on an emotionally empty tank.
My Mommy Time Epiphany
A couple weeks ago, I needed to run into town to get some milk for Aidan and a few other things that were on a great sale. I hated to waste a trip into town for just a few things, so I tried to think of other errands I could do while I was there. We didn’t have any pressing needs, and a trip to Walmart was sure to result in spending money we didn’t need to spend.
Then I had the idea that, while Aidan was napping and Levon was home, I could bring a book, go to the coffee shop, and take an hour for myself!
Levon is always encouraging me to take some time for myself and do something fun, but I never know what to do. I don’t want to have to drive very far or spend very much money, and I can never think of something that I’m just dying to do. My ideal activity is almost always reading a book, but when I try to do that at home, someone always needs something, or I see too many things that need to be done. Going into town to the coffee shop was the ideal solution. I didn’t have to go very far, I didn’t have to spend a lot of money, and I got to do the one thing that I always wish I had more time to do! And it. was. glorious!
And you know what? I almost didn’t do it because I felt so guilty taking that time!
But I felt so refreshed after that hour! I felt grateful and loving towards my husband, I was refueled, and I was ready to come home with new enthusiasm towards taking care of my family. Sure, I could have spent that hour getting things done at home, but I think it more than paid for itself in the way that it recharged me and refilled my love bank for my husband and son.
I’m sure I’m not alone in rarely taking time for myself, letting guilt keep me from doing anything that I don’t feel is productive. But it’s not selfish to take time to do something for yourself every once in awhile – it’s actually beneficial for your whole family. Just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you have to make sure you’re taken care of before you take care of others. If your health – be it physical, emotional, or spiritual – is poor, how can you possible take care of the physical, emotional, or spiritual needs of your family?
Running on Fumes
I really believe we take the best care of our family when we are charged and our gauges are full. We cannot give our best to our husbands and children when we’re running on fumes. So why do so many of us do it?
I think there are several reasons, and if we’re honest, many can be traced back to pride. One possible reason is that we think that is the expectations of our family members, and our pride says we must meet them. Another reason is that we compare ourselves to other women who appear to be able to do it all, and we feel we have to measure up.
Or (brutal honesty time), is it possible that we never allow ourselves to take a break because we like the way that self-martyrdom makes us feel? We like being able to boast to other moms (or our husbands), “Oh, time for myself? I never do that. I’m too busy taking care of my family to take time for myself.” It makes us feel superior to play the “woe-is-me, I-do-so-much” card. Ok, maybe you’ve never done that, but I’ll admit to it! When I’m tempted to think that way, I ask myself, “Am I placing more importance on how I appear to be taking care of my family than on what is actually best for them?” That question always helps keep my priorities in order.
Regardless of your reason, since we’ve already established that we actually give the best of ourselves to our family when we’re refreshed, we can now see that it’s actually selfish to let our pride keep us from engaging in refueling activities!
What is your gas gauge looking like these days? Have you been running on fumes? Are you in danger of breaking down on the side of the road? If so, refuel that tank! Take a little bit of time now, and reap the rewards of better productivity and stronger relationships later. No one benefits from a worn-out momma. No one. Your family is better off when you are physically and emotionally healthy, so examine your motives, check your pride, throw off the guilt, and take a break! Not only will you be better off for it, but your family will be, too.