Letting go of ‘Self-Care’
The importance of ‘Self-Care’ seems to be popping up everywhere lately. Proponents offer Mothers advice to make time to meditate, spend time alone in nature, walk, journal, exercise, practice yoga or deep breathing, dance, paint or craft. And this is all wonderful.
The ultimate purpose of daily self-care, I believe, is to connect your True Self with the Divine*. It is only there that you will find an eternal source of love, strength and energy to draw from.
On the best of days my own personal ‘self-care’ routine includes a morning meditation and prayer, some form of artistic expression and a hot epsom salt bath at the end of the day.
But here is the truth: I have four young children that we are homeschooling full-time, a growing business and a brand new homestead to run. My days are full and more often than not my self-care routine just doesn’t make the cut. And I don’t want ‘self-care’ to become another thing I feel guilty I didn’t accomplish today.
As I wiped the floor on hands and knees after dinner the other night, a calming reminder came to me: “This, more than any other daily act, is my meditation practice”. And I wasn’t just referring to the floors- the neverending loads of laundry, the constant dishes, the beds, the meals… Every household duty, big and small performed with mindfulness is a living and breathing meditation for me. Because instead of focusing on what needs to get done and anticipating the next thing to check off the to do list, when I remain present, I can feel into the bigger picture, and in turn I develop a larger sense of wonder and gratitude.
In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh states,
If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” What’s more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. InThich Nhat Hanh
factwe are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can’t wash the dishes, the chances are we won’t be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future -and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
Chores can be performed as reverent gestures of faith, prayer and gratitude:
I am grateful for the roof over my head and the floor at my feet and for this sacred home I have always dreamed of. I am grateful for the bountiful meal that just filled and nourished my children’s bellies and the soap and water to clean up afterwards. I am grateful for the courage and resources I have in order to make the choice to stay at home with my young children and feed them each day. I am grateful for the strength and time I have to cook each meal from scratch, carefully choosing each ingredient. I am grateful for the bed that will so kindly welcome my tired body tonight.
If [a child] sees that everyone who stands in some kind of relationship to him […] shows gratitude for what he receives from this world; […] then a great deal is done towards establishing in him the right moral human attitude.Rudolf Steiner
In every moment at home with young children I am mindful that there is so much to be grateful for.
I’m letting go of ‘Self-Care’ because this joyful, busy mess is my daily meditation practice. Not yoga or long walks on the beach or listening to guided relaxations, but changing diapers, packing lunches and wiping the floor.
My home is my temple.
My work is my worship.
At this stage in my mothering journey, I nourish my spirit and soul with mindful presence and gratitude.
And it is more than enough.
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*You can replace ‘Divine’ with whatever word you choose, Higher Power, God, Mother Earth, The Universe etc.
Wow. I love it. What a freeing way to look at these busy days and thankfully one more attachment to let go. You have just saved me so much trouble. I’m grateful to you!
Thanks for your comment Brandi. Glad my opinion could help lighten the load. : )
It was a blessing to read this. Thank you for sharing these enriching thoughts.
Thank YOU Heather for being here. X
Hallelujah!! I too have three tiny children, am homesteading and homeschooling and often on my own, as my husband travels. There really is no me time unless I stay up late for tea, bath , computer time. My peace must be found in my day. There are very few opportunities to even really sit during my days, but I do count my moments of peace. The smiles in my children, the light through the trees, the kittens who have cozied up in our stroller. There is wonder all around and this is what needs to be what nourish our divine connection!! Thanks for putting this thought into the ether, because, no I too don’t need to feel like there is yet one more thing I am NOT accomplishing in my days! The divine is in and all around me if I stay open to while whipping the food off the floor!
“There are very few opportunities to even really sit during my days” LOL! Well you nutshelled my everyday life! So glad to have reminded you of this type of meditation. I too have to work hard to remind myself to put it into practice each day. Meagan.
This is truly beautiful! Thank you! At times I do find myself think of the future, checking things off, only to realize that I have been running around in circles trying to finish tasks. Thank again for this beautiful prayer. Mom of 4, one of them grown and out of the house and three little ones, working part time and homeschooling.
Thank you Sandra for reading and for sharing your experience. Meagan.
I love how you depict the daily tasks as a kind of ‘walking meditation’, my friend and meditation teacher has often shared this as a practice for parents. Sometimes I remember to do it!
My children are only just old enough to come along on bush walks (1 and 4 years), and I am finding that this is a way that we can all get our needs met…we are lucky to have many gorgeous tracks near our home and I feel so refreshed and nurtured after a gentle walk and explore in nature. What a blessing!
Another ritual I love is to go to the garden, collect some herbs, and make a pot of ‘garden tea’ while I am cooking dinner. Somehow it feels like a little ritual just for me and reminds me to check in with myself and be kind to myself.
Thank you for sharing so honestly, it’s inspiring to hear how things really are when parenting a number of children… So much to learn 🙂
Hi Jasha, I so know EXACTLY what you are talking about! Getting outside absolutely changes your perspective, gets you out of your head and stops you from doing all those never-ending things on your to do list. I try to get outside WITH my kids at least once a day and to just be there observing and enjoying nature. Thanks for sharing. Meagan.
[…] I am also active on our farm- barn chores can really break a sweat. As for meditation I spoke about creating a very simple daily mindfulness practice here. Although I really enjoy traditional meditation (sitting in silence and connecting with my breath) […]
Yes to all of this!!!
I love the washing up quote. So important that we’re not always wanting to be somewhere else. So important. A big challenge for me to be present. And I agree that self care can become just another thing to tick off. Love your thoughts. And your thoughts about the Divine too. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for the comment Sharolyn. So grateful to have a community of mothers supporting each other.
You beautiful human thank you for so perfectly articulating how I feel about the daily tasks I fill with as much love as I can muster… and though many people I know feel as if I should want more, I feel like it’s more than enough for me (alongside that hot bath) xx
Lots of good stuff here! I’d add that my understanding of self care is less the “extras” like massage and pedicures (although I think those are important, too!) but more things like mindfulness, gratitude, eating well, getting enough rest. Sounds like you are doing an excellent job of self care!
This has stuck with me, as I recognize more the quiet moments where I can meditate even for a few minutes or take slow breaths even while I rock my son to sleep. Thank you for the “permission” to let go of what was becoming pressure to somehow create extra hours in the day to care for myself. This is a trying season, but so lovely, and your words seemed to open up some space to rest.
Ooo my god thank you so much it was so strong for me I a mother of two little ones and constantly giving my self hard time with not being good enough and not managing to put them to sleep properly and not cooking the food on time and bla bla it was pretty hard at home and now we go to travel with a a motor home around Australia and and it’s still hard and I realising it’s so much more in my mind just because I’m just not in the moment and trying to be somewhere els … thank you so much definitely need to put my gratitude glasses again and just wash dishes thank you xx
While I believe the line for self-care have been blurred between what is necessary & what is indulgent, which looks very different from family to family, finding enjoyment in the mundane is is something we don’t even realize is a possibility b/c of all the expectations we put on ourselves as mothers. This is something I have been working at for myself… living life for ourselves creates calm for our children so that they can learn to be present & grateful in their own lives… busy is not a badge of honor ESPECIALLY when we fill our schedules with things that are important to others.
I thought you were going to talk about actually getting a shower in and enjoying brushing your hair. Taking time for lotion etc. I let my self care go so far I literally was not taking care of myself, even forgetting to eat at times. I felt like my family was impatient any moment I took to take care of my own basic needs.
Lately I have been making a priority to take care of myself because I was getting grouchy and felt terrible all the time. Feeling like a person again does wonders for my morale!