2 : to give attention or solicitude
I've been thinking recently about what it means to take care of myself. Like many moms all over the country, I am ready for school to start. My girls are at each other's throats, bickering constantly, stuck inside because of the extreme heat. Tempers are flaring (mine included) and right now school looks like a light at the end of the tunnel. The only problem with this line of thinking? School starts in eight days, but I'll still have a child at home. What's more, I'll be responsible for teaching her. Yikes!
I'm not entering into a year of home schooling without thought. I've pondered the best approach, prayed and thought about what I hope A and I learn from the experience and researched curriculum til my eyes crossed. But it remains a great big unknown. Can I explain concepts at A's level? Will we find joint interest in the subjects that must be covered? Will we languish in the subjects that do catch our interest, to the detriment of staying on track? Will I go crazy doing this?
This last question was, in fact, J's biggest concern about our decision to home school A. I believe his exact wording was, "Can you do this and be nice to the rest of us?" It's a legitimate question. I'm a girl who likes her time alone, who likes her quiet, who enjoys her own company. Last year brought all of this in abundance since it was the first time in several years that I didn't work part time and the first time ever that all three girls were in school. I won't lie: I loved it. I read. I wrote. I made time for myself, time to be with friends, time to be with God.
Looking back, it feels like last year was a provision directly from God. Had I been working (even part time) when I'd had my surgery in January, it would have made a difficult situation even more stressful. Even without work beckoning for my attention, I needed lots of help to take care of the girls. I couldn't drive. I couldn't cook. What I could do - and needed desperately to do - was rest. And last year's circumstances made that possible. I made the conscious decision in the spring to rest up during April and May so that I could enjoy summer with the girls. It helped. We've been able to do all of the activities we wanted - and more. And my leg has held up well. I believe this is true in part because I took care of myself to make it happen.
So what does self-care look like next year? A will have an all day tutorial on Tuesdays. I've already decided to use a massage gift certificate on my first Tuesday alone. That will be a one time thing, but I do already look forward to the 5 or 6 hours I'll have to myself weekly. It's small compared to last year, but it's something. I can use that time to read, to write, to create a collage or two, to just be.
I asked a dear friend who has home schooled for years what her biggest concern was for me for next year. Her reply? "I know you're worried about time alone, so I worry about that for you." Her advice? In their family, they have an hour and half each day of quiet time. I'm thankful that she told me that because it gives me permission (which I shouldn't need, but do) to make that a part of my routine with A. Getting A to read in her room for a hour or so will not be a challenge - she's a voracious reader. The only challenge will be keeping her stocked with enough books and making sure I use the time for self-care and not house care.
I'll also continue in Bible Study with a group of women who consistently encourage me and are willing to share their lives with a vulnerable transparency. I'm not close friends with many of these women yet, but none of them are afraid to talk about difficult things and I believe God put us together for this season of our lives for a reason. Time with them will certainly feel like self-care.
A final plan to show myself some solicitude? A bit of time away: an overnight this weekend to center myself before starting school next week and a silent retreat in the fall to recharge mid-semester. I've wanted to do a silent retreat for a year now. Silence and solitude with God doesn't just give me rest - it fills my emotional tank. What fills your tank? Time with friends? A date with your spouse? Dinner out?
For years, I didn't make self-care a priority. I gave it lip service - self-care was why I exercised, why I ate healthy foods, etc. But I didn't even really know what I needed to do to take care of myself. That is one of the blessings to come from the last year: I have a better knowledge of what I need (quiet, solitude, rest, the Word, books, creating). Now I just need to quiet any voices of guilt and shame that tell me I'm not worth it. Because I've learned, I've seen, I know that I do a better job of caring for others when I care for myself.