I never understood why my mother took so long with her baths.
I never understood why my mother would take her bath after we all went to bed.
I never understood why my mother would get mad when we would knock on the bathroom door.
That is until, someone was calling me ‘Mama’ for everything, and I had to wait until my children were asleep in order to take my hot baths.
My mother recommends hot baths and rest for most of life’s slings and arrows. She recommends praying and learning to ‘only do what you can do,’ and then do no more. I remember calling her during the first years of motherhood–especially after I had moved out on my own with my daughters (19 months apart!)–I was in this steady state of exhaustion.
I was overwhelmed.
I was a single mother.
I was exhausted.
My mother would tell me, “Jennifer, take a hot bath and lay down.”
I had it to the point that I had a specific heat to put my body into. It had to bite a little bit, so the water can pull the stress out of the my feet, and legs before I settle all of my 5 foot, 10 inch frame into a tub. When I whisper that first ‘Ahh’, I close my eyes. Without a doubt. Every single time.
I get it now.
These few minutes that I am in this tub, I am not an employee. I am not a parent. I am not wife. I am Jennifer. It’s me and this water and my thoughts. It’s my time–the time that I fought all day to get. All day. I am responsible and sacrificing all day. I put other people’s needs before my own. I answer to people, strangers and tyrants all day! All I want, when my house is quiet, is the same.
I could go into the relaxing properties of hot water, and how most stress is carried in the larger muscles of your back and legs, but that seems to be a gimme. For me? I remember something really simple in these times of quiet, aquatic contemplation–The Lord moved over the face of the water.
This time, like my mother before me, and her mothers before her, this time is mine. It recharges my battery. It reminds me that I am more than what has happened to me in the day which is ending. These hot baths make me check in with myself–the thing I don’t do enough of.
I am aware of my body. The pains, the aches, the things that I haven’t tended to or thought would wait. I become aware of the things that I need to do–for me. No matter how small.
Then, in these moment, I remember why my mother would tell us to leave her alone. How we should be asleep. Now, with the advantage of being the child on the outside of the door– the girl trying to know more about the secrets of womanhood–and the mother trying to recharge to be a mother the next day–I know why the water had to be hot.
You need time to let the day wash over you, to wash it off of you. Time is needed to weed out the thoughts that don’t matter. Remember the things that do, and also remember I can only do what I can…and in some cases? I am doing the best I can.
Part of self-care is remembering that you can only do what you can. It involves being brave enough to say what is really wrong–even if just to yourself.
Mama’s bathwater is hot because that is how she keeps her own fire. Every so often, she has to dip in it.
[images from Pinterest and Oprah.com]