If I were able to give the “new mom me” one piece of advice, now that I have the perspective of almost twenty-five years of motherhood, I would tell young Becca to prioritize self-care. “I want to prioritize my baby and my husband and don’t want to be self-centered,” she might have said. “I want to give my life to others and be counter-cultural. After all, didn’t Jesus teach us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend?”
“Well, my young self . . . though your noble aspirations are good and right . . . let me tell you why you would be wise to take care of yourself:
Your life is the very first and most important gift God has given you, and you are the main gift you have to give to your family and the world. Taking good care of one’s gifts is an act of gratitude and stewardship that goes back to Adam and Eve when God entrusted them with dominion over the entirety of creation. Just as you care for your home and your belongings and manage your money, which are God’s gifts for your family’s sustenance, isn’t it even more important to care for the bearer and caregiver of your children? You are more precious to your family than anything you possess, so you need to provide them with a mother who is strong and ready for the demands of her task. Caring for oneself is not an act of selfishness aimed at self reliance, it is actually an act of prudence and justice towards the gifts you have been given.
Some are tempted to neglect their physical and mental health by placing all their reliance on grace in a purely spiritual way, but as our Catholic faith teaches us, we are both spiritual and physical beings, not just a spirit inhabiting a body. God intends to use all of us—our spirit and our body—to know, love, and serve him. As a mother, it will all be required of us. Therefore, you are wise to form and strengthen all aspects of yourself, being careful not to neglect your mind, which is mysteriously connected to your body and spirit. Although mental health seems less measurable than physical health, it is intricately connected and vital for both body and spirit. Please, do all that you can to be healthy and to seek help when you need it.
And finally, know that through your efforts you are not only cooperating with God to bring about the best version of the woman he created you to be, but you are also building the virtues that will bless your family as well as serve as an example to each of its members. Just as an athlete mentally and physically conditions herself for peak performance, the discipline of self-care will put into place the self-awareness and practices necessary to adopt the greater virtues and to live one’s life truly for God and others. Lest you be tempted to feel guilty in investing time and resources in yourself, let me remind you that self-satisfaction is not your ultimate goal. Your goal is holiness: a life lived for and with God, poured out like Christ for others. Being your best and doing your best requires self-care and will repay your family many times over.
Take heart, young mother, God is with you. Lean on your husband, your community, the sacraments, and your personal resources, and focus sharply on the next right thing. God’s grace will sustain you one step at a time. He wants to do big things in and through you, but buckle up—it’s going to be a wild ride!”