Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Why Don't We Moms Take Care Of Ourselves?

The Martyr Complex

Well, the first thing that popped into my head was the aura that motherhood carries with it of the whole dignified, humble, nurturing person … the eternal martyr. You know, sacrificing for the kids, the husband, the good of the home. The words selfish or even “me first” is not supposed to be attributed to a mom, is it? We are the point woman for good examples so that means we’re always trying to share/be kind/be patient/forgive/etc. I don’t know about you but the phrase, “But I saw you do it, Mom,” is never used in a positive frame of reference in my house! I love the center bun in a pan of cinnamon rolls – it’s the gooiest – and the last time I’ve had one was around 1987.

This never ending position of motherhood makes us more tired because it’s an emotional thing rather than a physical thing. Why I’ve even got to be patient, loving and attentive when I’m woken up in the dead of night and someone is leaning over me saying, “Mom? I think I’m going to throw up …” I’m expected to say soothingly, “Okay, honey, let’s get into the bathroom quick!” as opposed to what I want to scream, “Well what in heaven’s name are you doing here? GET TO THE BATHROOM!!” Meanwhile husband snores away …


Self Denial Resentment

The self-denial resentment builds up in me. I get the whole whiney kid voice going on in my head that I certainly hope other mom’s recognize. “When was the last time I got to …” or “Will I ever be allowed …” or “Could I just have five minutes to myself …” or “I can’t believe he just said that to me …” or “Would everyone just pretend I died for a day and leave me alone?” And the resentment oozes out of me in bizarre places. I’ll eat a second Skinny Cow ice cream just because I Want To while everyone looks at me in stunned indignation (because no one else is allowed to). I’ll stay up late and watch a television show until eleven o’clock knowing full well I’ll be crabby as all get out the entire next day and everyone will have to walk around me slouched and trying to perfect invisibility. I’ll blow off doing the elliptical because … I Hate To Exercise And I Don’t Want To. My husband will give me The Look and offer to give me a backrub (yes, it’s what you think) and I’ll look him right in the eye (over the cover of my current trashy romance) and say, “My back’s just fine the way it is, thanks.”

I know, I know. All of you reading this are just stunned at my level of rebellion. You’re just in awe.

But self-denial isn’t the root of why it is so difficult for us to care for ourselves. My real answer (after I worked through the whole martyr scenario) is that we moms regularly let our priorities get screwed up. And once we do that … well, we’re in for big trouble.


Right Priorities

Quick, you have absolutely two seconds to list your top three priorities in life … or I don’t know … the dog will throw up on your new living room rug (and he’s just eaten the cat).

As my priorities scramble my self-denial morphs into not caring for myself physically, emotionally and … most importantly spiritually. I say all the above stuff with honesty and a little tongue in cheek humor but misplaced priorities aren’t a joking matter. The self-denial that hurts me most is when I get so far into the rebellion mode that I get rebellious with my spiritual life. “No I won’t do my devotionals today! I’m going to take some me time and read this trashy romance.” “Maybe I’ll just be sick tomorrow and not go to church. That’s a whole bunch of time to myself while the husband and kids go and do the God Thing.” “I’ve got so much on my plate. I’m going to skip Bible study today.” “Teach Sunday school? Are you out of your mind? I haven’t had time to shave my legs this month!” Of course, I get distant in my prayers when I start to spiritually unravel, too. Kind of like if I’m ashamed about how I’m behaving with the family then … whoa, forget about talking with God!

It’s a hole that is absolutely bottomless.

But here’s a surprise. It’s also my perfect opportunity to make God smile.

Do you know that in the entire Bible only one person is described as being “after God’s own heart”? That man was David, son of Jesse. Yeah, he's the one who defeated Goliath and became King of God’s Chosen People. So special that God had Samuel seek him out when he was just a young boy, David was part of the God club for almost as long as … me. (I was baptized at age eight.)

After all these year – meaning numerous failures, spectacular disasters, and jaw dropping bad decisions - I’ve finally decided I’d like to be just like King David. (And no, I don’t care to slay any giants, thank you.) What I mean is I am determined to be a woman after God's own heart – David’s female counterpart (I Samuel 13:14). You see, despite what you might think, David’s outstanding quality was that no matter how many times he failed (and he’s got a load of poor choices on his tally sheet including adultery and murder – I haven’t hit those yet!), he willingly acknowledged his culpability and recommitted himself back into God’s plan as soon as he clued in - even if he was kneeling in the smoking ruins of his life. Hey, I can do that! I’ve got plenty of spectacular failures to work with, that’s for sure. It’s the determination to never give up on God’s purpose for my life that I must continually remind myself about …


… For the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart … I Samuel 13:14 NLT

What are your priorities? I’ll tell you mine – yes, in order: God, my husband, and my kids. Kind of like an inverted pyramid working with the biggest and most reliable from top to bottom. My thinking is if God’s steering my head and heart, then that’s going to flow into my relationship with my husband. If my husband and I are united in like-minded purpose then that’s going to benefit our kids the most. I don’t really think any kid feels justified in saying, “Hey, no fair, you put God before me” or “Hey, no fair, you like Daddy more than me.” (And, if you have a kid that says that - and you think it’s okay - this brief article is hopefully going to make you think of seeking some serious family therapy.)

Committing a life to God means it’s a 24-7 obligation. It’s a serious, life-altering decision. God, by His own words, is a jealous God and does not share. That means if you put anything before Him on your priority list, He’s not happy and you’re already deviating from His prescribed plan. And, before you get all intimidated there’s really good news. God wants us just the way we are: imperfect, whiney, broken, … a mess.


God does His best work in our weaknesses. (Oh, thank goodness.)


Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9a (NLT)

God doesn’t need us mature and experienced. In fact, He likes us the exact opposite. (Hmm, so that’s why my childish side is still around for.)


I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child,
or you will never enter it. Luke 18:17 (NCV)

God doesn’t need us particularly intelligent. (Ever think, “I don’t understand…”)


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (NLT)

God doesn’t care about our past history. (None. Of. It.)


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Cor. 5:17 (NIV)

God wants to reveal to us (that means you) The Truth of The Universe. (Not everyone is going to be told this you know. You’re already in an elite group.)


Then Jesus prayed this prayer: “O, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike.” Matthew 11:25 (NLT)

God is the strongest ally you need for anything that you could possible face in this world. Anything. (What are you afraid of?)


I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:38-39 (MSG)

We’re supposed to put ourselves in God’s Hands. We’re supposed to bring all of our weaknesses, failures, fears, confusion, and childish outbursts to Him and He … works magic. That’s how we’re supposed to care for ourselves.

All’s we have to do is stop. Just stop. Anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Stop and make sure that God is still at the top of the priority pyramid. Stop and make sure that you are being a woman after God’s Own Heart. Stop and make sure that whatever you’re doing you’re making God smile.



Susan McGeown is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, uncle (don’t ask), teacher, author … but, most importantly, a “woman after God’s own heart.” Living in Bridgewater, New Jersey, with her husband of over fifteen years and their three children, writing stories is just about the best way she can imagine spending her free time. Each of Sue’s stories champions those emotions nearest and dearest to her: faith, joy, hope and love.

Sue’s Website: http://www.faithinspiredbooks.com/
Sue’s Blog: http://www.faithinspiredbooks.blogspot.com/
Sue’s Books: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=681731

1 comment:

Susan M. Heim said...

Wow, this column really spoke to me today! I, too, struggle with guilt anytime I do something for me. If it's a choice between something I want to do and something a family member wants to do, I always give in to them (while saying "Woe is me" to myself). If I settle down with a good book, I always fear I'll get "caught" relaxing! How silly we are to think that we're not just as valuable in God's eyes as others are. But it's a difficult mindset to change. It's tough to think of it as "taking care of myself" rather than "being selfish."