You know her, maybe you are her … the once vibrant, interesting, clever lady who had kids, and became boring. There are a lot of “hers” so it feels safe to release your self fully into mommyhood. It is easier to attach your identity and ego to your kids,than it is to maintain your pre-kid interests.
But here’s a hard truth – a truth I regularly share with friends who don’t want, or can’t have kids – I was WHOLE before my kids. I wasn’t missing anything. My kids didn’t fill a gap in me.
When I became a mom, my heart expanded; my ability to love expanded. When I had kids I became more than myself. Having kids made mySELF better, and while I changed in amazing ways, I am still me. It is important for my kids, marriage, and self that I don’t sacrifice my Me-ness. My family loves ME! I owe it to them to keep her safe.
Unfortunately, mamas often lose their Self in mothering. Yes, it’s temporary, but finding something is a lot harder than not losing it in the first place. In yoga, non-violence is called “Ahimsa.” It covers not just our actions, but our speech and thoughts. Nonviolence means to do no harm; it is that simple and that hard. For our non-violence practice to be complete, it must include ourselves.
If you drive a car, fill it with cheap gas, and never take for service, it’s not going to last long. Oh, it will run … until the day it doesn’t. We are the same. We can power through on little sleep, caffeine, sugar, and wine … but we will stop running too. Given the choice between a tired, stressed, bitter mom, or a happy, healthy, interesting mom, your kids are going to want you at your best. Caring for children means modeling the habits of staying healthy, happy, and whole. When it comes to “self-care” mamas often make the physical body the priority, but the energetic Self should be the focus. In the trenches of motherhood, it’s easy for annoyances to turn into resentments, and nothing kills the self faster than resentment.
When I visit online moms groups, I am shocked by all the “father bashing,” “mother-in-law ranting,” and “my friends don’t get it” posts. Many of the complaints are things I feel too, but when I feel them, I talk with (not about) the person. This isn’t easy. I avoid conflict, but squashing resentment involves having conversations. Conversations not set around proving validity, or convincing someone to change; conversations aimed at working together through mutal understanding.
I want my children to have a strong model of what marriage, partnership, friendship, and family looks like. When we engage in violent behavior through hurtful words, using kids as a power tool, throwing things done out of love in the face of someone, or becoming physical, we erode our own support system. We are also teaching our kids that it is OK to hurt those we love. We are setting our Self, and our kids up for disappointment. The voices that surround you will become the voice in your head, and the voice in your head will create your reality.
Stop the negative self-talk, stop expecting others to meet your unspoken needs, and stop thinking that you have to do it all yourself. Drop the victim stance and find solutions. Accept “Self-Sacrifice” for what it is – an excuse.
“Self-Sacrifice”- this common phrase colors all means of self-violence as acceptable, and expected. The Self should never be snuffed out for the sake of ballet classes or honor roll. In dire cases of hospital visits, illnesses, or troubles, it is more important to keep your SELF well. Modeling how to be self-fulfilled, even under stress, is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. Honor your Self like you honor the burgeoning Self in your child.
Do you want to raise an individual who thinks it is acceptable to turn over their identity to the power of another?
Do you want this individual dissolving into a boring mom-bot when they have kids of their own?
I know I don’t.
And while some hobbies, interests, friends, and activities float away, the things we give up we release not because of Self-sacrifice, but because our priorities have changed. Accept it, own it, and drop the self-sacrifice routine. If you can’t do something tell the truth – “It’s not a priority.” Don’t perpetuate the myth that mothers should sacrifice their Self so wholly.
Me skipping girls night is not self-sacrifice. Being with my family is my priority. Spending time with them has overtaken my need for regular social nights. There are times my friends are a priority for me, and those are the times I go.
Working is not self-sacrifice. I work to pay for things like dance, camps, play dates and day-school. I am not sacrificing my Self because my priority is providing my kids with these experiences. I also work in a job that allows my Self to learn and grow.
Skipping out on extras, or taking a cheaper option is not a Self-Sacrifice. If it doesn’t feed my soul, it’s not worth my money. Nothing makes me shine as much as learning with my kids. I will drop money on family trips and experiences, but I am probably going to skip that pedicure.
It is not self-sacrifice to clean the house. I clean the house because I want my kids living in a healthy environment. A clean house brings my Self peace, and sets a good example.
It is not self-sacrifice to leave my career so I can be with my kids. I am ok with less money, and more time. My Self was not a great mom when I worked full time in a stressful job. My old career prevented my Self from being my best.
Nourish your Self. No matter how hard life gets, prioritize litte moments just for you. Make time to repair important relationships, read a book, color, take a walk, enjoy a bath or nap, workout, or just sit in stillness. At times your spark may be barely lit, and that’s OK! Just make sure to keep your Self shining. Your kids will grow, they will move out, they will create their own path, but YOU still need to be there when they do. Not you with a hole; you WHOLE!