If I could have been born into a different family, I think I would have fit in well with a large Jewish clan. The mothers, I’m told, are masters at laying on the guilt. And I, sweet friends, am a sponge.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been able to put myself first without repercussions of serious guilt. If there was a last cookie on a plate, I couldn’t eat it without feeling it should be someone else’s. If there was extra money available to buy something I desperately needed, I still couldn’t buy it without guilt. If there was a work trip that took me away for more than twenty-four hours—even though my job was providing for all of our needs—I’d feel terrible for leaving my kids.
As a mom, guilt followed me like a shadow, ready to taunt me at a moment’s notice if my thoughts moved even one centimeter off of others and onto myself. When I became a single mom, that guilt somehow (as if it was even possible) magnified. And no matter how often I heard it, or how many voices in my life suggested it, I couldn’t seem to put even the tiniest focus on myself.
On the selfish act of taking care of me.
Until one day, I went to pack for a work trip and realized that I didn’t own a single pair of underwear that didn’t have holes in them. And, I don’t mean tiny ones from initial signs that I needed new ones. No. I mean, big, gaping, embarrassing holes that made them so ratty, they might have looked like lace from a distance. Ok, they didn’t. But remembering it that way makes me feel better.
And it was that drawer full—and I mean full—of expired underwear, that made me realize the truth: though my family never had to worry about running out of toilet paper, milk, deodorant, clean socks, or bread, I was living as if I didn’t deserve to have my basic needs met. As if taking care of me somehow took something away from someone I loved.
The real kicker? I realized the number of times I’d literally walked past the underwear aisle in my local Wal-Mart (hint: did you know that they sell it for just a few dollars?), perusing the aisles three to five times a week while locating items that the rest of my family needed—and didn’t take care of my own needs.
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
I closed that drawer, determined that I had to start taking better care of myself. One look down the hallway would show three children who were continuing to grow, who would someday leave my home. When they did so, I didn’t want to be a deflated balloon that they had spent 18 years sucking the life out of. Because leaving behind a shell of the mother they once had, would only cause me to fill that empty space with mourning for what I’d just lost.
But, if instead, I began to fill myself up by taking better care of myself, becoming healthy both on the inside and the out, and even spoiling myself from time to time, I would still mourn the loss, but would have so much more to offer them as we each went into the next season of our lives. I would be so full of other things I’d allowed into my life, that the passing of that season wouldn’t consume me.
Sweet girls, don’t buy into the lie. We are called to take care of ourselves so that we can set out to do the work God has for us. We honor those we love when we respect ourselves enough to take care of our own needs (and sometimes wants).
So you know where I started?
With new underwear.
And you know what? It was the most fun-filled shopping trip I’ve ever had. Hands down. Because not only did I get rid of that drawer of undies-past-their-prime, but I got rid of the guilt. I refused to accept it anymore. And decided from that day forward that it was ok to take care of myself, to remember the things I once enjoyed, and even to make a plan that went beyond mothering my children.
And the undies? Some even had lace on them, people. Actual. Lace.
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