Self-Care

Erin Smalley self

Self-care

It was one of those days – you know what I am talking about — days you frantically run from place to place to complete the to-do list. The days when you’re left so exhausted that crawling in bed at the end of seems like it deserves an award! For a mom, no matter the age or stage of raising little darlings can ultimately lead you to the frantic pace of accomplishment, and sometimes utter disaster as you try to cram in “just” one more thing. For me, this particular day needs to be a warning to all of you—because believe me—you don’t want to go through the humiliation I did. (I’m trusting you to be kind, because I’m about to share my by far most embarrassing moment ever!)

After running kids to school early, I had to attend a full day retreat for work. In between the retreat and our evening Christmas staff party, I ran to the grocery store, and back home to feed kids, fluff my hair and grab the gifts for the ornament exchange. As I sprinted around the house, I suddenly remembered I needed to grab some feminine hygiene products for the evening hours. I grabbed them, along with the unwrapped ornaments and accompanying gift bags. (Why plan ahead and actually wrap them beforehand, right?)

As the clock counted down to the last possible minute of a somewhat timely departure, I sprinted into the kitchen to find my husband visiting with a man I’d never met. I’d forgotten we were taking the newest staff member with us to the party. I stood frozen for a split second contemplating what to do with the feminine products in my left hand. As any woman would have done, I stuffed them into the gift bag and proudly announced I was ready to go! My twelve-year old daughter saw what I had done and in her infinite wisdom she gave me a warning, “I wouldn’t do that, Mom!” I smiled back and said “Don’t worry, silly, I’ll get them out in the car.”

Two hours later, our staff was sitting in a large circle playing the ornament gift exchange game. Excitedly, I cheered as the twenty-something, male graduate student selected my bag —“Yeah! You got mine! You got mine!” As the tissue paper began flying out, I saw something strange in the bottom of the bag. As the last piece of tissue paper flew out, so did my feminine hygiene product. It sailed across the room – landing dead center in our staff circle. Awkwardness ensued. I played it off as a joke, but deep inside I wanted to die of humiliation.

Crazy, frantic paces can lead to disasters such as this. And frantic paces are a sure-fire sign that I need to stop and take care of myself.

The easiest way I’ve found to take inventory on how I’m doing with self-care is to break it down into four categories making up the “whole” woman: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Every woman is made up of these four parts and when one is out of balance—it can throw the whole system out of sync.

  • Intellectually: Reading new material (like this blog); reading new books; taking a class; or listening to a podcast.
  • Spiritually: Spending time reflecting; praying; joining a woman’s group.
  • Emotionally: Being aware of how you are feeling; allowing your feelings to matter; journaling; not stuffing or judging your emotions; taking time to share with a close friend what’s going on inside of you.
  • Physically: Exercising regularly; eating a healthy diet; getting regular check-ups.

To truly be the great mom I desire to be I must be well cared for to everything one day brings. Believe me — it’s worth it, not only to avoid humiliating Christmas parties, but to truly love our families as we love ourselves.


Erin Smalley is the mom to three girls, ages 6, 16, and 19, and one son, age 12. Erin was a labor and delivery nurse and then returned to school to earn a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Although Erin thought she had sent her last child off to kindergarten, she and her husband, Greg, were blessed with their youngest child through the gift of adoption. She works very part-time at Focus on the Family in the Marriage and Family Division, while attempting to balance life at home with four kids. She has co-authored three books, her favorite being, Grown-Up Girlfriends—Real Friends in the Real World. You can reach Erin at www.smalleymarriage.com or erin.smalley@fotf.org.

Has lack of self-care led to an embarrassing moment for you?