By Jaclyn Weidner
It doesn’t matter if you were president of the Babysitters Club, had 5 younger siblings or read every baby book on the market, there is simply nothing that fully prepares you for the 24/7 on-demand, 180’ life-change that is motherhood.
The number one shock to my system after becoming a mom was my lack of “free” time. I progressively had 1, 2, and then 3 little people permanently attached to my side nearly everywhere I went. So as each child acquired the freedom-gifting ability to take a bottle, I gained a few hours of coveted, solo, “me" time. The world was my oyster! I could go anywhere I wanted! (within a 20 minute radius)
So where would I go? What would I do? The endless possibilities truly delighted my soul.
But really now, what was I going to do? Where was I going to go? Did I actually have enough energy to get out of the house and go somewhere? Maybe I could just take a nap instead…
Often, I found myself with a pocket of free time and absolutely no idea how to spend these precious hours. 90% of the time I ended up grabbing a coffee and hitting up a grocery store, preferably one with a clothing section. I would peruse the endless aisles of kids clothes, home decor, random grocery items, and simply enjoy the bliss of solo shopping.
And it was truly fantastic. Until it wasn’t.
I realized sadly one night as I schlepped the groceries from the car to the house that I had once again spent my coveted solo time simply running errands for my family. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the efficiency of solo errands. I also love having every single item we could ever possibly want or need on hand just in case we experience a natural disaster…however, I wasn’t really using my time very wisely. I wasn’t caring for my soul.
One of the most important things I have learned as a mom is there are many things I can do with my kids in tow but some things I can only do well without them. I can go grocery shopping with them, but I can’t really practice soul care in their presence.
Time is one of the most valuable things we possess as mothers and I was sick of wasting mine; throwing away valuable soul enriching hours on mindless errands.
It took me awhile to figure out how to remedy this. Did it mean booking myself doctor appointments during that time, or meeting a friend for coffee? Sometimes the options felt paralyzing and I needed a system to make quick and easy decisions.
I realized it often helps to ask myself a simple question or two.
First - Will this feed my soul? Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed and undone by the chaos of my children and my home, I just need to be alone. I love spending time with friends, but sometimes a creatively curated playdate can accomplish this need for connection. And yes, returning that item to the store would check something off my to-do list, but maybe I can do that later with the kids or ask my husband to return it for me.
Sometimes we are so used to operating in a certain way it can take some time to form new habits. We need to re-train ourselves how to be. One of my girlfriends has been a mom for over 10 years. I saw a red flag for her when she chose to spend her precious few solo birthday hours at Costco buying groceries. This was a wake up call for her as, through tears, she realized she did not prioritize herself, even on her own birthday.
If I answered no to question 1, then I ask question 2 - What would feed my soul? As I mentioned before, old habits die hard, and if you are someone that values productivity or efficiency, this may not make a lot of sense. It can feel backward in a world that values checking boxes and staying busy. I am formerly known as the queen of the “to-do” list, Ms. Efficiency, and highly productive. I used to get a thrill over seeing how many errands I could accomplish in a short amount of time.
The problem is that it did nothing for me, nothing to feed my soul; and it led to a lot of dying inside.
Choosing to care for my soul first has radically changed my life and all of my relationships. I am more peaceful, joyful and content. I have a deeper connection to God, as this time is primarily spent in His presence to pray, listen and to simply be. Often, I find myself practicing soul care while going for a walk, but sometimes it is in a coffee shop or in my bedroom. The point isn’t always “where” I am as much as it is that I am taking care of my deepest need.
It is also different than “self-care.” Self-care will care for my body; it includes rest, showers, going to a movie, and hanging out with girlfriends. And I LOVE self-care! But self-care will only take you so far, we’re talking about our souls. The deep places inside of us. The places that hurt, experience pain, loss, doubt and discouragement. How do we care for those places? The answer used to be “online shopping,” “Netflix binges,” or a “glass of wine.” None of those things are bad necessarily on their own, but when I am using them to care for my soul, I will inevitably fall short. They are merely bandaids for a deeper longing. A deeper place of pain. I have to reach into that place to care for that place. The only one who can truly care for my soul is the One who made it.
Jaclyn is a part-time high school teacher, and full-time mom to 3 energetic and talkative little girls. She loves to dive deep in conversation to get to the good stuff. In the words of her 4 year old she’s “just a little bit funny”. Her and her husband Brendan live just outside of Vancouver, Canada. Check her out on Instagramand Facebook.