One of the most challenging things for my husband and I since we became parents has been trying to find time for anything other than work and things that concern our children. From the moment they became ours, our children consumed our life. In all fairness, I love the gift that they are and nothing brings greater joy than being able to go to bed knowing we gave our all at parenting. But it’s exhausting. And even if your children are sleeping through the night, doesn’t mean it’s any less exhausting.

Each phase of a child’s life brings new variables and demands that drain us. From conversations with other parents, it seems that very few of us have prioritized our own self-care. We pour out of an empty well and wonder why we’re irritable, stressed, and crash the moment the house settles down each night.

Prior to children, before getting too deep into my day, I would spend time with God each morning. I used to exercise consistently. I hung out with friends all the time. My husband and I were avid movie-goers. I would shop at several different grocery stores and even the Farmer’s Market. And, I used to paint and my canvases never sat unfinished collecting dust. Now, life is so much different.

It’s not that I became a mother and lost interest in all of those things. I just didn’t know how to fit them into what had become my life. The most pressing thing before me was my family, so that got my attention. And it has gotten my attention every day. Pre-children, with very little effort, I had fallen into a routine doing the things I loved. But post-children, to keep doing those things would require more intentionality than before. A sort of intentionality that even just a sprinkle of mom-guilt could not disrupt.

Things may look different for you than it does for me, but I’ve found great company with God right in my car as I commute from one place to another. It might take my husband and I two days to watch a movie, but the kid-free time spent together is priceless. I’ve had to stop feeling guilty about hanging out with friends after work. The gym is centrally located between my daughter’s school and my house, such a great detour on days I work from home. I have had to learn to communicate my needs, even if it’s a moment right in my house full of people, but alone in my bedroom.

By no means do I have it all figured out. Let’s just make that clear. However, what I have noticed is that my family will always be a pressing thing before me. And if I want to be a healthy person (spiritually & physically) who is in healthy relationships then some changes had to be made. Sometimes it’s a struggle to really learn that just because we choose ourselves, doesn’t mean we are neglecting our family. In fact, it places us in a position to offer an even greater love because the place from which we are pouring is full and not depleted.