What if I said it was ok to be selfish and to put your needs first?
What if I said that not only is it ok, but it’s imperative, Would you believe me?
As women, as mothers, we are forever putting ourselves last, taking care of everyone else’s needs before our own. This isn’t anything new, of course, but as old as time, I’m quite certain. While our roles have shifted over the years as more and more of us are out in the workforce with careers or running our own businesses our downtime has become precious and almost non-existent.
When we put ourselves first we are better spouses (partners) and better parents. We are healthier, happier, less run down, less stressed and able to think more clearly. So why is it that it’s so hard to put ourselves first? And why is it that we feel guilty if we do? For even thinking about it?
When I was married and the kids were all so little I remember watching the clock at the end of the day, eager for my husband to come home so that I could hand the kids off to him, stop whatever I was doing and run upstairs to hide out in a bath filled high with bubbles for about 20 minutes. Honestly I needed more for a total reset, but It was enough to decompress and reset for a bit. In those days I didn’t have much time - if any - without the kids. My youngest might have been napping but the older two weren’t. There wasn’t much downtime in the craziness of those days of school and never ending activities.
During my earliest days of parenting, just about 20 years ago, my mother in law came by once a week so I could have a few hours to myself. I never took full advantage of that time. I never pampered myself but chose instead to run whatever errands were necessary, including the grocery shopping which seemed like a vacation without the kids in tow. As an only child and a fiercely independent person, I never really adjusted to not having time to myself. I am sure somehow my kids suffered for it, and I am quite sure, in hindsight, that it strained my marriage.
Years later with all kids in school, I felt incredibly guilty asking my husband to watch the children. I realize now how absurd it was; he was their father after all. But when he complained about having to “babysit” when there were other things he needed (wanted?) to get done, I stopped asking. I continued with my evenings baths, but they weren’t enough.
A few years later we were divorced. Suddenly I had loads of time on my hands. It was hard, initially, to let my babies go to be with their dad; I was sad and awfully lonely. One weekend I knew I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and I decided to turn a negative into a positive. All those years where I clamored for a little time to myself where I could actually get into a really good book without being interrupted, or write for more than 20 minutes without interruption, or watch what I wanted to watch on TV, or sit down with a bowl of ice cream or something delicious and without a little voice asking “Can I ‘ave some?” Sure I missed them. I missed them terribly. But suddenly I was able to do those things that were important to me, to slow down if I wanted to, to sleep in or nap, or get my nails done or make an appointment to get my hair done. Or meet a friend for dinner or lunch… or go on a date. And when my kids came back to me on Sunday evenings I was relaxed, refreshed and so very happy to see them.
Life has changed once more. Two are older and almost out of the house. My youngest is a teenager and extremely independent. I still make dinner and do some chauffeuring, but not much. These days I work for myself and even on the craziest day I make myself a priority and always make time for myself. As a result I am much more productive. I’m also calmer, healther and certainly happier.
So in 2019, if you can’t find anything you want to commit to, make yourself a promise that you’ll pencil yourself in and commit to yourself.