By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
After my son was born my world changed in new and unexpected ways. I assumed that after bringing a child into the world that my life would somehow go back to normal—normal with the addition of a baby in the house, of course.
I entered parenting with a sort of nonchalance. I didn’t bring a birth plan to the hospital or have any great expectations of what birthing my son would look like. I expected that there would be pain, followed by tremendous joy. And, to be fair, all of that is true.
What I didn’t expect, however, was that the process of bringing my son into the world would leave me broken physically. I didn’t expect emotional suffering or to experience postpartum depression. I didn’t expect parenting to take such a toll on my body, mind and spirit.
Without self-care, I would have stayed burnt out and would not be able to fully show up for my family or my community. Let's look at 5 reasons why parents should prioritize Biblical self-care.
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1. The Need for You to Put on the Oxygen Mask First
After our son was born my Mom came into town to help out. She arrived and quickly put us all on a feeding and sleeping schedule. A couple days into her visit she looked at me with genuine concern. “Rachel,” she said, “What do they say in airplanes before takeoff? You have to put the oxygen mask on first.”
If you don’t put on your mask first, then you might pass out before you can help put on anyone else’s—and then you’re both in trouble.
As a parent have you ever forgotten to take care of yourself? Even once? I think it’s fair to assume that most of us have.
It’s so easy to completely lay our lives down for the sweet children entrusted to us. We make sure the babies are fed, but forget to feed ourselves. We ensure that our children are getting a healthy amount of sleep, but forgo our own rest. We anticipate their needs, but then overlook our own.
We create boundaries and safe spaces for them, but might fail to do so for ourselves.
Who can blame us? Look at these precious and tender babies. They are ours to care for. We’d take a bullet, stop a train or lift a vehicle for them. But we’re not the only ones that suffer the consequences of not taking care of ourselves—our children do too.
When we forget to care for ourselves, whether in parenting or life in general, we can remember Paul’s reminder to the church of Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 he writes: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
And so, in the wise words of my mother, “Put on the oxygen mask first.”
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2. The Need for Modeling Health for Our Children
My husband and I now have two adorable children, ages 9 and 5. Almost 10 years after the birth of our first, I can still forget to properly care for myself as a mom.
Some days are so busy that mid-afternoon I will realize that I haven’t eaten. Other days can be so breakneck that from the moment I open my eyes in the morning to the time I close my eyes at night I don’t sit down or take a moment for myself. I justify my busyness.
The laundry and dishes and picking up are never-ending. There’s cleaning to be done and errands to be run and homework to finish and dinner to be made, and the activities and playdates. It just never stops. There just isn’t any time to rest.
That’s ridiculous! What am I modeling for my children?
I love my children with a sacrificial love, but by attempting to do it all and be it all for my children I’m setting them and myself up for failure. They’ve watched me crash and burn more than enough times that we must learn to take better care of ourselves.
On more than one occasion I’ve pushed myself so hard that I’ve made myself sick and ended up in bed for a whole day. When we’re constantly exhausted it is hard to thrive as a parent. So, learning a rhythm of self-care and sabbath is paramount in sustaining ourselves and the health of our family as a whole.
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3. The Importance of Revitalization to Keep Going
Recently I’ve heard the term “self-care” used flippantly as a slur of sorts. As if caring for one’s self is an affront.
On the contrary, I think of Elijah who was on a huge assignment from God. We see him completely burnt out at the end of 1 Kings, he is so tired he calls out for death.
Hopefully none of us are at a level of fatigue that we’re calling out for death, but I think it’s fair to say that in parenting there have been moments and possibly seasons that burn out has been incredibly real. We’ve been exhausted beyond our capacities.
What if we saw our role as parents with a similar weight to that of the Prophet’s calling from God? We don’t know what God is going to do through our children and do through us through the experience of parenting.
So, maybe we need to follow in the footsteps of Elijah and get in a good nap followed by replenishing ourselves with healthy food. I realize that an angel of the Lord may not be stopping by to drop the food off, but maybe an angel from church could?
By better caring for ourselves we are better equipped to care for those in our charge, our children, our families, our communities and the body of Christ as a whole. We cannot pour out of empty. Put on the oxygen mask first, and when you’re too weak to put that mask on first reach out to your community for help.
You don’t have to do it alone.
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4. The Profound Difference Sabbath Makes
I have so many friends who can’t stop, won’t stop, don’t know how to stop. It’s as if they are hard wired to go go go. I used to beat myself up for not having their level of endurance. I thought I was weak. Almost every single time I’d attempt (and fail) to achieve and live at their level I’d end up completely exhausted or worse.
There was a season in my life—not all that long ago—that my husband and I were working so hard and were so stressed out that I ended up hospitalized. I ran myself down to a pulp.
God did not create us to live a life without rest. He wants us to rest, not only in Him, but also physically. He wants rest for our weary minds, our tired souls and our fatigued bodies.
God, our good Father, must have some insight to what life on this earth was going to be like. He must know that this world will darn right wear us out. I can’t imagine he’d be so firm on the point of rest if he didn’t.
It is for this very reason that God calls us into sabbath with him. As parents, observing the sabbath can completely transform our households. Creating a rhythm of sabbath for our families goes beyond just physical rest. During this time we can quiet our minds, hearts and spirits and return to communion with our Creator.
As podcaster Marty Solomon puts it, he teaches his young kids that on Sabbath days, "We rest. We play. No work. God loves us." What a difference this mindset makes in our lives.
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5. The Importance of Sustainable Rest
Developing healthy habits of self-care and sabbath can reap long-term benefits for ourselves as individuals and our families as a whole.
Modeling a healthy diet, restfulness, and care for our bodies and minds teaches our children to do the same. These habits are almost never built overnight, but rather are formed over a lifetime.
A couple years ago my husband and I decided that we would carve out sabbath every Sunday afternoon. I had really grand plans of what this Sabbath time would look like. Quiet with God, peace and serenity.
The reality was a stark contrast—we had two young children then and the word “quiet” isn’t in there vocabulary.
We had to adjust and find sustainable ways to seek sabbath. We started hiking and taking long walks in the evening. We removed digital devices and allowed ourselves some mental breathing room.
My husband and I carved out time for each other to have what we call “replenishment time.” Typically during these hours he likes to go play basketball or if the weather permits go for a bike ride, whereas I enjoy taking my dogs for a long walk or taking the occasional nap.
These seemingly small strides can reap huge reward. Our minds feel clearer, our bodies feel stronger and our souls feel replenished.
Ultimately, in parenting and life in general, we must have a marathon mentality. God has designed us, one and all, for endurance. But if we don’t take care of the temple which houses our souls we are set on a course straight for disaster.
As the Word says in Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
We parents we must have endurance, as the body of Christ even more so. Through our endurance, we will be able to draw others to the Kingdom of God. So, rest and replenish, a marathon awaits.
Rachel Baker is a pastor’s wife, director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to still your fears, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.
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