A mother with small children—I’ll call her Katie—sent me a question:
Recently a friend, an older woman in my life, has been urging me to “take care of myself” and not to “lose myself” in mothering. I know this is for a season—my children will not be little forever—and I know this is where the Lord has me. I have no desire to bring anything else onto my plate of being a wife and mom. Did you have people tell you similar things? If so, how did you respond to them?
I am happy to try and answer any question that you have, and honored that you would ask! Your question reveals the grace of God in your life in the form of humility and wisdom and I pray that you feel the Lord’s pleasure. Here are a few thoughts that came to mind when I read your text. I hope they prove helpful!
First, let me say that it is obvious that your friend loves you, cares for you, and wants the best for you—and that’s very meaningful. What a blessing to have a friend who is so affectionate and supportive. Although I don’t believe her advice reflects biblical wisdom, I don’t want that to take away from her heart for you, which I believe is sincere. I’m sure you know this even better than I do.
It is clear to me by your question that you already understand that you are in a season—one of the most intense seasons of your life! When I look back on my years as a mother, the seasons with small children and with teenagers were the two most exhausting—and rewarding—times in my life. When we understand the biblical principle that life is lived in seasons (and it’s obvious you do!), we know that this time won’t last forever. This intense season will come to an end and a new one will begin. This helps us to endure the tiredness—it won’t last forever! And it helps us to seize and enjoy the opportunities and rewards—for they won’t be here forever, either.
But to live this season of motherhood to the fullest will require “losing yourself.” It’s part of the bargain. So far from being something to regret, losing yourself is the ultimate goal of motherhood. It gets to the heart of what it means to serve Christ. Actually, the very worry your friend has for you—that you might “lose yourself—is actually something that is commended and encouraged in multiple places in Scripture. For example, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:40). When you’ve lost your life, you’ve truly found it. In biblical logic, when you lose you win. Now, this certainly flies in the face of popular advice such as your friend has received and is seeking (with the best of intentions) to pass on to you. You are a discerning woman and you detect the lie embedded in this potentially attractive advice. But we are all vulnerable, which is why I would encourage you to do a Bible study of your own to strengthen your conviction and to encourage you as you persevere. Studying Scripture always helped me in seasons of weariness or doubt in motherhood, when everyone else seemed to be absorbing feminist ideology and I would wonder if it was all worth it. I would go back to Scripture to strengthen my convictions. Here are just a few verses to get you started. You find it in every gospel and sometimes more than once (Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33, John 12:25). Paul also covers this in Philippians (2:4-7). One of my favorite verses is in Isaiah which describes God’s care for those who care for others (Isa. 58:10-11). Those are just a few places to get you started, and I pray that they will serve your soul.
Finally, one thing I want to add by way of qualification—by “losing yourself” I don’t mean that you shouldn’t try to take care of yourself. Obviously, Scripture does not talk about denying ourselves to the neglect of basic care of our bodies and souls. You need rest—as much as you can get right now—and you need refreshment for your soul. So while I would wholeheartedly encourage you to continue to “lose yourself” for the sake of your children, I would also encourage you not to neglect sufficient rest and refreshment so you can serve your family even more effectively. So maybe consider, What are one or two things I can make sure I put or keep in my life that help strengthen me spiritually, physically, and emotionally? Maybe you need regular times alone to read a good book that encourages your soul. Maybe you need to be sure you get regular times with your husband, without the children. These are not selfish strategies, but rather intentional times of refreshment to strengthen you for service.
Katie, let me close by encouraging you again. It is obvious by your text and by your life that you have set your course in a God-honoring direction. I believe the Lord is pleased by your humility, your sacrifice, and your care for your family. I am praying that God would strengthen you and give you much encouragement. If there is any other way I can serve you, it would be my joy and delight.