Charlotte Mason, mother culture

Self-Care and Mother Culture

Self-care has been a concept that I’ve been bombarded with a lot over the past couple of years. I think the first time I heard it was when we were fostering two older children: our senior pastor in Singapore who also fosters and adopts children emphasized that advice over and over every time we talked on the phone. And I must admit, my first instinct was always to brush it off as something good but not really necessary.

Fast forward two years later, and I’m now intentionally carving out time every week to make sure I do “self-care.”

But I’ve been mulling over it for sometime. I have a few questions:

Is it only now that we’re middle-aged and still rushing about with lots of cares and responsibilities that me-time is becoming more precious? A young single friend who’s just started working told me recently that she needs more me-time, being swamped with work daily and lots of social events after work. Does that mean everyone needs it?

Is it only for those who are on the verge of what experts call “compassion fatigue” who need it? I hear it a lot among experts in fields of “mercy work” including what we do in fostering and adoption, as we are pouring into children who came from pasts that inevitably affected their emotional makeup. But then again, any form of caring for others can lead to burnout if not properly handled—-my husband always loves the illustration of the plane stewardess demonstrating the right way of putting on the oxygen mask in times of emergency: putting on one’s face mask first before helping a child put on his mask.

Meanwhile, I’m realizing how harried a lifestyle we are currently living, particularly with mobile access everywhere. As someone whose work is predominantly done online, I feel like it’s even harder to get rest—emails can come anytime of the day, and as I flick through my phone and they come, I can answer them anytime, anywhere. Yes, there are advantages, but in terms of taking time off, it’s harder. I mean, think about it: in ages past, people would work at the office 8 to 5, then come home and spend time with their families—my favorite picture is sitting before the fireplace (though we don’t need a fireplace where I live!) with the mom knitting, the dad reading, the kids tinkering with their own stuff like crochet or whittling! Haha. Now, so many of us work online, or have businesses run online, but even those whose work is essentially at the office, we are all at the beck and call of anyone who messages us on Facebook or through text. And we let them!

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But does that mean self-care is a new concept, only especially needed by our generation?

I was tempted to believe that, and feeling almost proud as I recommend it, as though we’ve stumbled upon something NEW.

BUT… I couldn’t help thinking about what Charlotte Mason herself advocated, something that the PNEU calls “Mother Culture.” She encourages mothers to keep growing as a person by pursuing her own intellectual growth. In fact, her explanation was that, it’s no wonder children tend to grow up despising their mothers because while the children went through the years growing and learning, and fathers also grow and learn while they work, mothers tend to stagnate as they go through the season of motherhood.

For me, that reminds me that while I’m a mother, I’m still an individual—just as every child is born a person, I’m also a PERSON myself, apart from my role as a mother.

This really impacted me, and my personal journey back to growing as a person can probably be traced back to when I started pre-reading my son’s homeschool living books: it started with the goal of being able to discuss things with him (again, note my deep connection to my role as a homeschooling mom!), but I started realizing I was benefiting from it myself. And since then I’ve continued reading the different living books recommended in Ambleside Online, the free curriculum we’re using, not just for school purposes but for my own personal growth. I’ve also continued doing handicraft, painting and nature study, and playing musical instruments—all things that I’ve clearly enjoyed when I was a child but have not really spent time on ever since I became a mom.

Why am I talking about this? I can’t help feeling that CM’s Mother Culture can very well equate to the modern-day encouragement of self-care. Which means that it’s actually NOT a new concept, but something that everyone, and probably most especially moms, tends to forget. I know I have!

So… whereas a few months ago, I tend to ask my hubby for my me-time only when I’m on the verge of exploding, or when I’ve already been cranky and snappish with the kids for days, these days, I’m intentionally carving out at least once a week time for myself—-just sitting over a cup of hot chai tea, journalling, or reading, or sometimes blogging. I don’t wait anymore for me to get all exhausted and stressed, and instead intentionally schedule it—which includes getting a babysitter. (Somehow, the hesitation of leaving the kids with someone else shows me my struggle with wanting always to be in control! But that’s a topic for another day *wink!)

And the result? It’s done wonders! Every time I come back from my self-care/me-time/mother culture time, I’m refreshed, in a better emotional state, less sensitive, and over-all better able to pour into my kids. I think it’s a win-win, don’t you? 🙂


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