(I want to begin this post with a gentle aside: I know some of you are in the midst of the insanity that I am about to describe. I'm going to be a bit hard on myself here because of an unwise mindset I had chosen to embrace. I will state for the record that I think it is wise and even healthy to get a little peace each day. But it's not always possible and I know from experience how easy it is to fall into the sinful rut that I found myself in when I didn't get it. Please understand that in the post that follows I'm not saying it's wrong to have time alone. This is my story. Everyone's journey is different. My intention in sharing my struggle is not to put guilt on anyone who really hopes their children nap well today so they can have a break. I'm hoping for the same thing! :) Hopefully I will make my point clearly enough that you can see that this had become a mindset that had kind of taken over my life and happiness.)
My sister-in-law had her first baby last week. A beautiful, healthy boy. I'm so in love with him already and am absolutely thrilled to be an aunt. But his birth has brought a lot of not-so-distant memories flooding back. And not all of them are pretty. In fact...
I have a confession.
I didn't really like being a mom for the first year and a half I held that title.
I had lot of unmet expectations, like:
1. I would be good at this. I had worked with lots of kids and I figured I would do a pretty decent job and that the unknown would come naturally. (Not so much. Even with all the reading and classes I had done, I felt clueless about most of the little situations that came up.)
2. I would spend my days exercising with my state of the art jogging stroller and lose the baby weight quickly. (For me, a combination of too much weight to lose and sleep deprivation provided a major lack of motivation.)
3. I would have fun spending time with and playing with my baby. (Well, babies don't really play. They just kind of lay there. They cuddle lots, but not so much play. I'm probably the only mother on the face of the earth who didn't treasure the cuddles, but the truth is, I was kinda bored.)
4. My baby would be happy. (Some are, but this particular child screamed his head off from 6pm-Midnight every night for the first two months of his life. Like, inconsolably. Like, Matt and I would take turns holding him and we'd have to trade off every 10-15 minutes while he screamed in our faces and the other one took a "sanity break.")
During all of this, I was hearing a lot about "me time" and after all of the above disappointments, I was wanting me some of that. A rough transition into motherhood had set me in a funk and I was sure that a little time to myself was just what I needed.
But it didn't help. In fact, it only made it worse.
Matt would watch the baby at my request so I could go grocery shopping without missing things on my list and feeling frazzled the whole time.
But wait, that doesn't count. It was grocery shopping.
Our church holds a MOPs meeting one night a month for moms, so I went to those.
But, I mean, it's only once a month. You can't really expect me to recharge in one night!
My awesome in-laws would watch him, screaming and all, every week so Matt and I could go on a date.
Oh here's where it gets really ugly. But that gave Matt a break too. He gets a "break" every day by going to work. That's not fair.
And the bitterness set in.
In my ideal world, my husband would come home every night and give me an hour or two to myself. Mostly to do things like get facials, pedicures, shop for a few things for myself, watch movies and eat bon bons.
But he didn't. So I was annoyed at him, my baby and just life in general because motherhood was demanding and I didn't want to be imposed upon.
I felt extremely justified in my bitterness. Even many Christian books I read recommended making sure you had some "me time." I don't want to get super nit-picky over the phrase, but looking back, I think at its root there is often selfishness and entitlement.
Some say that Jesus gives us an example of "me time" by referencing the opportunities he took to get up early, get away and pray (Lk. 5:16, Mk. 1:35-39). I think it's interesting to note that in Mark's telling of the story, Jesus is interrupted by his disciples during his prayer time ("me time"). And surprisingly he didn't say, "Hang on, just a few more minutes" or "Can't you see I'm PRAYING? How dare you interrupt such a spiritual moment?" or "(Sigh) What do you need?!?" Instead he says, "Let us go somewhere else - the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Jesus had just had a super busy day the day before. He had preached and cast out demons in the synagogue, gone to dinner at Peter and Andrew's house, healed Peter's mother-in-law, and then healed all sorts of people late into the evening (Mk. 1:21-34). And THEN he got up early to pray the next morning. Jesus was fully human, so he felt the sting of exhaustion every bit as much as I did, but he kept in mind his purpose even when he was interrupted and imposed upon... "That is why I have come." My purpose? Most run-of-the-mill days it's to glorify God by loving my children and my husband.
If my "me time" had looked something like Jesus' example above, I wouldn't be criticizing the mindset I had adopted. Personally, I felt that I deserved to be doted on and given some time to myself. And believe me, people, I wasn't running to prayer or God's Word for my refreshment when I did get that time.
The Lord was gracious and began to open my eyes to the bitter selfishness that had taken root in my heart.
I began to realize that with the stresses and demands of motherhood, I had become consumed with myself.
And then there was conviction: "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." You know, like babies and husbands and friends... (Phil. 2:4)
But my baby wasn't nice. He was demanding. All I did was give, give, give... and then there was conviction: "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great, and you will be called sons of the Most High." Okay, so my beloved child wasn't exactly my enemy, but I definitely wasn't giving to him and being okay with getting nothing in return. I would think if we're supposed to treat our enemies this way, we should probably treat our loved ones just as well, if not better... (Luke 6:35)
And then the real kicker. The greatest example and the ultimate gift of selflessness: "But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Ouch. I'm a big, selfish mess and God gave me his Son selflessly to cover that sin. (Romans 5:8)
I began to realize my happiness should not be dependent upon the hours of sleep I've gotten, the last time I peed without company or how often I get a girls night out. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. He is selfless and I was to have the same attitude in me that was in Christ Jesus. It was kind of hard to have that attitude when I was keeping tabs on the last time I had a break and trying to figure out when my next one was coming. (Gal. 2:20a and Phil. 2:5)
So I began to look at life through a different set of lenses. It took a year and a half (I'm a slow learner), but shortly after the birth of my 2nd son, my perspective began to change. My situation was still sleepless nights with little time to myself, but I've come to realize that sometimes it's all in how you look at things. I began the day with more passion to serve others (and if you're wondering where that passion came from, I'm going to hand the credit over to the Lord... I honestly couldn't muster it up on my own). Slowly, as the days passed, I became so. much. happier. (Isn't it funny how being consumed with your own happiness makes you miserable?!?) Believe me, I still did and said really stupid stuff in a sleep-deprived stupor those first few months with my second child, but my heart had lost that bitter edge.
It was by God's grace that he brought me out of that ugly time and to God's grace that I still must daily cling. I'm still a selfish mess most days, but he's given me new eyes to see it for what it is more often so I can seek him once again. For me, the way I looked at "me time" allowed sin to take hold in my life and left me wanting more and more and more rather than refreshing me to do the job I was called to do better.
What are your thoughts on "me time"?
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