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.