Is it possible, is it necessary? Is it selfish or an opportunity to use the gifts God’s given us? Should we feel guilty taking time away from our families? What’s the best way to rejuvenate? These are the questions that I have asked myself as I have wrestled with my personal needs over the years. I may not have found a perfect balance, but I am content for now.
There is a school of thought, a fairly puritanical one, which would suggest me time is a selfish pursuit and one avoided until our families need us less. The opposing viewpoint is that mum’s need space away from their children, in order to recharge, and deserve some time out. I try to take a balanced view. Despite popular opinion, my views aren’t so conservative that I would banish womankind to a life of slavery to the kitchen sink and their husband’s will. I wholeheartedly believe that we are all created for a purpose and until we fulfil that we will forever feel unsatisfied and in need of ‘me time’.
I am immensely grateful that God has given me the opportunity to be be me, in every sense of the word. I was created to care, to love, to write, to communicate and to glorify God through my life. Fulfilling my created purpose takes away the need for me to escape my life in order to ‘find myself’. I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the chance to discover who they are created to be. It is a gift to ourselves and our families when we are content in the knowledge that we are doing what God created us to do.
How does this all work out in reality? How do I find time to write and to devote time to seeking an ever deepening relationship with my Saviour? My priorities are God first, husband second, children third and then other people and activities. By putting these priorities in place I find things largely fall into place with less stress.
On waking I pray before I open my eyes. I give thanks and then bring our day before the Lord. I follow this with Bible reading which the children join in if they come into my room. I nourish my deeper relationship with God on a moment by moment basis. Much as Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth century monk found, as he worked in the kitchens, prayer is more than words, it is an inward turning of our thoughts to God. In every moment we have the choice, to go it alone or to go into that situation with the knowledge that God is with us. When we choose to take this attitude, everything changes, as we walk in His strength, not in our own.
The children’s needs are often obvious, as they are in front of my eyes, but Phil’s needs are easier to ignore, so I go out of my way to meet them, knowing he will rarely ask me for much. We try to catch moments together, a cup of tea in the sunshine, walking the dog up the drive, or cuddling on the sofa in the late evening. We also have ‘date night’ at least once a week. We chat and eat together and normally end up watching TV for an hour. It’s not easy, but if we don’t intentionally make the time, we can find that level of intimacy we once shared becomes less natural and our relationship could easily become one of simply meeting the family’s practical needs.
I meet the children’s needs firstly through quiet observation. Something I learned at Norland, where I trained to care for children, was to first observe, and I guess that has stuck with me. Through observation I work out where their needs lie and then in prayer, I work out how to meet them. By doing this I am able to focus my energy where it is most needed.
How though do I meet my own needs? Those needs which aren’t purely spiritual? It’s easy to forget to eat lunch or drink enough, rest enough, shower or even run to the loo when you are caring for everyone. Is this the example we want our children to learn though? By meeting our own needs we are ‘putting on our oxygen mask first’. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, but I couldn’t have mothered for 20 years without meeting my own physical needs. Practically speaking, I used to shower the night before, when the children were in bed and I would bulk cook meals at the weekend. I now find that I don’t need to do this, as I have older children as well, but this approach did get me through the first 10 years of motherhood. I now find my evenings are often busier, being a taxi service or chatting to the the older children, but during the day there are moments that I grab that were never there when I just had littles.
As the children have grown I have found it easier to find time to write or sew, not often, but enough to ‘scratch the itch’. There are of course seasons, after the new baby comes I suspect writing will be harder to do, but we’ll see. I find the older children play with the little ones and this buys me a few precious moments.
At this moment in time, it’s 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. Madeleine is making samosas and the sampling of these delights is engaging many little hands. Some of the other children are in the garden and so I’ve grabbed the moment to write this blog.
Mums with just littles, can I encourage you. Hold on, it does get easier. You won’t always have little ones crowding round you, expecting you to be their everything. The older children grow and enjoy helping out and thus giving you that much dreamed of 5 minutes peace.
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