Something I am learning in counseling is how true it is that a tree is known by its fruit. Most of my life I have applied this to people and behaviors, but am only just now learning to apply it to attitudes and perspectives. If an attitude or perspective I have logically bears fruit of resentment, anger, frustration, and other ungodly things, then the attitude or perspective is wrong. Women in our society are constantly told they need more “me-time,” that they do so much, that they are the givers and men are the takers, and that what they need in order to be happy is to think more about themselves. The problem is that women who subscribe to this attitude and constantly seek more “me-time” usually end up the opposite of relaxed and de-stressed. Me-time begets me-time. Those who take the most time for themselves tend to need the most time for themselves. The fruit of the attitude “I am entitled to large chunks of me-time” is often resentment toward others in the family and a continual need to feel, and be, pampered. A tree is known by its fruit.
The Biblical view of me-time is that the less we think about ourselves (a virtue appropriately named “selflessness” as opposed to selfishness) the more content we will be. This applies to men as well as women. What is the main thing that makes people of both sexes feel stressed out and entitled to “me-time?” One could say work, but I believe the correct answer is overwork. I believe there are as many female workaholics as male workaholics, only women are usually workaholics in the home and men are usually workaholics outside the home. Both men and women who are workaholics have convinced themselves they’re doing it for family. In addition to this self-deception, women also tend to take on a martyr’s attitude:
“I work so hard for this family and no one appreciates it. I’m so alone and misunderstood and I put up with all of this crap because I’m such a good person who is always thinking only of others and never of myself.”
This attitude of martyrdom usually obscures a deeper conviction.
“I’m the only one who cares about this family. That husband of mine is a selfish jerk and my kids are ungrateful slobs who never give me any help around here.”
Thinking this way allows a woman to see herself as virtuous and self-sacrificing and, strangely, loving, while harboring deep bitterness and resentment toward those she is serving. The truth is that neither men nor women who work too much are doing it for family. It’s about approval. Each sex overworks in that place where they feel they will get the most approval from others. Wherever it’s done, excessive work is a spiritual sickness, borne out an emptiness needing to be filled that we seek to fill with busyness. The upshot of this is people of both sexes who work too much and believe it’s loving service to those around them, all while actually making those around them miserable with their unavailability and nursing bitterness and resentment toward them. A tree is known by its fruit.
Romans 12:3 (NIV)
(3) For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
We should be realistic (sober) in the way we think of ourselves. In this you could include understanding accurately our strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. The ability to see “me-time” in perspective begins with a proper understanding of one’s role in the family and a realization of the “grass is always greener” tendency we all have. All working guys think it would be easier to “stay home.” All women who work primarily in the home think it would be easier to work outside the home. Each one tends to think of the other’s role as a “holiday,” in comparison. This shows we’re not dealing with facts but perspectives. If we were dealing with facts, science could have solved this one for us by now and marriage counselors could move on to talking about other issues.
So an appropriate perspective on me-time begins with acknowledging accurately one’s place in the family and the real value of that place. [To do that, simply consider this question: If you were somehow gone from the family tomorrow, would they figure out a way to keep going without you? Your role may be critical, but chances are life could and would go on.] Work into that the attitude of service taught by the New Testament, and consider the “fruit” of other ways of looking at it (e.g., the resentment that comes from feelings of entitlement to constant “me-time”) and we can begin to think properly of the issue. It is not about large quantities of me-time, but simply acknowledging our limitations and need for occasional refueling.
So what can reasonably meet that need without draining others in the family? What can make your life better without making you worse to live with? What could you do that would refresh you regularly? What are you doing now that you don’t have to do? What are your spouse’s actual expectations of you, and what are your expectations for yourself? Are you already sharing the load as much as possible?
Furthermore, what does it mean to feel “refreshed?” Is there a feeling or state of mind you can actually get to through choices and activities and if so, how will you know when you get there? How do you want to feel? What are workable ways of getting to that place?
Self care is essential, and that will come in small quantities of what is commonly called me-time. But the attitude matters. I take me-time not because of how overworked and under-appreciated I am, but because I need to refuel and recharge so that I can continue to serve the people I love and not come to resent them. Understood this way, time for myself is just a way to assure that I can continue to devote quality time to others, and do it with the right attitude.
I de-stress and unwind with four things: quietness, coffee, music, and books. Give me those four things and about 30 minutes and I’m good to go. What does it for you?