When You Have No Time For Yourself

posted by Andrea | 07/15/2016
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white lilies

TRUE STORY: These white lilies once flowered in the gardens of my Great-Grandparent’s dairy farm. After the farm was sold in the 80’s, the flowers made their way around to various relative’s gardens; and earlier this year, we transplanted a handful of them into 3 different spots in OUR garden!

Isn’t that such a cool piece of history that we will hopefully enjoy for years and years to come! 

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What you can’t see in the picture above though… is that these beautifully flowering lilies don’t actually look that great when you see the entire plant.

dying lilies

The reason the lily plants are brown and wilted is because I transplanted them in mid-spring (out of necessity) so they were already about a foot tall when I dug them up. We also had an unseasonably hot spring… and I didn’t do the best job of watering them 🙂

I wasn’t surprised when my newly transplanted lilies started to droop and sag a bit, or when the leaves started turning brown — and I certainly didn’t expect them to flower this year.

However, as I walked through our yard a couple weeks ago, I noticed that even after all my neglect, the lilies were actually blooming!

Yes, the stalks and leaves were still completely brown and withered — but that’s because all the plant’s energy went into producing its beautiful flowers!

white lilies

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This might sound kind of crazy, but when I noticed the withered (yet still flowering) lilies, I instantly thought about my motherhood journey.

You see, those lilies LOOK the way I have sometimes FELT.

Many times, I have felt physically withered and worn out — with stretch marks, saggy skin, bags under my eyes, a very tired brain, and a sore back from lifting kids all day long.

Some days I feel like every single ounce of my energy is poured into my children, my marriage, my home, my business, my friends, and my community (the flowers and fruits of my labor) leaving my own body tired, withered, and lifeless.

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Since becoming a mom in 2011, I have definitely lowered my standards for myself and given up a lot of things I used to enjoy. I sleep less, I do less, I get out less, I see friends less, I exercise less (really, not at all), I spend much less time on myself… but I’m truly OK with that right now.

I am fully aware that I’m in a the season of life where most of my energy is spent making sure my young children are fed, clean, warm, dry, safe, and happy.

I honestly do NOT feel stressed out, nor do I feel like I have too much on my plate (you know I say “no” to a lot these days). But as many of you can relate, taking care of 3 small children, a home, a yard, and a business all day, every day is a lot of work!

I know the “experts” say that as mothers, we must take care of ourselves first to assure we can properly meet the needs of everyone else… and I believe this is true. However, I doubt there is a mother (or even any responsible adult) out there who has NEVER neglected her own needs for the sake of her family or another loved one. 

This is not because we’re trying to please everyone all the time. It’s not because we’re looking for a reward, recognition, or sympathy. And it’s certainly not because we don’t have anything else we want to do.

It’s just what we do!

  • We stay up late, we wake up early, and we’re up all hours of the night.
  • We let everyone else choose first and we eat cold food ALL THE TIME.
  • We do without, we make sacrifices, and we say “yes” too often.
  • We rock sick babies until our arms feel like they might fall off.
  • We calm nerves, we wipe tears, we kiss boo-boo’s, and we make everything better (at least for the 5 and under crowd!)

Yes, there are hard days (and weeks and months).

There are times when I literally hand the kids to Dave when he walks in the door after school just so I can get 15 minutes to myself to think. There are times when I wished I worked outside the home and had the “luxury” of a few child-free hours during the day. There are times when I wish my home would stay clean for more than a few minutes. There are times when I wish I had more of a social life (yes, even as an introvert). And of course, there are times I wish I could eat my hot food in peace and quiet!

But I have a feeling that in a few more years, my children won’t be so completely dependent on me for every single thing (Nora is becoming quite independent already) and I’ll get just a tiny bit more “me time”.

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If you are in a season with very little time for yourself, just remember that even though it might seem like a LOOOOOOONG season, it will not last forever.

I thought I’d never make it through the first 2 years with Nora basically attached to me 24/7 — but I did! And although I still don’t have massive amounts of me time, I now get to enjoy a couple hours of quiet after the kids go to bed at night.

I usually use this time to clean the house, finish the laundry, prepare for the next day, write blog posts, or work in the garden — not necessarily glamorous, but at least it’s quiet!

Also, every once in awhile, I’ll toss my to-do list for the night, watch a Netflix movie while eating a special snack, take a nice hot shower, and go to bed early. Little things like that are just enough to keep me going even while most of my time and energy is given to other people and responsibilities.

I don’t think my Great-Grandparents’ lilies could survive if I neglected them year after year; but one season with a little less care and attention doesn’t seem to have affected their blooms all that much.

Just like the lilies, we can’t completely neglect our needs forever; but for short seasons of life, it often seems that pushing SOME of our own needs to the side is simply inevitable.

I know some of you will disagree with me, and that’s OK.

But for those of you who have shoved your own needs and wants to the side in order to devote more time and energy to caring for elderly parents or a sick spouse, living through intense home renovations, working multiple jobs, pursuing an advanced degree, climbing the corporate ladder… or taking care of multiple little people every day, just know that you are NOT alone!

These situations require us to make sacrifices for a while — but not forever.

If the lilies can survive… we can too!

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And speaking of time for yourself… I’m taking my annual summer blogging break. I’m stepping away from the blog until August — what should I do with my extra ‘free time’?!?!

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61 comments

  1. Jenny

    07/25/2016

    I really enjoy your approach to life and that you have clear priorities. I feel like you are one of the rare bloggers who don’t try to project an image of perfection and it is very refreshing. Have a good blogging break!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Jenny!

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  2. JoAnn C.

    07/19/2016

    I loved this post, Andrea. As a full-time caregiver of my elderly mom, I’m glad I’m not alone in putting some of my needs aside in order to make mom happy and try to meet as many of her needs as possible. After all she did it for me and my siblings for many years. I’m grateful for this time I have with mom and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    Thanks, enjoy your time off.

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  3. Laura

    07/19/2016

    When my kids were 2 1/2 and newborn I craved alone time. Quiet, alone time with my hands free to do whatever ‘I’ choose for them to do. I can remember asking the Lord multiple times for just an hour of alone time. My husband was gone for work Sunday to Thursday and those times never came, until the night I realized that God was answering my prayer. I had begun waking up around 2 am and would be unable to fall back to sleep until about 3:15. Naturally I started praying that I would be able to fall back to sleep because I needed sleep – and then I realized that God was giving me quiet, alone time. That began about a two year run of my alone time at 2 am. I would slip out of bed, head to the recliner, read, pray, make lists, respond to emails, research online, surf Facebook and whatever else I could do without disturbing my kids. It felt amazing! Most days i didn’t miss that hour of sleep because another need had been met. Motherhood changes everything, but being able to embrace the change and work with it is so freeing. To the mom looking for ‘me’ time: take a hard look at where you can get it. I guarantee it won’t look like it used to but there are ways to recharge yourself.

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    Andrea Reply:

    THis is SO great Laura — thanks so much for sharing your story. And yes, just 1 hour of alone time can do wonders! I can’t even imagine being “alone” with kids from Sunday – Thursday. Sometimes I don’t realize how much I’m looking forward to when Dave gets home — if he’s even 20 minutes late, I feel stressed and frazzled 🙂

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  4. Karen Davis

    07/18/2016

    Andrea, if you could take 1 day an be in nature, along a river or be near the sound of water, and walk in it with a friend, husband or alone, it restores your soul. I just got back from Colorado and walked around the mountains and rivers and it was so beautiful and peaceful. Not sure what you have nearby but it did wonders for me, enjoy your break from blogging! You will be missed. Sincerely Karen

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  5. Avia

    07/18/2016

    This is a great post. Sometimes I feel pressure to take time for myself and it just adds to the stress. But on that note; last night DH was out of town and both kids were asleep at an unusually early time of 7:30 and I had the house to myself for the whole evening. It was glorious. There’s light at the end of the tunnel!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Honestly, I TOTALLy agree with you! Sometimes trying to make time for myself just adds stress to my life because I feel pressure to relax and have fun… when I’d rather just take a shower and go to bed or work on a house project 🙂

    Also, I’m totally jealous that you had the house to yourself for a whole night — what a treat!

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  6. Liz

    07/17/2016

    Thank you for this post. My brother is severely autistic – can’t talk, not toilet trained etc (he’s 28, I’m 25) and it’s been amazing watching my parents persevere though this. My parents are tired and worn out and he’s never going to grow up. I have enjoyed reading your posts and seeing you enjoy your children. It makes it easier to understand why my parents love my brother, as all I can see is how worn out he makes my parents and how he doesn’t understand how he’s hurting them.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome Liz!
    Your parents sound amazing — I can only imagine how much love and patience they have for your brother. What a difficult journey for them.

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  7. Debby

    07/16/2016

    Enjoy your time off Andrea!!

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  8. Sarai

    07/16/2016

    I laughed out loud when mentioned wanting more of a social life as an introvert. That has been my last two weeks! My little bit is almost 10 months old, and going non-stop. Thankfully, my husband kept her for a good half hour so I could go to the library alone (and get “people who aren’t tiny” time, lol.) And today we just talked about how this is, indeed, a season for now. Thank you so much for this post. It is so encouraging to hear another mom affirm my feelings, and be living proof that it does get better.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, it does get better! It’s much more fun and rewarding once the kids are a bit older and can show excitement and appreciation for what you do!

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  9. Stacie

    07/16/2016

    Enjoy your time off Andrea!!! Looking forward to your blogs when you return! ☀️

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  10. Lynn Arnsdorf

    07/15/2016

    …good for you, take some time off! I enjoy your blog, it keeps me in tune with young moms (I own a Montessori preschool) and I get great ideas from you! You really do seem to have your priorities in order. Your lilies…they bloomed because they have the love and support of your great grandparents. It’s in their DNA

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lynn 🙂

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  11. Lynda

    07/15/2016

    I totally agree. I feel the investment you make in your children now will “pay off” in the future… With well adjusted, caring, compassionate people. Enjoy your time away, hope you can indulge in some R&R 🙂

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  12. Meghan

    07/15/2016

    I agree completely – very well said!

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  13. Debbie

    07/15/2016

    Enjoy your time off from blogging! Even though I don’t have children I totally get what you’re saying. It must be innate for most women to be sacrificial and care for loved ones’ needs first before her own. I tell my mom to take care of herself by making sure she gets enough sleep now that she’s a caretaker of my dad. However, when there’s a break for her she instead cleans the house, prepares the next meal instead of getting extra sleep. I’m glad you taking time off to lessen the load. Looking forward to your next blog.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, you’re probably right — and I tend to function like your mom (always working, even during breaks). That’s sweet of you to look out for her though!

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  14. Sarah

    07/15/2016

    Thank you for sharing this today! I really needed it…and I cried all the way through it. I am in the season of 2 littles, one nursing, all day and holding down the fort while my husband is in dental school. These days can be very long, but I also see evidence of the good fruit of the sacrifices. I am thinking of printing a copy of one of your lily pics for my office as a reminder to not give up and to be ok with the cold coffee and sleepless nights…for now ☺
    Thanks again Andrea for all your encouragement to live simply. Your posts are most always so timely for me.
    Sarah from VA

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Sarah, sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now! I’ll email you a high-res picture of the lilies in just a minute 🙂
    Keep on keeping on! You can do it!

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    Sarah Reply:

    It’s been nearly a year since this post. Wow, time flies. I’ve remembered this encouragement so many times during the past year! Thank you again.
    We’re now in NM and so glad to be done with dental school! I continue to look forward to each new post on your blog, always encouraged to keep pressing forward.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha –yes, almost a year. Whew!
    And you know what, I JUST thought about this post yesterday when I was working in the yard. My lilies are coming up splendidly — you wouldn’t even know they were practically dead last summer 😉 And to be perfectly honest, I feel so much better this year than I did last year. It’s amazing how much more time I can find for myself with my kids each being one year older. I’m going to soak it all up for the next few months before another newborn rocks my world again!
    I’m glad you’re finished with the school part of your life too. Enjoy NM — I bet it’s really warm there right now!

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  15. Linda

    07/15/2016

    Great writing Andrea! Enjoy your break. Maybe if we all took breaks from reading all these great blogs we would be amazed at how much time we have for other important things…just a thought.

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    Andrea Reply:

    well, you can enjoy a little break from reading my blog for the next 2 weeks 🙂

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  16. Kim

    07/15/2016

    Such an awesome post, and one I really needed today! I hope you have a wonderful break and have some time to yourself. I love your blog and look forward to your return. Thank you for always inspiring us!

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  17. Mariangeles

    07/15/2016

    I really needed to read this today.
    My baby is almost 9 months old and I’m still struggling with my maternity…
    Thanks for your words.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you can do it! 9 months was always a hard time for me too. Give it a few more months and it will start to get more fun.

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  18. Leanne

    07/15/2016

    so good, Andrea! you are wise beyond your years! watch Netflix… stay in jammies all day and eat whatever you like… take a walk… go to Culvers…hug on your babies!
    after 3 years of homeschooling, my boys are going to school in August (we start early in Indiana!)… I had all these “thoughts” of all these great things I would take on…but the reality is I will probably keep a schedule so I can help and sub at their school… because that’s just what moms do sometimes… Its a good job…most of the time….
    however, this weekend, I have the WHOLE HOUSE to myself while everyone is at a Father-Son basketball camp… I’m hitting Target and Walmart tonight…and catching up on two chick flicks..and I might just have at treat, too!!
    Have a great break!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Leanne! I’m sure Culver’s and Netflix will be on the agenda for the next 2 weeks!

    As for you, enjoy having the house to yourself — what a dream come true (at least for me!)

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  19. Éva Pálné Zavanyi

    07/15/2016

    I love this post! So true!
    Enjoy your blog break, I’ll waiting for you from Hungary 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Éva!

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  20. Maria

    07/15/2016

    Loved this post; as always, so inspiring. I too can so relate to the lily analogy. I’m currently looking after my 2 grandsons (1 yr and 4 yrs) during the week and also have elderly parents to look after. Sometimes I feel completely exhausted, but as you say this ” won’t last forever”. Enjoy your break and your beautiful family. you deserve it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yup, you’re right in the middle of grandkids and aging parents — my parents are there too and my mom has spent A LOT of time taking care of her dad and a single aunt over the past 5 years. You can do it!

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  21. Jessica

    07/15/2016

    Thank you for this one! Exactly what I needed to hear!

    Enjoy your break– we’ll all still be here when you get back!

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Jessica — I’m excited for the break, but I know I’ll be excited to get back to blogging again!

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  22. Kellie

    07/15/2016

    Thank you! I’m literally reading/writing this while I rock a sick 1-year-old and I am exhausted! All your words hit very close to home. This is so encouraging – thanks for giving me a bit more energy to get through the day – ha! It’s all perspective, of course. These hard days are also some of the sweetest days. Great post.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh no — feel better soon sweet babe (your mama needs some rest!)

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  23. JJ

    07/15/2016

    You are an encourager! Wishing you an awesome break! I totally relate. One day I was driving {alone!?!} and the song Slow Down came on. I was a mess. Haha! These are busy but fun years. My toes may not be perfectly polished, as I have the petrified polish look. I am owning it, though! Haha! Yes, it is an honor to let some things go to soak up the moments.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, that’s a great song!

    Also, would you believe that if I ever drive along, I drive in COMPLETE SILENCE!

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  24. Iliana

    07/15/2016

    Very insightful post!
    Enjoy your well-deserved break!

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  25. Rachel

    07/15/2016

    “Consider the Lilies” Beautiful post. Enjoy your blogging break.

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  26. Kris

    07/15/2016

    I totally relate! We too just got lilies in our garden at our new home that originally belonged to my husband’s grandma. They were special to her when she was alive at her home (actually in the same town as us now), got split and some transferred to my mother-in-law in another town an hour away, and then recently split again and some given to us – that ended up back in the same town they started. It really is cool how the “stayed in the family” all those years and are so hearty. And I love your fabulous comparison – spot on! Enjoy your break. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    What is it with lilies? I know a bunch of people who have transplanted them from parents and grandparents. They are so cheap to buy — but there is just something cool about getting them passed down from a relative!

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  27. Melissa

    07/15/2016

    Great post, Andrea! As always, you spoke directly to me. Enjoy your blogging break and time with your family!

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  28. Jean

    07/15/2016

    Go to Meijer Gardens and hang out in the Japanese garden and hear yourself think – by yourself. Then have lunch at Marie Catrib’s (1001 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids) and treat yourself to their wonderful food and deli. Do some consignment clothes/house shopping at Gild the Lilly in Rockford. Eat at Ramona’s Table (downtown Rockford) by the river outside. Make sure you have one of their fabulous desserts!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — this is so thought out (and sounds like so much fun). Maybe I’ll just pick one or two things to do so I don’t get too overwhelmed 🙂

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  29. Karen

    07/15/2016

    Beautiful post!!

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  30. Tracey

    07/15/2016

    Awesome post! I totally appreciate your analogy with the lily!! Even more so because they represent your heritage, as well, having come from your grandma’s garden. The symbolism is great on so many levels. This 46 year old mom of two young teens is always so inspired and impressed at how you’re living your life. You amaze me!!

    Enjoy your well-deserved blogging break!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thank you so much Tracey! I appreciate your kind words and encouragement.

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  31. Jen

    07/15/2016

    As a mom of older kids, who fondly remembers those long days with ZERO “me time”, I always say “Every stage has its pros and cons.” I absolutely love being a mom to adults and teenagers (don’t let anyone tell you it’s awful-because it’s NOT!), but I DO miss those days of diapers and bedtimes and constant neediness too. Just like your lilies go through seasons, our lives and our parenting do the same! The key is to enjoy each season for what is-the good and the bad-and look expectantly toward the good-and bad-that will come with the next season. 🙂 You’re doing a great job!

    Enjoy your well-deserved break and your sweet family!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for this Jen. I do agree that EVERY season of life has pros and cons — there is no “perfect” season of life without challenges.
    Also, you can come to our house for a few dozen diaper changes any time you want 🙂

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  32. mara

    07/15/2016

    This is an AWESOME post!! I love that other women are focusing on “putting themselves first” but there are times in life right now where I’d rather skip painting my nails or watching a show to make my grocery list and fold the last load of wash!! ENJOY your break, I’ll be in the archives 😉 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    I can’t even remember the last time I painted my nails — maybe for high school prom?? There are 5000 things I’d rather do than paint my nails, yet I have friends who swear the MOST relaxing thing they can do for themselves is get a pedicure once a month. Whatever works, I guess 🙂

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  33. Bev @ The Make Your Own Zone

    07/15/2016

    I love how you found such a true life lesson in your garden. A picture is worth a thousand words and sometimes all of us feel like those lilies. I needed this word of encouragement too being in the season of life with elderly parents. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy the blogging break. Maybe there will be another West MI Blogger meeting soon that we can go to!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Bev — and yes, we need to have another meet-up SOON!

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  34. Vicky

    07/15/2016

    Love your blog! I teach, so totally understand both roles of working and staying at home! My 2 kids will both be in college next year! I’m not looking forward to it! Yes, my house will be clean, but I sure miss them after they are home all summer!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Vicky! Enjoy the next few weeks with your older kids!

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  35. Kelly

    07/15/2016

    Enjoy your break. You deserve it!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Kelly!

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