The Truth About Self-Care for Busy Moms When You Don’t Have Time

There’s a dangerous myth in Christian culture that can effect our health and well-being. Maybe you’ve seen it floating around in one of its many disguises, but it boils down to this:

Self-care is selfish.

Moms are especially prone to believing this lie. We are supposed to be masters at setting aside our own needs to care for the needs of our children. We give our time and energy to those we love, day in and day out. But the reality is that we can empty ourselves – no one is designed to be an endless wellspring of energy. And if we don’t take the care necessary to be refilled and refueled, we suffer and so do the people around us.

Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker Palmer, LEt your life speak

As soon as we dispel this myth and as soon as we embrace our need for self-care as loving, necessary, and healthy, we are confronted with another lie:

Self-care is about pampering and luxury.

There is a multi-billion dollar industry ready to sell us all the night creams, facial masks, bath bombs, and home spa treatments we can (and can’t) afford. To rely solely on the feel-good products we can buy won’t get us far. I can use an eye-cooling mask to freshen up my tired eyes, but what I really need is to go to sleep earlier.

The truth about self-care is that it looks a lot like “adulting.” I think about it on two levels: the short-term level and the long-term level.

The long-term level of self-care

On the long-term level, you are thinking about self-care from a big picture perspective. You are in it for the long haul, willing to do what it takes to invest in yourself now to ensure a healthier future. This kind of self-care includes: making a budget and sticking to it, physical exercise, eating more vegetables and drinking more water, going to bed on time, scheduling that doctor’s appointment, finally seeing a therapist. These are unglamorous tasks and they’re definitely not as fun as getting a massage. The payoff for your overall mental and physical well-being, however, is huge!

The short-term level of self-care

On the short-term level, you are thinking about self-care from a “right now” perspective. It involves those little things you do for yourself that give you immediate gratification. Here’s where that new bottle of nail polish might make sense. Or that fancy chocolate you’ve been hiding from the kids. Or putting your feet up and getting cozy with a good book. It’s in these little moments where the lure of social media can be a trap. Scrolling on my phone is a way to zone out, but it never leaves me feeling rested or refreshed. Instead, it’s been helpful for me to take this perspective: “What soul-filling activity to do I have time for?”

Self-awareness is key

The first step of self-care is self-awareness. Naming your current emotions can steer you in the right direction. When we identify our feelings, we can better determine how to meet our own needs, be they spiritual, physical, or mental. Consider how you can engage in self-care on both the short-term and the long-term level. What does your mind, body and soul need in this moment? Are you feeling restless? overwhelmed? exhausted? depleted? lonely? anxious?

The key is to have a plan of action so we can address our self-care needs instead of powering through and becoming that grumpy mom who snaps at everyone! I find it helpful to keep a list on my phone of self-care activities that fill my soul. These are ideas that have helped me feel refreshed and renewed in the past: journaling, taking a walk, sipping hot tea, reading good fiction, deep breathing, gentle yoga, and coloring. The list will look different for everyone!

The biggest obstacle

I can hear you now. You don’t have enough time for self-care! This is a struggle for me too. It’s hard to balance meaningful self-care and the demands of being a full-time mom. I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about how to be wise with our time as busy Christian moms, and I’ve written a book to help us do just that!

Packed with practical wisdom and biblical inspiration, “Around the Clock Mom: Make the Most of Your God-Given Time” will help you live more intentionally and feel less distracted and overwhelmed. You can pre-order the Kindle version now! My hope and prayer for all of us walking into the new year is that we would treat our own self-care as an act of stewardship of the gifts God has given us!

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**Feature Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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