I actually don’t even remember the first time I decided it would be a good idea to book myself a room at a nearby bed & breakfast for the weekend. But I do know it was definitely during my first few years as a wife and working mom of an extremely active toddler some 15 plus years ago.
I had moved about 1,000 miles away from my home state of Florida to start a brand-new career in a new city. A couple of years later, I met the man who would become my husband. Two years into the marriage, I got pregnant with our first (and only) child together. Along with these changes, I was learning to navigate the dynamics of a blended family since I was also a stepmom to my husband’s two daughters. (And did I mention that my mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law and pretty much every auntie—in the family and church—seemed like they could be the poster child for the Proverb-31 woman? These women were doing the most—for real. But no pressure, right?)
My life was busy, demanding, and very fulfilling. I felt truly blessed to be a part of the big, dynamic, loving ecosystem that was our family.
But I also remember countless days that would stretch into weeks—and sometimes seem like months—when it felt like I was on the grind from the time I woke up in the morning till I went to bed. No. Scratch that—you know we be making check lists in our sleep. And I just accepted it as a reality of life, this is what my mama did, and her mama before her, and her mama before her…and so on. It was a lineage of self-denying, self-appointed “super-women” who occupied lives with no margins and between the lines of everyone else’s needs, wants, and expectations.
I might have gone on believing this was just the way it is and was always going to be, until one day, God, the Holy Spirit, and/or just my own self-preservation instincts kicked in and said, “Chil’, please.” Even Jesus had to reclaim His time and take a moment for Himself. And He was perfect—plus He had God as His Father.
Of course, this epiphany happened well before the phrase “self-care” became the widely embraced, ubiquitous mantra it is today for all those who see the value of being mindful and protecting mental health and wellness. Back then, all I knew was the phrase, “Ya’ll gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here!” felt like it was on a continual loop in my brain, punctuated at frequent intervals by me saying out loud, “Lord, give me strength!” So much so, that my two-year-old son started to demand strength from the Lord as well (whenever he was dealing with the toddler version of losing his little mind).
I realized that in order for me to not actually lose it, I needed to find some time and some space for myself to remember and reclaim who I was apart from being someone’s wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, cousin, etc.
When I thought about what it would take to seek that time and space, I knew I needed to literally remove myself from all the physical, mental, and emotional demands that our home represented. Why? Because, for most of us, it is virtually impossible to be in the presence of those we care about and not feel compelled to respond to their needs (whether they express them to us or not). Especially if it’s a young child(ren). Not only do our nurturing instincts kick in, but we often feed off the affirmation and validation that come from experiencing the complete trust our loved ones place in our abilities to meet those needs. And because homeis mama, everyone feels entitled to full, 24/7 access whenever mama is home.
But please don’t get me wrong, sisters. I am not saying that all I do every day is anticipate and meet the needs of everyone in my household like some kind of martyr. (Huge shout-out to Gwendolyn Chambers for her edifying piece that explores this theme so eloquently.) Let it be known, if members of my family are capable and are simply being lazy, I have told them—and most certainly will tell them again—to get/do/find whatever they need themselves. I do NOT feel compelled to accommodate those kinds of situations. These are facts.
What I want to drive home is this: making the decision to reserve a space and a time that are only and completely inhabited by you, is one of the most self-honoring acts of care you can do for yourself.
And, whether it’s on my annual B&B weekend or not, every time I reclaim those parts of myself that can easily get overlooked in the hustle and flow of day-to-day life, not only am I able to experience who I am fully and authentically, I can also explore other dimensions of myself that I wouldn’t be able to when my attention is splintered off in a hundred different directions. Centering my ‘self’ is not the same as being self-centered. And this has literally been my saving grace.
How do you retreat from the many different, demanding roles in your life—how do you make a space for yourself?Leave a Comment