As a busy Mamma, everyone tells you the value – no, the necessity – of taking time out for yourself. It would be impossible to manage the amount of giving, doing, looking after and caring for others that motherhood requires of us without having the opportunity to refuel at times.
If you read any popular magazines, particularly those aimed at women (and especially those directed at mothers), you’re bound to find articles about making time for ‘me’. Many of them will offer advice about how to find the time, and the necessity of doing so, as well as what to do when you have given yourself that time. Spas feature heavily in this type of article, and no wonder; what could be more appealing to someone whose life revolves around caring for other people than to go somewhere or do something that involves pampering for herself. And I’m not trying to persuade you that there’s anything particularly wrong with that – I’m even hoping for a spa gift certificate for Mother’s Day (that’s a hint, West!) – but what I wonder is, with all the marketing of this practice, does it really live up to the hype?
Taking time away from your regular life to re-set, re-focus, refuel, restore, and relax is a valuable practice. God thought so, anyway, which is why he created the Sabbath – and since I’ve thrown my lot in with him I’m inclined to agree about setting aside some space in my life for this purpose.
But here’s the trouble with ‘me’ time, as it is defined by the world of advertising and ‘common’ sense:
It’s all about taking away.
‘Me’ time, by definition, is time taken away from your regular commitments – a ‘get-away’ from the ordinary routine – to focus on yourself.
I am for this – I, too, am inundated in my day-to-day life by the demands of a household, extra-curricular pursuits, and the voices, noises, and needs of other people. Somanyotherpeople. So ‘getting away’ from all of this for a temporary reprieve definitely seems to me to be a sanity-saver, and thus I am on board.
It’s not enough.
‘Me’ time is about stripping away the stresses of life; and as soon as you step back into position, you have as much on your plate as you had before. Any serenity you may have gained from being in a peaceful place or enjoying some pampering is fleeting once you re-join normal life.
I’ve done this calculation before, when I’ve had a gift certificate in my hot little hand and I’m working out when to go for this long-awaited pampering massage – I look at my calendar and I try to figure out when would be the best time to go so that I’d get the most relaxation out of it. Having a massage the day before one of my sons’ birthday parties, for instance, would be ludicrous. The very next day I’d be running around like a headless chicken, stressing out over the details and the cake… Similarly, I’d want to avoid going for my spa session just after a late night – what a waste it would be to fall asleep on the massage table and miss it altogether! A lot of decision-making goes into maximizing the relaxing effect of this ‘me’ time.
But then, no matter how hard I try to make that peace last, and no matter how carefully I have planned to keep that blissful feeling as long as possible – it’s over. The tension creeps back into my shoulders, something or someone is loud, irritating, or demanding – and I’m back where I started.
The trouble with ‘me’ time is that its effects are only temporary. It is only a temporary stripping away of those things that will inevitably catch up with us and overwhelm us yet again.
So what, then, can we do? What could possibly be more, and lastingly, restorative and refreshing?
We can have ‘God’ time.
We can spend time in prayer. We can read the Bible, a devotional, or an inspirational website; or we can attend a church service. We can retreat to a quiet corner of the house (or the car!) and turn up some worship tunes. We can get out for a walk alone and talk to God as we go.
The difference between ‘God’ time and ‘me’ time is that when we spend time with God and when we devote space in our lives to seeking his heart, we are truly restored; we are filled up, fortified and prepared to return to the demands of our everyday lives. We are given peace, contentment, hope and joy that don’t just evaporate with the first challenge that comes our way; instead, this ‘filling up’ continues as we return to our regular routines. When we spend ‘me’ time, we return to the fray with momentarily less; we’ve enjoyed a short and temporary shedding of our cares – but when we spend ‘God’ time, we step back into our lives with more.
‘God’ time doesn’t just take away our cares; it also furnishes us with the means of dealing with those burdens that sap our energy and increase our stress. We return from our quiet time restored, refreshed and equipped. Connecting with God charges us up so that our spiritual and emotional batteries don’t run on empty.
So the next time you’re craving some ‘me’ time – try some ‘God’ time, instead.