Knowing When to Step Back

I woke up this morning with the Rascall Flatts’, “Life is a Highway,” song stuck in my head.  Perhaps it is because of the photo prompt for The Zelie Group‘s photo challenge, or perhaps it’s because I am trying to keep the view of Advent being a journey of preparation. Whatever the reason, the refrain keeps playing, on a loop, through my brain:

Life is a highway

I wanna ride it all night long

If you’re going my way

I wanna drive it all night long

Life is a highway – crowded, with people all traveling one direction.  Yet, there are exit ramps every so often, and some people broken down on the side of the road.

This Advent, we are traveling through a season together – the season of preparation.  Preparation for what?  I think the preparation means something individual to each one of us.  But, regardless of whether or not some drivers on our Life Highway care to admit, we are all traveling this season together.

So, what can I do during this Advent season, to make this journey together a little smoother?

I admit, I have a bad habit of failing to care for myself, or my family, at the expense of trying to help others.

Just like parenting experts advise parents to, “Take care of yourself first, so that you can effectively care for your family,” I am realizing I need to be better about my self-care, or more exactly, my family’s care.

I need to know when to step back and credit my family with the times they have shown charity toward the others throughout the year.

Compassion fatigue, the spiritual, mental, and physical exhaustion that comes from carrying the burdens and pains from others is a real thing.  As a social worker, we are taught to identify the symptoms of this particular fatigue in ourselves and our colleagues – it contributes to a significant burnout rate in the “helping professions.”

While I want to encourage my family push themselves to give of themselves, I must also recognize there comes a limit where giving of oneself can become detrimental.

This Advent, I need to refocus and regroup. I need to step back from giving to others, and focus on giving to my family.  Not in the material sense, but in the spiritual and physical sense.  I need to stop running around, committing time, energy, and sometimes money to worthy causes – because they are all worthy.  And, I need to give my time, energy, and sometimes money toward helping my family function better!

In order to ensure my children are prepared to face the world, and extend charity and mercy toward others, I need to make sure they aren’t suffering from a form of compassion fatigue before they even begin their lives – so they can assist other motorists on the highway of life.

The best way I can think of doing that is to heed the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta:

So, this Advent, I am going to be hopeful in my ability to keep my vocation as a wife and mother in the forefront of all my actions – to know when to take a step back and politely , without guilt, abstain from committing my time, effort, and money, in order to focus on the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of those closest to me!

7 thoughts on “Knowing When to Step Back

  1. Anni – I am right here with you! I am embracing my role as mother and not worrying about all the other things as much as I can!!! I want to experience this magical, holy time of year with the greatest gifts God gave me – my husband and my son!!!!

  2. This is such a fine line to walk, isn’t it? I hesitate to say that we should abstain from making commitments during the Advent season. I would say it’s good to be conscious about what we’re doing, but we shouldn’t try to cloister ourselves during this season.
    I’ve seen so many people burnout from over extension, but I would advocate the healthy reaction to that should be scaling back, not stepping off.

    1. It definitely is such a fine line! I agree many people burnout from over exertion – I would assert my family has done so much this past year that I need to really be sure I don’t continue to press them to give, give, give during a season where there is such heavy emphasis on giving! And, to not beat myself up if we don’t accept invitations to give more of ourselves than already planned!

  3. In the past few years since our daughter’s diagnosis, we’ve really scaled back our ministries. I still feel guilty about leaving them in the lurch. If everyone would serve according to his or her gifts, we wouldn’t have so many holes to fill.

    1. Oh, so very, very true!! One of my biggest complaints has been only a couple families have to fill the void that would be so minimal if every family were able to pitch in according to their own family’s time, talent, or treasure! For us, we have to reassess every couple years – and, inevitably I find myself over committing because there is a massive void!

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