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!
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?