Monday, February 6, 2017

The changing face of Mothercare.

I have always been a vocal advocate of the practice of self-care. Frequently on this blog, in my Facebook feed, and any chance I get in person, I exhort my fellow-moms to set aside time to refresh themselves, so that they can return with full cups to the daily duty of pouring themselves out for their spouses, children and whomever else depends on them for daily needs. I try to model it.  I host Girl's Nights, book clubs, and parties. I swoop down and carry off overly-pregnant girlfriends for dates at the spa. I drop by with care packages for new moms. I block out Friday nights and Sunday afternoons several times a month to go out with J, or spend time window shopping. I learned early in my mothering (thanks to some excellent books and mentors) to grab tightly onto every quick moment to suck in a few deep breaths of relief and freedom whenever opportunity presented itself.

Now I find myself inexorably leaving that fast-paced, relentless, surf-pounding stage of motherhood behind. My youngest is six. He's a rotten sleeper, so I do still have plenty of those nights that leave me a little blurry around the edges the next day, but generally speaking, I'm out of the trenches. So what is this changing face of Mothercare for me now? I no longer have the same need to peel the velcro-fingers off my unshaven legs and dash out the door for a coffee date, real quick, before I suffocate from All The Touching. I actually have the time and luxury to shower, coiff, and make-up before I leave my relatively independent boys in the capable hands of their extremely independent older sister and MOSEY out the door to a coffee date. 

So do I still need self-care? Do I still have an excuse for that coffee date?

I say yes. With a caveat. Coming out of the trenches, I find myself still on the front lines of mothering (not to put too fine a point on a metaphor). I am finding a need to be more deliberate in my choices, more mindful and intentional. I'm out of the sprint and into the marathon. I need to have a little more care to choose my activities and find things that don't just return me to humanity, but actually nurture me as a MENTOR and a MOTHER. I am sensing a need not just for survival, but for growth. I am now at the stage of not just keeping these three future-humans alive and relatively safe without completely losing my sense of self in the process, but actually leading them forward in their faith, knowledge and purpose toward that ever-elusive goal of Mature Adult. It is a sobering task. A burden which requires the daily training of the committed athlete, if I am to carry it well.

In addition, I have a daughter who needs to share some of my moments of leisure. She no longer requires my attention for her basic survival, so I have to reach out deliberately in the quiet moments of my rest and draw her into them with me in order to connect with her on a level deeper than barked commands, or bedtime stories and snuggles. The reality of parenting a young women peels away yet another layer in the self-sacrifice required of a mother. 

I find this difficult. 

I am an excellent manager. I tend to hold my children a little at arms length and organize them into a (mostly) well-functioning machine. The hoop-and-stick routine that works well with young children who require really only love and correction (and food), falls short of the ever-more-and-more complicated emotional needs of an almost-woman. And I occasionally find myself in selfishness grasping tightly hold of the old way of relating-- mother to child, protecting my Self by occasional escape-- and resisting the woman-to-woman, shared-Self relationship that I'm being drawn into. 

So I find myself sometimes compelled to trade in my movie nights and coffee dates with friends for window shopping with my daughter, and planning special weekends for her and her girlfriends. I still do set aside time for myself, but I feel the need to devote some of that time to study, work, and prepare; not just breathe and enjoy. In this next stage of parenting, I find myself with more free time and less of it to spend without consideration. My increasingly independent children require of me the kind of self-sacrifice that I find most difficult-- not just physical, but relational self-sacrifice. And my self-care is becoming more deliberate, more intentional... perhaps less fun...

But in the long run, I trust, deeper and more rewarding.