Is Self-Care a Snare?

Is Self-Care a Snare?

Recently, a woman on my Psychowith6 Facebook page, made a comment on the self-care movement. I wasn’t aware that self-care was a movement, but she got me thinking. Previously, I wrote How to Be Happy and Homeschool, Too in which I discussed the importance of what could be called self-care. In fact, I frequently talk about the importance of it during my sessions at Great Homeschool Conventions. I suddenly found myself wondering if I had been teaching wrong things. So I wanted to address the topic in today’s episode. Is self-care a snare? I am tempted to tell you the right way to think about this issue. But instead, I am going to give you some considerations for you to take to the Lord.

How should we define self-care?

First, I want to take time to define self-care. We can’t have a fruitful discussion if we haven’t defined our terms.

Time away from family

A couple of years ago I asked on my Psychowith6 Facebook page how long it had been since moms had been out on a date. One response that I got surprised me. The mom said that she not only hadn’t been out on a date, but she thought that staying home with her family was the whole point of homeschooling. I’m not going to take issue with her statement now. But I am going to take from her statement one potential definition of self-care: time away from your family.

This definition of self-care can certainly elicit strong opinions. I have taken time away from my family over the years, whether I was off to scrapbook with my friends while my husband watched the kids, whether I had time to run errands while my niece watched my young children, or whether I accompanied my husband on a business trip out of town while family or friends watched my kids.

I believe that I have benefited greatly from that time away. And while that has been my experience, I would not insist that every homeschooling mom needs that time away from her family. I think that that is again something that you will want to take to the Lord.

Justification for destructive behavior

Another definition of self-care surprised me. I was talking with a formerly homeschooled young man who is now a college graduate. He asked me what I thought of the self-care movement. Again with the movement. I had no idea that this was such a popular thing. And I asked him why he was asking my opinion and furthermore what his definition of self-care was. He began to tell me that people his age were using self-care to describe their destructive habits. For example, friends might say they had spent the night drinking because of self-care. Or they might say that they had been binge eating or watching Netflix all day when they should be working or studying. This they described as self-care.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that this is not my definition of self-care. I can see taking a day off to relax and even to indulge in more treats than normal. But anything that harms us or dishonors God or others is not how I would define self-care, nor is it anything I would recommend.

Caring for our body, mind, and spirit in a way that allows us to continue caring for other people

Physical self-care is important. If I do not pay attention to signs of illness that require medical care and I let it go too long in a way that results in my inability to teach my kids and care for my family, I am not loving myself, my family, or God.

Mental self-care is important. If I am not having a mental and emotional time of refreshment and quiet where I can think and relax, my very sanity may be at risk. You might think I am exaggerating, but our mental self-care or lack there of can lead to crippling depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.

Finally, spiritual self-care is important. The less connected I am to the Lord, the more likely I am to have physical and mental problems. Time for worship in a way that builds that connection allows me to fill up on God’s love that I can then share with others.

Is Self-Care Selfish?

The next issue I’d like to address is whether or not self-care is selfish. That whole issue will turn on your definition of self-care. If you believe that time away from your family is harmful to you or your family, then by that definition self-care could be selfish. If your definition is like my young friend’s, then behaving in a destructive way can absolutely be selfish. You are likely not concerning yourself with other people’s needs and you are putting your body and mind at risk. But if you are taking time to care for your body, mind, and spirit in a way that enables you to care more for other people, I do not think that self-care is selfish.

So given that you can already sense my answer to the question on selfishness, let’s talk about what unselfish self-care might look like. Let’s start by discussing care of the body. I was very surprised to hear other homeschooling moms I know talk about exercising as selfish. This is one of the reasons they didn’t engage in it. I suspect that that has to do with the time away from family definition. So if you are leaving the kids at home while you go and get exercise, or you are leaving your kids in a gym daycare, and that feels selfish to you, I am not going to try to convince you that time away from your family isn’t selfish. I likely couldn’t do it if that is your fundamental belief. Instead, I’m going to say that exercise is one of the most powerful treatments and preventatives we have for dozens of diseases. The Bible says that physical training is of some value.So it isn’t that exercise is evil and staying at home and praying and serving your family is the only unselfish thing. No, exercise helps to keep you healthy and strong and energetic and even mentally equipped to keep teaching and serving your family.

If being away from your family is an issue for you, know that there are many ways you can get exercise as a family. Walk, play a sport together, do an exercise video together. You can even use your baby as part of your exercise routine, whether that’s walking with your baby in a stroller or doing chest presses or squats with your baby in your arms.

The next unselfish way to care for your body is to get enough sleep. You are more likely to be ill or irritable if you aren’t getting enough sleep. I recently watched a video of a mom talking about falling asleep while driving with her kids in the car. Two of her children were killed in the car accident she had. Do whatever you have to do to get enough sleep. Sleep while your kids nap or watch videos, ask your husband to watch the kids while you get to bed early, or hire a mother’s helper to get yourself some extra sleep. Jesus slept when He was tired, even in the midst of a storm. His disciples wouldn’t dare have called him selfish!

Body self-care isn’t selfish because your family wants you to take care of yourself. Your family does not want you to be too overweight to play with them and engage with them. They don’t want you to be too tired or too sick to teach them and enjoy spending time with them. Your husband doesn’t want you to be too exhausted to have intimacy with him. Self-care of our bodies is one of the most unselfish things that we can do.

Self-care of our minds and spirits can also be unselfish. I scrapbook once a week at a friend’s house if my schedule allows it. While I am gone, I relive wonderful memories of times with my family and friends. I talk with my friend about what’s been going on in our lives. By the time I return home, I am usually in a fantastic mood. I’ve not only relived great memories, but I have had a refreshing time of talking. The added bonus is I often have finished scrapbooking pages to show my family. My husband and my kids love my scrapbooking. Sometimes I include my daughter in our scrapbooking sessions and it becomes a special time for her, my friend, and I. Could scrapbooking become something that is selfish? It certainly could. It hasn’t in my life, but I believe that anything that we truly enjoy can be used in a self-serving manner.

Spiritual self-care can be reading Scripture, praying, reading Christian books, listening to sermons or Christian podcasts, attending worship, singing, or playing a musical instrument, and attending a retreat for starters. Whatever leads us closer to God and isn’t harming us or our family is not selfish but a loving thing to do.

Is self-care a slippery slope?

Aside from selfishness, the issue some have with self-care is that it’s a slippery slope. And it can be. I was reading a Christian novel on our group family vacation and while I enjoyed the mental and spiritual break it provided, I found myself wanting to keep reading instead of interacting with friends and family.

If your self-care is resulting in more and more time away or more and more childcare, or if you’re spending more money that your family doesn’t have, you should be cautious. We should ask ourselves if our self-care is leading us closer to Christ and to more love for others, and if not, we should reevaluate.

The snare of guilt

Even though it can be a slippery slope, self-care doesn’t have to be a snare. Guilt and pride are more likely to trip us up. If we feel guilty every time we go to the gym, the enemy can use it. He can convince us that we are terrible mothers, that something awful will happen if we aren’t home, and even that God isn’t pleased with us. The Holy Spirit can use guilt to check sin, but persistent guilt where there is no sin is not from the Lord. In this case, guilt is the real snare. Take your guilt to the Lord and ask Him how to respond.

The snare of pride

The next real snare is pride. We may be tempted to judge others’ self-care. If you’re an introvert, your self-care will likely not be getting out with friends. Yours may be staying home to have some quiet time. That’s still self-care, no better and no worse than the mom who is physically, emotionally, and spiritually built up by being with others outside her home.

So, is self-care a snare? Think about what you do to care for your body, mind, and spirit. Is it destructive, excessive, or expensive? Does it draw you closer to God and your family? Ask the Lord about your self-care or lack thereof and trust His answer.

 

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Joy in the Midst of Stress

I offered to provide a video on this topic for my church and I wanted to share it with you, too. It’s possible to have JOY in the midst of stress.

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The Most Important Thing to Teach Your Child at Home

As we face new challenges with social distancing, I am doing a series of tips on Facebook Live for homeschooling parents, traditional parents, and others dealing with anxiety, depression, and parenting challenges. In this video, I discuss why teaching your child to respect and obey you is the most important thing to teach your child and home. Then I give you some easy suggestions for how to do that!

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A Mr. Rogers Approach to Homeschooling

A Mr. Rogers Approach to Homeschooling

I watched the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood about Mr. Rogers and his relationship with a journalist who was sent to interview him. It is rated PG and is a drama that is not fast-paced. For that reason, I think young children would be bored. However, I highly recommend it for you as a homeschooler.

Listen to the podcast

Mr. Rogers wasn’t a homeschooler and, as far as I know, had nothing to say about homeschooling. But I think his life and the way he lived it had a lot to say about it. I’m going to share with you six approaches to homeschooling that we can take from Mr. Rogers’s life. I believe these approaches could be transformative to your homeschooling and especially to your family.

Delight in your child.

The first approach we can take in homeschooling that is derived from Mr. Rogers’s life and work is to delight in your child.

In the opening scene of Mr. Rogers on set, we see him meeting with a child and his family. He is on his knee and commenting on a sword the child is holding. He does not ask the child a number of questions. Instead, he makes observations about the sword, allowing the child to correct him. This is standard procedure in play therapy. Making observations rather then asking questions makes children feel comfortable with us. Children have to answer multiple questions a day and grow weary of them. (I know. Moms do too, but hang with me here.) The final observation Mr. Rogers makes of the child and his sword is positive. He expresses wonder at the child’s strength. The child’s response is to hug Mr. Rogers.

How can we express delight in our own children? Let’s consider a child’s writing. Rather then asking what a child was trying to say in a piece of writing, we can make observations. It looks like you put a lot of thought into this. It seems like you really love this subject. If we are observing a child’s artwork, we might talk about the movement or emotion of the piece. We might comment on the beautiful colors.

Mr. Rogers also expressed delight in having the opportunity to get to know the journalist. In the same way, we can express our joy when her children wake up in the morning, or when they assemble for morning basket time, or when our teens come home from work. That leads me to Mr. Rogers’s principal number two.

Relationships come first.

While Mr. Rogers met with the child and his parents, the journalist asked his staff how often he did that. The staff sighed and and answered, “Every day.” They expressed their chagrin at the delays that these interactions caused their production crew.

When we have a needy toddler, teen, or spouse, we have a tendency to react the way Mr. Rogers’s production team did. We can become frustrated as we see these relationship issues as an interruption to our real work. Mr. Rogers would say that people are our real work. They should always come first, even if that means the math, the handwriting, or the history has to come later.

We can apply this principle by reminding ourselves every day that we are first and foremost about relationship building. As a homeschooling mom of six, I can say unequivocally that my relationships with my children are the greatest blessing of teaching them at home and not their superior education.

EQ is just as important as IQ.

The third Mr. Rogers principle that can apply to homeschooling is that EQ or emotional intelligence is just as important as IQ.

Mr. Rogers started his television program to address children’s emotional and social skills as opposed to the intellectual skills that were being addressed on Sesame Street. We see the importance of EQ in some gifted children who struggle. They can feel lonely, irritable, or depressed if they haven’t been taught emotional and social skills. We are not providing a whole education if we only focus on academics.

If we want to apply Mr. Rogers’s principle to our homeschooling, we have to take time to address sibling conflict. We have to teach our children how to manage grief. We have to teach our children how to make friends, how to handle teasing, how to handle disappointment, and so much more. We can use books and movies to teach these skills, and we can also use life experiences to prompt us. Again, we can do this, even if it means we get behind on our lesson plans.

Listen more and talk less.

The fourth Mr. Rogers’s principle that we can apply to our homeschooling is to listen more and talk less. James 1:19 says “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Mr. Rogers appeared to be the embodiment of this verse. In fact, at some points the movie creates significant discomfort because nothing is being said. Mr. Rogers waits for his journalist friend to speak, and when he does, the words are powerful. Silence can prompt true expression.

We can apply this principle in our homeschools by spending less time lecturing and even reading and more time listening to what our children have to say. If we make an observation or ask a question and our children don’t immediately respond or say ‘I don’t know,’ we can practice productive silence. We can wait for our kids to be ready to share. Our children will talk more as they come to trust that our relationship with them comes first. Using observations rather than questions is more likely to allow our children to talk. Rather then correcting or directing, we can model Mr. Rogers in thanking them for sharing, even if they share something we don’t like.

Spend time in the Word and prayer.

The next principle of Mr. Rogers’s life that we can apply to our homeschooling is praying. Mr. Rogers spent time in the Word and in prayer daily. He prayed for those in his life who obviously needed help and even those who didn’t.

We can apply this to our homeschooling by praying for each of our children. We can pray that they would grow in faith and that they would grow physically, emotionally, and socially. Of course, we can and should pray for ourselves as well. Near the end of the movie, Mr. Rogers asks a dying man to pray for him. We can and should ask others to pray for us as we do the incredibly important job of homeschooling our children.

Tell children they’re loved as they are.

The final principle I want to share from Mr. Rogers’s life that we can apply to homeschooling is showing our children that they’re loved as they are.

Mr. Rogers frequently told his viewers that they were wonderful just as they were. We may object to that when we’re dealing with a child who is sinful and disruptive. But the truth is that children who are struggling won’t have the will to change until they know they are loved just as they are.

We can apply this principle to our homeschooling by reminding our children that even if they never get better at math, reading, or keeping their rooms clean, we couldn’t possibly love them any more. They’re loved just as they are. This was Jesus’ message for us. While we were still sinners, Jesus came to set us free from the wages of that sin.

That message is for you too. You’re loved just as you are. Even if you never get more organized, never understand algebra, never have an Instagram-worthy homeschool day, you’re wonderful just as you are. Your family loves you so very much. God does, too.

Conclusion

Thank you so much for giving me the honor of listening to this podcast. I’m amazed by the sacrifice you make for your family week after week.

I watched another movie this week and there is a quote from it that applies here. The movie is Fighting with My Family. It’s a true story about a professional wrestling family. The sister is chosen to go pro over the brother. The sister tells her brother, “Just because you don’t have millions of people applauding doesn’t means that your work isn’t important.” Homeschool mom, your work is so important.

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