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Sneak Peek, Chapter 9 of The Happiest Mom: Look Out for #1

by Meagan Francis on March 21, 2011

Moms: you matter. Honestly.

Okay, moms: do I really need to break out all the tired cliches about filling your well before you can draw from it, or putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you assist your child? Truth is, we all know we’re supposed to take care of ourselves, but knowing that doesn’t always make it easy. Especially when actually doing so seems to conflict with that other, rather stronger cultural message: you know, the one that tells us that doing anything for ourselves once we have children is selfish.

That’s why I included chapter 9 in The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets To Enjoying Motherhood–to encourage you to look out for number one. I’m not saying put yourself first all the time. I’m not even saying put yourself first half of the time. But I am saying that YOU matter. Your needs and wants are worth paying attention to.

As I pointed out in an older post, “I admit it: I’m a selfish mom,” it’s pointless to try to be a martyr all the time, anyway, because the fact is, there is always something more you “could” be doing. The trick is being appropriately selfless and nurturing–one of the hallmarks of a “good” mom (and a grown-up)–while still looking out for your own needs enough to be a sane mom.

From my post:

Without coming right out and saying it, what I hear a lot of moms suggesting is: “I feel selfish for taking time away from my family to do something for myself.” “I feel selfish for investing our family’s income in my hobby” (even when that “hobby” is actually a money-earning career!) “I’d love to go [to that conference or event], but it would just be too selfish.”

Moms, let’s embrace our selfishness a little. Is there anyone out there, really, that’s not selfish some of the time? Think about it: even our seemingly selfless actions usually gratify us in some way, even if it’s just that we feel good because we’ve done the right thing. Of course, we can’t always agree on what the “right” thing is to do. Nor is there a clear-cut answer about which “right” things rank highest. Simply by choosing to prioritize things differently than another person would, we allow ourselves to feel “selfish” (or, just as bad, we judge another mom for being “selfish”).

Even if you think it’s best to be selfless: where does it end? There’s always something more we could be doing, some edge we could give them. Give up the cable to start a college fund? Sure. But then what about that Friday-night pizza? Or the yoga class you wanted to take. Shouldn’t you give that up, too? Think of the children!

Read the rest of the post here.

The truth is, you can give and give and give and give and your kids will take it all and ask for more. You have to draw lines in the sand, and take care of yourself–not just for you, but for them. I believe almost nothing is as crippling for a child as having everything done for them. How much better for a child to learn to consider other people’s (including mom’s) needs and desires, to experience disappointment, to have to wait sometimes, to not always get her way, and to learn to be part of a team rather than the center of the universe?

When you think of it that way, perhaps being a little selfish is the most unselfish thing you can do.

This week, we’re going to be talking about you: your dreams,  your health, your goals. And I want you to promise that if you start feeling guilty for spending time on these “selfish” things, that you’ll take a moment to reframe your thoughts. Consider the positive effects your good health or better mood will have on your family, for example.

Let’s start now. What’s one thing–even a small thing!–that you’ve been feeling guilty about doing for yourself? What’s another way you can look at the situation to help you ease the guilt and embrace taking care of yourself?

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Leisa Hammett March 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

Let’s hear it for taking time for ourselves!

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Lyndy March 21, 2011 at 11:03 am

I actually find myself feeling guilty when I schedule my every 6 weeks hair appointment. Sadly, I always get the earliest appointment possible so I don’t end up feeling guilty about not being home to put our toddler down for her mid-morning nap.

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Carrie March 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

I leave work a few minutes early and read a book in my car before I pick my kids up–even though I could rush to pick my daughter up from daycare before the bell rings to release my son from school.

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Tara March 21, 2011 at 11:56 am

Thank you so much for reminding us we are allowed to take some much needed “me time”. I also loved the story of your 2 year old and the cake- my son turned 2 last week as well.. we had an arm in the cake to reach for the candles! Gotta love the excitement at this age! I ordered your book today- yay for Amazon in Canada having it! Can’t wait for it to arrive!

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alissia haig March 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I always feel guilty for sleeping in on the weekends, which means my husband has to take care of the girls so I can get a quick shower. I get up all week before everyone so I can shower before the girls are up, and yet I feel guilty having Daddy watch them for 15 minutes so I can catch a few extra z’s….crazy right? I guess all Moms feel guilt when “putting themselves first” it must be built in.

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Scott March 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I feel guilty about taking a second to check my email when I’m home with the girls. I love the moment of connection with the outside world, but feel guilty for leaving them alone to play for a moment.

On an unrelated note, I have a question for you or your lovely readers… I’m a stay-at-home dad to 2 girls, and I love it but sometimes feel like I’m not doing this whole parenting thing quite as well as I’d like to. I’m looking for some reading to help me find a little more motivation, and a little more peace. I love the look of your book, and your general philosophies on parenting, but wanted to know: how “mom”-specific is it? Is it mostly a terminology thing, or is there a lot of it that’s more geared towards women and might not quite work for someone in my situation? Thanks for the blog, and best wishes! -Scott

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Paula@Simply Sandwich March 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Let me start by saying that I do not have a lazy bone in my body – I work all day long but if I take a blog reading break for 20 minutes I feel incredibly guilty. What in the world is that about?? Hubby internet surfs, kids are on FB or video games but I can not break myself from the feelings behind taking a break. Starting tomorrow I am going to schedule regular breaks for myself! Thanks so much for helping me to see that it is okay to take time for me! :)

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Susan March 22, 2011 at 4:11 am

I feel guilty about exercising…even though I have so much energy and feel so much better about myself after doing it. I try to schedule it when my husband is home to watch them…the gym’s kidzone is a little too video game/tv crazy for our tastes…plus I can actually be on time for class.

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Rachael March 22, 2011 at 7:49 am

When I am doing work that is a true expression of myself, such as working on a poem or teaching my writing class, I do not feel guilty about it. But when I am doing something that takes me (or my attention) away from my son and that is also inauthentic in some way (e.g., spacing out at the computer — which is why I’m learning to turn the computer off when I’m not using it), then I do feel guilty. So in some sense, my guilt is something to listen to. But not because it’s telling me that I’m selfish, but because it’s telling me that my priorities are awry in some way.

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Meagan Francis March 22, 2011 at 9:43 am

Rachael, what a great point! I think we all deserve a little “fritter” time now and then, but you’re right: I get very uncomfortable when I’m using lots of time unwisely, and that “guilt” or however I could define the feeling is a great incentive to use my time for things that support my values and priorities. I feel a blog post coming on!

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M March 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Thank you so, so much for this post. This is something I have struggled with so deeply. I don’t know where to draw the lines, and I endlessly give because I think “that’s what a good mom (wife) does.” Now, 9 years into it, I realize how much of my time and my children’s I have wasted being angry, and fighting with my husband-since this same principle applies to marriage also, over things related to this. I found I lost myself somewhere along the way (I know that sounds so cliche) and I allowed myself to become a very grumpy, unhappy person. I say allowed because you have to own it to be able to move to a place of happiness again. I’m now seeing that it’s a matter of learning how to choose that. I would love to see a blog on how to choose this-I am trying to find ways to do that, but esp. from looking to other moms I admire and trying to glean wisdom by looking at their lifestyle and choices. Thank you!

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Meagan Francis March 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

M, thank you so much for your comment. I’ve written a little about choosing happiness in the past: http://thehappiestmom.com/?p=680 but will definitely plan on covering the topic again soon. So glad you’re here!

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C Michele March 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Thank you, thank you!

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Tina Ramey April 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I think one of the best gifts that we can give to our kids is to be a shining example for them to emulate — they really do look to you to determine how they should behave and what kind of person they should become. And if you are the type of person who nurtures themselves, follows their dreams, and is generally self-fulfilled and happy, then they are more likely to grow up to be that way themselves. I think we should be the kind of people that we aspire our children to become.

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