Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin
As self-neglecting. -From William Shakespeare’s Henry V
I am so pleased that Kyrie is doing a series on “The Ordinary Arts” that make up the fabric of our lives. Her first post is up here http://www.aresohappy.com/home/2011/10/17/ordinary-arts-the-art-of-self-care.html, and she has invited us to write our own thoughts on this important topic.
To me, the Ordinary Arts is finding the holy in the ordinary. The beautiful in the mundane. The “big” in those really small moments of life.
On Easter Monday of this year, I wrote a post about “The Sacred In The Ordinary” (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/04/25/the-sacred-in-the-ordinary/). This is an important topic – in the repetitive tasks that make up the care of small children, in the repetitive tasks of what really constitutes homemaking and nurturing the home, can we turn this into a sacred act, a gift to receive and to be given?
Part of what I wrote in that post is this:
In the Collect for today from The Book of Common Prayer, there was a part that said, “…that we may behold thee in all thy works….”
I started thinking about seeing the sacred in the ordinary…..
But sometimes, life with small children can become one giant to-do list if we let it. A list of places to go each day, chores to do each day, days of doing the same things over and over and over – diaper changes, feeding children, cleaning up. And starting all over again.
I wondered for myself, if just for today, I could pause long enough to see the sacred in the ordinary. Could I really counteract that feeling of irritation or frustration of having to “do that again” with joy and gratitude?
I think for many women, we strive so hard to meet the needs of our homemaking, our children, our spouses…and we forget ourselves. We forget that we are someone outside of our children, our home, our spouse; that we have an inner existence. So often we put ourselves last or not even on the list at all. If we want to be truly mindful parents, I suggest that we need to bring this same mindful and nurturing attitude to ourselves and our own self-care. Yes, raising children, especially small children, is only a season, and there is a place to put ourselves lower, to diminish ourselves by losing ourselves in parenting, but perhaps not to the point where we are just a dim outline….Parenting and home making is a long race to run, not a sprint. We must maintain ourselves in some order for our children to be able to draw from that well of what we have learned, the patience and goodness we can model. If we are tapped out, we are irritable, we are not present, we have a hard or harder time giving and guiding.
But how to do this is the question. How do we maintain our inner center in chaos? Because living with children, by its very nature, means less sleep, noise, a certain level of things happening.
To me, there are several separate tiers in self-care according to the holistic human being. How do we take care of our bodies? Do we ever exercise, go to the doctor and the dentist, and get enough rest? True bodily care. I had the experience this weekend of being sick, and I canceled my commitments and stayed home. My husband took care of all three children all morning so I could just rest in my pajamas, because his reasoning was that I will never feel better without getting enough rest. Sometimes as mothers we just tend to press on, and go. I know I do, and it takes often takes my husband or good friends to remind me to rest and just be. And I need their help in order to do that.
How do we take care of our minds? What do we do to nurture ourselves outside of thinking and discussing parenting and homemaking and home educating? What was your passion before you had children? Does it still interest you? What interests you now?
How do we take care of our spirit? Prayer, meditation, being a part of a religious community, being a part of a community of like-minded friends. Who can you call in real-life, when you need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to hold you up? What friends will step in without hesitation? In our homeschooling group, we have cleaned the houses of members who are pregnant and sick, we have brought meals in times of family need. Church provides the same on a material level, and the spiritual food that sustains the journey.
Many of us are careful to craft a rhythm for our children, but not very careful to include our own nurturing self-care during the week. We are afraid to ask for help, we know our toddler will not stay with anyone else so we could go to the doctor, our spouse travels, we truly are not worthy of self-care because our children are only small once….So many things to consider…
If there was one thing on a physical level I wish for mothers, it would be for sleep and exercise. Sleep we often cannot control, and at night most nights I am up with multiple children myself. I think part of motherhood is learning to run on less sleep! Yet, we all know when we are running on four hours sleep night after night, the small things children do because they are children can be irritating to us instead of being the tiny thing that they are. I have had many mothers tell me noise bothers them when they are that tired, and of course, children often are noisy! So, on one level, I am not sure it is enough to say that you will get less sleep when you are parenting small children or multiple children, but I have no answers either!
And for exercise….I wish it could be exercise alone, without the children watching your every yoga pose or being on your run, time for you alone to breathe the world in and out. I don’t receive that either at this point, but I know sometime in the future I will. There are so many ways to nurture oneself that are small – taking breaths of nature, slowing down, being home more, having a lovely cup of tea – but to me, the big areas are where mothers have a much harder time. Sleep, exercise, things mother needs space from the children.
On a spiritual level, I wish for mothers to find that sense that this work is not our own. For me, it is having a force of love from God flow through me to the care I extend to my family and to others…and if I can remember that in the chaotic times, the times when children are screaming, I can get centered to be quiet and guide, to give space until the moment is guidable..if I can control myself and the way I say something, the body language I use….It is hard work, it does not come easy, but may it be blessed to even try!
If you are looking to start small and build up self confidence in order to reach those bigger areas, I offer you many simple, concrete ideas and ways to pamper yourself from Flylady: http://www.flylady.net/pages/pamper_1.asp
And I also offer you these ideas from “The Antidote To The Overwhelming Year”: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/03/28/the-antidote-to-the-overwhelming-year/