Hi friends and Empowered Wives!
I am so happy you're here for the next installment of my blog series detailing my reading journey with the book, The Empowered Wife. This blog post will be exploring one of Laura's top recommendations from her empowered program: the concept of self-care.
Honestly, when I began reading this chapter, I was not too keen on this concept.
Now, why wouldn't I want to indulge in some juicy me-time? Self-care sounds fabulous, doesn't it!? Yes and no.
At the time, I had been influenced by many Christian motherhood commentators who were turning against the concept of self-care. They declared that getting your nails done, taking bubble baths, and indulging in "me-time" was just selfish me-generation nonsense and not actually going to fulfill your soul.
And honestly, I agreed.
Because it made sense to me that bubble baths and whining about not having enough "me-time" was never going to fulfill me! I truly believe that only God can transform us, sanctify us, and give us everlasting peace. He is the fount of every blessing: our daily bread! The Life everlasting! What these Christian influencers told me matched my personal religious convictions: it resonated and I became determined to think less about self-care and more about how to care for those around me. Self-care sounded selfish and I wanted to be more "mature" than to rely on needing to do things for myself in order to have daily peace.
But you know what?
I've changed my mind.
I am now a HUGE fan of self-care thanks to Mrs. Laura Doyle HERSELF! This book converted me. I still believe that God is the only way to true satisfaction and fulfillment, but I also see how many wives, myself included, spend too much of our time running ragged for everybody else, even turning down offers of help, just to end up feeling resentful of our husbands who seem to intrinsically know how to relax.
I still believe that self-care in the sense of "I can't be a nice person to you today because I didn't get time for myself" is wrong. But self-care in the context of trying to do things that will elevate your state of mind, bring more peace to your life, and improve your physical and mental well-being? SIGN ME UP!
Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't I enjoy sprinkling my days with activities that will bring me joy while ALSO fulfilling my responsibility to love and serve my family?
Truthfully, I've begun to have some pretty strong disagreements against a lot of teachings I've seen floating around online aimed at homemakers. One person even tried to insinuate that it was wrong for mothers to want to leave the house to run errands alone every once in a while! Qu'est que ce!? Pardonne-moi!?
I agree in part: so much mothering content is way too negative about how our children are driving us to drink wine every evening, but the other extreme teachings seem to demand that women be perfect angels who never forget the sage wisdom that our children are only young once while somehow juggling every chore, child, and lost hour of sleep with a smile on their face. Some advice even goes so far as to encourage women towards martyr-motherhood by staying chained to the home and sacrificing themselves in every possible manner for their families. Yikes!
I think as mums and wives we should love and protect our children, respect our husbands, work to make our homes lovely, and do the best in what God has called us to. But this doesn't mean that it's sinful to take an hour a couple of times a week to take a nap, read a book, or go shopping without the kids or before all the chores are done. Like, COME ON PEOPLE! Are we really going to be so self-punishing? And for what!? Women are not robots!
I think it's good to want to serve your family as if you were serving the Lord. But that doesn't mean that it's sinful to want to get girly, go out for yourself, or just take a breather.
I personally know that a lot of women struggle with the sin of resentment.
Resenting their husbands for fill in the blank...not helping enough, taking too much time for their hobbies, not interacting with the kids enough, not doing enough chores, yada yada yada. Resentment is a very easy and tempting sin to fall into when you're in the midst of a busy season in life, and as Laura Doyle points out in her book, we often pour it out on our husbands.
So how can we guard against resentment in marriage? Well, I've seen pretty unhelpful teaching about this subject. It seems like the only guidance Christian women receive is to like just stop resenting him! Pray! Read your Bible! Count to ten!
Sure, kind of helpful. But you know a great way to overcome sin in your life? Address the environments, triggers, and situations that cause you to go down a sinful path.
We encourage this type of response to many other sins: we don't encourage alcoholics to go sit in a bar, porn addicts to sit in their rooms all day with a laptop, or people who struggle with gossip to go hang out with a gossipy friend.
We absolutely have agency in our decision to avoid sin in our lives, but part of that agency is setting yourself up in the best possible way so that you will avoid that sin! Not even be tempted by it!
Likewise, I have realized that setting myself up as a martyr wife and mom, never taking time to do things for myself, my hobbies, or my personal social life, contributed to an environment that was RIPE for resentment. Looooots of resentment against my husband who seemed to have no problem doing things for himself, his hobbies, or his personal social life. And it wasn't until I began acting out Laura's advice on self-care that I found myself in a much better headspace and it became EASY to avoid the sin of resentment and jealousy in my marriage.
Teaching moms to feel bad for not being with their kids 24/7 or to feel guilty for wanting to grab a latte once a week with a friend, or that it's selfish to want an uninterrupted bath is WRONG. These teachings are unrealistic and harmful to the mental health of women and actually have a detrimental effect on marriage.
We will naturally start feeling tense, pent-up, and angry when we aren't getting enough of our own needs met. I'm serious! We are not robots!
We can't deny the positive effects that regular hobbies, fun, laughter, and pampering have on a woman's feminine soul. I do think it's silly to depend on bubble baths for inner peace, but I also think it's silly to pretend that we as women don't have needs, desires, and interests. And the beautiful thing? Self-care INCLUDES taking time for the Lord. Taking time in creation. Enjoying those newborn snuggles, resting in the arms of your husband, and doing pretty much whatever it is that is wholesome, lovely, and brings you joy.
Self-care is primarily about exploring those needs, desires, and interests in a healthy way that allows you to show up as your "best self" every day.
Laura's book teaches us how to stop looking for our husbands to make us happy and instead work on getting extra joy through our OWN actions. I often fell into the trap of asking why my husband wasn't working harder to make ME happy. Why was he busy with hunting, work, his personal projects, and HIS friends when I clearly was waiting for attention! GRRRR!
Enter Laura's book.
I'm 32 weeks pregnant and in DIRE need of self-care. I don't really believe it will help, but let's give it a shot. So what did I do? I started taking naps. Yup. Nap on nap on nap on nap. I was so pregnant and so tired that a mum's afternoon out sounded horribly exhausting, but a sweet sweet afternoon nap was just what I was in desperate need of.
So I looked at hubby when he was up and around on his days off and said, "I'm going to take a nap now."
And off I went.
And the absolute bonkers thing that I never imagined in a hundred years?
HE WAS HAPPY FOR ME! Truly! To be honest... my selfish heart would have been very jealous and resentful if he was taking regular naps, but he was just happy for me that I was fitting my naps in and getting rest because I was genuinely a warmer, happier, and sweeter wife afterward!
Am I saying that our spiritual convictions and godly character is reliant on getting good naps, exercise, and "me time" in? NO! But I think it's ridiculous to think that we as human women, who are fallible with NEEDS, should just put aside all of our wants, needs, and desires simply to die as a resentful martyr for our families and marriages. Because it just doesn't work. It's setting ourselves up for disaster.
Self-care doesn't have to be this dramatic selfish activity where you put off the needs of your family and home just to go "do you" for a day. NO! It can be small things inserted intentionally throughout your day to help bring in joy and peace. Simply sitting down for breakfast instead of eating it hunched over the sink could count as self-care. Taking a twenty-minute shower instead of a five-minute shower could be self-care. Perusing through the clothes while you're at the grocery store could be self-care!
Don't be scared by this concept: you don't have to say sayonara to your kids and husband just to squeeze in some "me time." You can make sure your house is squared away before taking that nap. You could take a kid with you on that walk. But the important part is that you are TAKING the nap and GOING on the walk. I promise you that the house will not fall apart and you may even have some extra energy to deal with it all when you wake up! ;)
To drive this point home, I need to share that my postpartum time this time around has been completely different than my first: peaceful, fun, and memorable, yet now I'm dealing with TWO BABIES! Sure, I'm an experienced mom and I didn't have a traumatic birth this time, but I still have twice the amount of work to do with two babies and two births to recover from. But somehow I'm putting out five times more online content than I was a year ago, and my marriage is happier as well. If anything, my online work, my mommy work, and my personal work have all drastically increased from a year ago, but I'm not feeling crazy or ragged!
And it's all thanks to Laura's skills, but especially self-care. Truly! The only difference between last postpartum and this postpartum is that I read this book and began enacting the skills in my daily life. That's it! That's the only change I made, but it has transformed my days.
So finally, I'll wrap this up by giving you some easy examples of what I do for self-care. It is really any activity, long or short, that is done purely because it brings joy. Not because you have to do it, but because it makes your mood lighten up.
- listening to my favorite YouTube morning shows while I drink coffee and feed my son breakfast
- reading from my kindle before sleep every night
- getting flowers for the house
- listening to classical music
- blow-drying my hair
- taking naps
- going for walks while listening to audiodramas or podcasts
- skin-to-skin or contact naps with my newborn
- taking my son to the grocery store
- dressing up my coffee with some cream
- baking desserts
- trying on different outfit combinations
- sitting under a warm blanket
- looking at baby pictures on my phone
- DM'ing my friends on Instagram
- sending funny videos to my husband
- calling my girlfriends
- writing cards and letters to those I love
- sitting in the sun
- drinking afternoon tea
- going window shopping
There are so many more ways to practice self-care, but I really encourage you today to do just one thing that will slightly elevate your mood and bring a little joy.