Self Care: How Much is Too Much?

I am a stay at home mom with a six year old in grade R (kindergarten), three and a half year old twins, who are home with me, and a new baby due some time in the next month or so. Balancing their needs (also the needs of my wonderful husband, who is usually more helpful than needy) with my needs is a daily effort. Finding ways to take care of myself, while having three little people who are very good at making their wants and wishes known, is not usually easy.

In some ways taking care of myself is very easy for me. There are a lot of activities I like that are self focused. It could be easy to spend lots of time focused on things that I find rejuvenating and re-centering, but I don’t actually prioritize it that much, partly just from lack of clarity around how much to put these things at the top of my to-do list.

Being 35 weeks pregnant, my care of my body and diet clearly has a direct impact on another person, which makes at least certain parts of self-care easier to prioritize. Baby can’t grow if I don’t feed myself, sleep lots, and rest more than normal. These things are more easily done without feeling guilty when there are such clear repercussions.

But other things are really hard for me to balance. Exercise is hard because what I would like to do most requires travel and then I feel guilty using resources just because I like looking at the ocean instead of houses. But then I exercise less because I like it less. So is it better?

I care a lot about how I look and feel in my clothes. This one is hard for me because I’ve learned that I really need to have clothes that are comfortable for me. Something that doesn’t sit right or has itchy stitching – these things quickly overload me on a sensory level and detracts from my ability to focus on a conversation or interaction. So I end up spending money on more expensive clothes and then find I can’t actually wear them. However, it’s too late to return the clothes, so end up giving them away thereby wasting more resources. But if I don’t, then I am absolutely negatively impacted by forcing myself to wear them and then being overwhelmed before I even leave the house. So where is that balance? How much time do I spend away from my kids trying and re-trying clothes to be sure they’re perfect so I don’t keep buying the wrong clothes?

TV is another one that I wonder about. Every evening after putting the kids to bed, all I can think about is how much I want to watch TV. I limit the amount of time my kids spend watching TV. And I limit my own also but not as carefully as my kids’. But I could go to bed even earlier or get more things done if I didn’t watch TV. But I like it. As a creative medium, I enjoy TV and find it actually refreshing and relaxing. But how much is too much – when does it cross from an exercise in relaxation to an addictive behavior that is stopping me from being productive or engaging with people?

I think that the things I have had to figure out about these things, each time I’ve been pregnant, have helped me find ways to focus on the right things. Instead of obsessing about being thin, I can focus on being healthy. I can remember that I have a healthy body that can take a lot of work and strain, but also has limits. I have a husband who maintains that he is attracted to me even when I don’t feel like I’m the most fit, the best dressed, or most put together looking. Even if I sometimes waste resources (buying clothes and then give them away) someone still benefits, and by accepting it and dealing with it without stressing, but rather finding a way to re-balance, it’s usually ok.

I guess this is just going to be a daily balancing act for me, as with most people probably. But I sort of wish I had more guidelines for myself to make the decisions clearer and simpler. What have you figured out about the line between being selfish and caring for yourself appropriately? What do you find makes the biggest difference to you in caring for yourself?

About Abby Smith

Abby is a person. She works at being an emotionally intelligent person whose main focus currently is being a happy and loving mother to four kids and wife to Malcolm. Born and raised in a General church minister's family, she has been exposed to the Bible and the Writings since childhood but is enjoying reading and understanding these books as an adult more and more. The amazing knowledge about love and wisdom and all of the emotions that follow have truly made her a happier and more self-assured person. Her husband serves as the head pastor of New Church Westville near Durban, South Africa. While leaving family behind is a challenge, she quite enjoys living in Africa.

4 thoughts on “Self Care: How Much is Too Much?

  1. Thank you, Abby! This definitely resonates with me and I know will become all the more relevant once this baby (and subsequent children) are born! Balance in everything… And I so often rocket back and forth between extremes of self care and self indulgence.

    I have found that accountability makes a huge difference to me. Having a walking buddy, making a commitment to stay off sugar for a month with my friend/husband, verbally agreeing with my husband to go to bed earlier etc. Even though no one forces me to follow through, I have verbalized my intention outside of myself and someone else knows it. Sometimes this colossally fails and I decide I “don’t care” but most of the time it helps, especially when I try to focus on remembering that the Lord actually wants me to be happy and useful, and taking care of myself enables me to be truly happy and useful.

  2. This is such a great question that so many women wrestle with. I used to approach it from a “should” perspective — I “should” be some sort of perfect wife and mom who takes care of everyone else first. Problem: The result was that I would build up stress until I couldn’t take it anymore, and that did not work out well for my family. So now I am trying to be more realistic about my own capabilities and trying to take care of myself enough to make me a more peaceful and balanced and less tense presence.

  3. Oh, I hear you, Abby — and I can only imagine how it must be with THREE little people – and a fourth in the making! Yes, I think this is something that everyone (- every self-respecting person, anyway?!) deals with, regularly. I won’t pretend that I have any answers for you, given my mother-of-a-single-child status, however I will support you in taking time for yourself, nurturing yourself – reminding yourself that you do need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. And, at times when you think maybe you could be pushing yourself a little harder, maybe do try and push yourself a little harder, that time (e.g. actually do watch a little less TV), and see how that goes? -They say it takes 21 days of doing something for it to become habit, so I don’t know whether you can gauge how watching-a-little-less-TV for one night might help, but maybe you can. And anyway, tomorrow’s a new day, so if you try it and it doesn’t work, there’s always tomorrow! -another opportunity to try it again, or to ditch that particular effort.

    …I don’t know about you, but I notice a sort of tension rising in myself when I haven’t taken enough time for myself – when I give and give and give, and start to resent that I haven’t ‘taken’ or been given to at all — that’s when it’s time for me to take some ‘me’ time! (Well, *before* the breaking point is the best time to take some time… although that isn’t always something I can anticipate! Maybe practice is all it takes.) What comes to mind, though, is that good ol’ saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” 😉

    -And btw, heartfelt best wishes with baby #4!! 🙂 xx

    1. Thanks Jenn! I appreciate your points. And I like the idea of working to find the balance of pushing myself but in areas that I want to or only to a certain extent, not going overboard. Like watching 1 episode of something, but deciding that’s it and then I’ll work on something, rather than completely eliminating TV and then feeling like I’m depriving myself of something and being annoyed at that. But some guidelines to set myself the right boundaries and expectations.

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