I am reading quite a bit about tired Mums at the moment. Mums who are wondering whether they are getting it right. Mums who don't find it easy in February to sustain the enthusiasm they might in other brighter months. Mothers who adore their children and husbands and are trying to be all things to all people and running out of steam.
Those of us who are a little older, will recognise this well. It happens to each and every one of us. All the time. The guilt about wanting a little time for ourselves now and then? Oh yes. The shriek rising up inside of us that wants the fact that you are still a PERSON not just a mother to be recognised? Ditto. If your child needs shoes and you need new foundation, what do you buy? Of course. If your teenager needs new clothes and your jumper is washed out and drab, what do you buy? If you want to flop on the sofa with a book, and little Johnny needs to go to football practice, what do you do? If your daughter needs a lift home at midnight, do you stay in bed? I don't think so. I used to dream of having an hour of silence in my home. Just an hour alone. And it rarely happened.
The moment you get married, you shift yourself into second place. Then the babes arrive and you slip down the list. I have yet to meet a mother, a good mother, who didn't put her family, and probably the dog, ahead of her needs. And the cat. The canary and probably the guinea pigs too. And the house. Don't forget the house. A new boiler, or a weekend away?
This is not about sacrifice. This is about real life. It is not about judgement. Balancing acts. Mary at Owlhaven is talking about balancing acts this morning. Finding time to be herself. A mother, a wife, a teacher, a friend, daughter and yet still very much a woman. A person in her own right.
I remember going to a funeral a few years back, and listening to the eulogy for a relatively young man, who was in his 30s when he died from motor neurone disease. I listened to all the things he had achieved, and sat there and wondered what on earth people would find to say about me. "She was a mother. She had 3 great kids. She was a friend. A daughter. A wife. But, hey, she didn't move mountains or achieve anything very much, did she. Just think of what she could have done. She could have written a book, been a CEO of a company, been a doctor and healed thousands, etc etc etc. But she was just an ordinary woman. What a waste of her education". Hmmmm. I was feeling very inadequate back then. Never enough. Never realised her potential. You get the picture.
This was also the time when I had one very angry young son, who hurled insults with gay abandon. (May I just point out that he was a teenager, and grew out of the horrendous phase long ago, and is an absolute delight to his mother now!) He used to yell that I was nothing, and had achieved nothing and had wasted my life. I used to grin and say he would understand one day that I had made choices that I had never regretted, and they were MY choices thankyou verymuch and it wasn't his place to judge. I chose to have my children. I chose to stay home and raise them, and was fortunate enough to be able to do just that.
The feeling of guilt about taking time out for yourself never really goes away. It becomes so ingrained after years of raising children, that it becomes part of you. But, if you see your family as a wheel..... (this is a really good analogy a wise friend gave me years ago)...... the rim is the husband/father. The spokes are the children. The hub is the wife/mother. Now, the wheel is meant to turn. A wheel that does not work is useless. You go nowhere. If the rim is dented, it will still turn. If the spokes are broken or bashed, it will still turn. But if the hub is off-centre, nothing works. You go nowhere. In order for the wheel to function, the wife/mother needs to be centred. Happy. Valued. Worthwhile. Adequate. A real person.
So it is imperative for Mums to factor in time to be a woman. A person. And no, this does necessarily mean racing off to conquer career mountains. It means the feel-good factor has to be there. Taking time for a walk alone, or reading a book, or going to an exhibition, or visiting a friend. Taking time for doing something just for her each day, whatever it may be for each individual, keeps that hub on centre. It does not have to cost money. It has to do with taking time. Time is the one thing we give away each second of each day and can never get back. Time for daily devotionals is time spent as a woman alone in the presence of her God. Time that is well spent. This is good.
I love to go to bookshops. I love to pick up the books, read the backs, touch them. I don't have to buy them. I love looking at them. Wasted time? Maybe to some, but for me it is not. I think of all those people out there who finally did it, and wrote the book that was bursting out of them. I think about how they must feel to see it on the shelves in a bookshop. It makes me happy. So heading off to do the food shop after that is easier, when I am smiling. I hate doing foodshops.
Small things. All it takes is planning in some time for the small things. As your children grow up, there is more time, and yes, the guilt is still there, but crush it down, and take that time for yourself. Your kids will benefit from a having a happy mother. Your husband will benefit from having a wife who is happy. You will benefit from remembering that it is ok to do something for yourself. No one told you to be a martyr. No-one said it was imperative to be on hand 24/7 ( I can't believe I wrote 24/7... I HATE that). The world will not stop. You are allowed to be a person.
Remember that wheel.