Motherhood is an intense job that demands lots of time and energy and doesn't offer time off.  But the best moms are those who are healthy - and to be healthy, moms need to take care of their own needs while also caring for their families.

It is possible to meet your own needs as a mom during the pockets of time you have available each day.  Doing so is the best thing for you, and also for your family.

Here are some ways you can meet your own needs while caring for your family:

• Meet your need for solitude. Intentionally withdraw from life's chaos on a regular basis. Know that solitude is essential for good health; not a selfish luxury. Schedule time to be alone in a silent environment as frequently as you can, even if only for a brief while.

Use the time to clear your thoughts and regain your focus on what's most important. Guard your times of solitude as you would any other type of appointment. Work with your spouse, family members and friends to arrange child care, or seek solitude while your children are asleep. Designate a favorite place - somewhere in your house or yard, a bookstore, a park, a coffee shop - to go to enjoy solitude. Consider spending part of your solitude time in prayer or writing in a journal.

• Meet your need for friendship. Don't put friendships on hold while you try to keep up with your responsibilities as a mom. Realize that you need friends, and that the time you invest in your friendships will pay off by helping you grow as a person in all the roles you play (including motherhood).

Select your friends prayerfully and carefully since you only have the time to build close relationships with a limited number of women. Be a good friend yourself by offering practical support and encouragement to your friends. Recognize when a friendship is unhealthy and have the courage to let it go so it doesn't drag you down. Know that Jesus is the best friend of all.

• Meet your need for balance. Realize that there's a time for everything - just not all at once. Use your power to decide what activities are best for you and your family. Identify your priorities and make decisions around them. Strive to create an evenness in your life.

Don't try to do more than you're capable of or compare yourself to other moms. Learn how to say "no" to requests for your time and energy that don't line up with your priorities. When considering a new activity, ask yourself what you can let go of to make room for a new obligation (then let go of the old before committing to anything new). Remember that God loves you for who you are, regardless of what you do. Observe a weekly Sabbath day of worship and rest.

• Meet your need for physical well-being. Don't use your kids as an excuse not to exercise. Realize that they should be the reason you do exercise. Put together a realistic plan to get exercise on a regular basis. Focus on what you can do instead of on what you can't do. Take it a little at a time, working up to greater fitness. Remind yourself of exercise's many benefits: more energy, a more positive attitude, less time sick, etc.

Remember that, with exercise, a little goes a long way and something is better than nothing. Join a gym, play a team sport, or find a workout buddy to help keep you accountable if you don't like to exercise alone. Include your younger children in your workouts by pushing them in a stroller or wagon. Have older children join you hiking, swimming, playing tennis, etc.

Eat a nutritious diet. Drink water regularly throughout each day. Balance your physical activity with plenty of rest. Sleep as much as you need to at night, and refresh yourself with a 20-minute nap in the afternoon.

• Meet your need for order. Remember that you don't have to manage anything that you don't allow into your home.  Refuse to bring into your home anything that you don't want to be responsible for. Simplify by clearing out as much clutter as you can on a regular basis.  With each item in your home, either put it in a designated place to be used, donate it, or throw it away.

Establish routines for your children to follow at bedtime, in the morning, and after school.

• Meet your need for intimacy. Recognize that intimacy (knowing another, and being known) is an integral part of God's plan and a great source of joy. Be deliberate, intentional, and proactive in your relationships with other people. Be willing to meet another person's needs before you can get your own needs met. Strive to nurture other people, ask questions to get to know them better, respect them, use nonverbal communication to affirm them, and set aside time to be with people in meaningful ways on a regular basis.

• Meet your need for spiritual and personal growth. Understand that when you take care of your own growth, you're best equipped to help your children grow. Pursue your interests, develop your skills, and put your talents to use through taking classes, doing volunteer work, taking up a hobby, etc. Strive to constantly learn new things. Connect to God through prayer, Bible study, participating in church, singing praises to worship music, etc.

• Meet your need for self-forgiveness. Don't let guilt and shame weigh you down. Confess your sins honestly and specifically to God and other people you've hurt.  Accept responsibility for what you've done wrong.  Then accept God's forgiveness, which He will offer you even if other people don't. Realize that you can forgive yourself for your greatest failings because Jesus' death on the cross paid for your sins in full. Know that forgiving yourself frees you from burdens, restores intimacy with God, and brings greater peace into your life.

• Meet your need for laughter. Reduce the stress in your life by learning to look for and appreciate humor in every situation you can. Learn to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Create a file of funny comic strips or stories to enjoy and share with loved ones. Smile even when you don't feel like it, and eventually you will.

• Meet your need for help. Relinquish the idea that you can't be a "good" mother unless you bear most of the child-rearing responsibilities alone. Understand that you and your children will benefit if you accept some help from babysitters, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, coaches, doctors, etc. with whatever your kids need. Understand that children who have multiple positive influences in their lives can thrive.

Ask for help regularly, knowing that two or more people can accomplish more than you can on your own. Remember that your children aren't yours to control; God has simply entrusted them to you for a time.


Adapted from The Mother Load: How to Meet Your Own Needs While Caring for Your Family, copyright 2005 by Mary M. Byers. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Mary Byers, the mother of two children, has been speaking professionally for nearly 15 years. She specializes in presenting practical and purposeful information designed to help people live and work more fully. Mary has a degree in telecommunications from Indiana University and is a Certified Association Executive. She's been an advertising manager, a senior-level association executive and an entrepreneur. She currently writes about communications issues as a regular columnist for the Chicago Dental Society Review and has also been published in dozens of other publications. She is also a frequent facilitator for strategic planning retreats.