[Editor's note: The thought of starting to take better care of yourself can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. These interviews feature individuals who have successfully incorporated self-care into their daily routines. Read them, be inspired by them, and take on the challenge of self-care!]
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHO YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO.
I am a Catholic wife and mother who also happens to be a freelance writer and speaker. I was a high school theology teacher for nine years until I got married. I am a Texan and very proud to be one. I’m a “Double Domer”, meaning that I have two degrees--both in theology--from the University of Notre Dame. I’ve been interested in and passionate about learning about my faith and sharing it with others since I was a child, so teaching theology was literally my dream job.
As a blogger, I’ve written a lot more about my personal experience and what God has done in my life as opposed to theological concepts (there are plenty of bloggers who do that already). I’ve been single for most of my adult life--from 18-32--and I feel like that’s really where the Lord has called me to share and encourage other women in their struggles with waiting on their vocation and to make that waiting fruitful. Now that I’m married with a baby, I am so thankful that I lived my single years so fully; I can honestly say that I don’t regret much (aside from bad dating relationships) about my single years.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
It starts with my son Joseph getting up between 4 and 5 AM. I nurse him and then my husband, Kristian, takes him so I can sleep for a couple more hours. Then I wake up, eat breakfast, pray with Joseph in my lap (I often use the Magnificat) and then we go for a walk so Joseph can get his first nap in. I try to get together with a mom friend at least once or twice a week so that I’m not always by myself with Joseph in the house (although I love our house!). And, while he naps (about 3 times a day), I will read, rest, or post on Instagram. My days are very slow and simple now -serving God by keeping Joseph happy and alive and loving my husband well are my two biggest priorities .
My alone time has never been so precious, and these days it only happens after Joseph goes to bed in the evening. When I can, I read, watch a show, listen to a podcast, try to exercise (in addition to my morning walk). I see my family at least once a week, which is such a blessing. My husband is currently working two jobs but will be leaving one of them soon, so Kristian and I will be able to have dinner together each day, which will be wonderful. Kristian is very hands-on with Joseph and whenever he can, he gives me a break so I can clean, cook, or rest.
It’s difficult to quantify what I do--or what any stay-at-home-mom does--in a day. I highly recommend the book “What Mother’s Do Especially When It Looks Like Nothing”, because it helped me understand why this is. Mothers do so much each day, but it’s still hard to answer the “What did you do today?” question, because “I kept my baby alive” sounds like a cop out. But it’s really the most accurate answer! I feel like I’ve never worked harder than I have as a mom in terms of always being “on”. As a teacher, I had breaks and time to myself in the evenings and on weekends. My time was still my own to a large degree; even when I was grading, I could do it in a coffee shop or sitting by a pool or something. Joseph needs my attention all the time because he’s still an infant, and I know that as we (God willing) continue to add children to our family, the need to be “on” is only going to increase. At the end of the day, I’m way more tired than I ever was as a teacher, because all of my energy is being spent each day in service of my family.
That’s why self-care is so important. I think it’s really easy to burnout even with one baby. We live in a strange moment in Time, because women who don’t work outside the home are expected to be everything to their children 24/7. The “village” that used to help women care for their children no longer exists, except for a fortunate few. I try to incorporate my extended family, especially my parents, into my mothering as well as spend time with other moms of young kids. When Joseph is a bit older, I’ll definitely ask my parents to watch him for a few hours here and there so I can write, read, or just run errands alone. Right now, the only time I get time to write is when my husband is home and takes Joseph. My greatest passion is teaching/speaking, and I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate that into my life as a mom.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SELF-CARE PRACTICE?
There are a couple of things: exercise (walking and HIIT workouts are my go-tos) and prayer, specifically journaling. I make it a goal to do an intensive workout three times a week, and most weeks I’m fairly successful, because Joseph thinks it’s funny to watch me. The thing I miss most in terms of prayer is that I don’t have time/energy to journal each day anymore. On Sundays we try to get to Mass a little early and Kristian holds Joseph so that I can get some journaling time in. I love telling the Lord what’s going on in my life because it’s a concrete way to experience an intimacy with him. It makes my week so much better. The few times I’ve been able to get to daily Mass have been very restorative as well.
One of the little luxuries that I used to take for granted but now cherish is being able to shower, blow dry my hair, AND put on makeup without being interrupted. This only happens when Kristian is home, but it’s such a treat.
Self-care for me also includes caring for my relationship with my husband. It was hard to adjust to how little time it felt like Kristian and I had with each other once Joseph was born. Now that Joseph is going to bed on his own and sleeps fairly well, we have more time to be together in the evenings but in the beginning it felt like that would never happen again. The first few months of motherhood were very very daunting and I felt very overwhelmed, even with all of the help I had from my mom and other family and friends.
IS THERE ANY AREA THAT YOU STRUGGLE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF? HOW DO YOU WANT TO GROW IN THAT AREA?
My life has never been about me (Christian life is never about you) but I’ve never felt that so keenly as I have as a mom. I’m still trying to surrender this on a daily basis because it is difficult to give of yourself 24/7, but there’s also so much joy and a payoff from being a mom. It’s just a totally different mentally. I think that the transition to motherhood is the most difficult transition to go through, whether you’re 22 or 33 (like I was). No matter how service oriented you were before you had a baby, nothing can truly prepare you for motherhood. It seems to me that it’s something you can only learn by doing.
That said, I definitely want to figure out how to incorporate more prayer into my life. I’d love to attend daily mass, go to confession bi-monthly, and pray daily 30 minutes. But I’ve learned to offer so many things throughout my day to the Lord as a prayer. Haley Stewart wrote a beautiful post about this called “Praying with My Feet”. She talked about how she was struggling with caring for young kids and figured out how she could offer those things to the Lord as a prayer.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF WHEN IT COMES TO SELF-CARE?
Go to therapy! And be honest with your therapist. Don’t just go and try to be the perfect client. That would my number one thing. Also, clean your room. That may sound silly, but I was a total slob when I was single and it wasn’t healthy. The state of my living space really did affect my spiritual and mood. It both reflected and contributed to the disorder in my heart and mind. When I started to clean my room regularly, it was a huge step forward in terms of my mental and spiritual health.
Coffee or tea?
I prefer decaf coffee to hot tea, but I have to say tea because kombucha is my favorite drink, bar none. I actually brew my own (it’s way cheaper that way) and drink it every day.
Current favorite TV show and/or podcast?
TV show: Call the Midwife
Podcasts: The Catholic Feminist, 99% Invisible, Do Something Beautiful, Messy Parenting (Catholic couple with 10 kids), Wellness Mama’s Healthy Moms Podcast), The Simple Show, Fountains of Carrots, and Catholic Stuff You Should Know.
Early bird or night owl?
I’m not really either, in the sense that I’m at my best mid-morning. I thought I was a morning person until I met my husband, who gets up at 5 AM pretty regularly--which is great for me because he gets his daddy-son time then and I get to sleep a bit more.
Pope Benedict XVI “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.”
Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
I’m an almond butter person, but definitely crunchy.