A lovely woman I know casually recently told me that her husband gets bored a lot and is always looking for something to do that’s new and fun. She looked at me like he’s off his rocker. “Fun!” she cackled. “He just doesn’t get it. Us Moms get it. When we have kids, everything changes. We don’t work for us anymore. We work to provide for them. We don’t worry about fun anymore. Our fun is in watching them. Our lives don’t matter anymore. Our life becomes all about them.”
Be still my heart. Is that really the way “us Moms” think? She’s still in her 30s and sounds like she’s ready to throw in the towel on her own life. She looked at me for reinforcement, but when she realized she wasn’t going to get it, she told me that at least that’s how it was in her house growing up.
I may not have agreed with her that once we have children our lives are over, but I could empathize with her. Us moms often struggle to balance the needs of our family’s and the other demands of our lives with our own needs. And we have a bad habit of attaching guilt to it when we do make time for ourselves.
It’s especially difficult when our kids are babies and toddlers. I remember over-analyzing the reasons why I should and shouldn’t. This little mental game would go on for months sometimes. Pros: I desperately need a break; I long for some girl time; I need a good laugh; I’d love to actually blow dry my hair; I want to wear something other than workout clothes and running shoes. Cons: I might miss some monumental milestone in that 2 hour window; They’ll cry uncontrollably and clutch at my clothes when I leave; They’ll be distraught the whole time I’m gone; The house will be a disaster; The boys will be a disaster; My husband will be a disaster!
Now that my boys are older, I’ve gained perspective. If I could go back in time, I would’ve said, “Dear Lord, Sister. Get a grip!”
Every once in awhile, my husband would shove me out the door. And guess what happened? All survived. The boys got a little extra bonding time with Daddy. Daddy always seemed to appreciate Mommy just a little bit more. And that little window of self-care turned into a several day mood booster every time, which everyone enjoyed. As they say, a happy wife means a happy life!
So I strapped on my big sis shoes and offered this woman a little advice to keep in mind even when her kids are older.
Becoming a Mom doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve to experience our own happiness. Our greatest joys may come from raising our children, but we’re still entitled to tend to our needs so that we can maintain our connection to ourselves as a woman, not just the part of us that’s a Mom.
When I spoke these words, her eyes and mouth softened. She admitted that she did finally tell her husband that she needed a night off a few weeks ago to spend time with a girlfriend for the first time in 2 years. Then she whispered as though she was admitting to a naughty confession that she had an amazing evening.
When we have children, our priorities do take a monumental shift. Our motivations change. Our perspectives change. Our desires change. And our capacity for love grows. Us moms know that just when we think we couldn’t love anymore, our child does something that we see as miraculous and we can literally feel our hearts expand. Or we wonder how we could ever love our second child as much as our first. Then, Bam! It happens. And we deserve to be a recipient of this love, too.
There’s no shame, Mamas, in maintaining a strong sense of self post-babies. When we cut ourselves off, our hearts can begin to feel constricted. Consciously or unconsciously, resentment can set in. But when we include ourselves in the mix and take time to care for our own needs, our hearts remain expanded and our love can flow more freely to all the beautiful loves in our lives.
So Angela, and other Moms in the trenches, motherhood does not make you invisible. You’re a beautiful spirit whose life matters each and every day.
I saw a quote from a blog called, Dirt and Boogers that says it perfectly. “Taking Good Care of ME means the people in my life get the Best of Me rather than What’s Left of Me.”
Food for thought: As a child, would you choose a happy, connected parent who models self-love, self-respect, self-assuredness, and self-care? Or would you choose a parent who’s lost touch with their sense of self, demonstrates low self-confidence, doesn’t take care of themselves, and whose happiness is dependent upon you?
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