A life coach (LC) once told me it is important to be selfish sometimes. She had to explain what she meant because for as long as I could remember, the word ‘selfish’ was synonymous with not caring about anyone other than yourself. Well, LC was one of the sweetest people I have met, yet she did not strike me as one who would accept being pushed around, or would accept becoming a doormat. Usually, really sweet people are considered people on whom you can ‘get over’, right?
When I had this conversation with her I was already mother to by firstborn. However, I did not come to really contemplate the meaning of being selfish while being a mother, until after having my second child.
What LC was conveying to me is that although I am a mother, I am a person. Separate from all the titles I gather in life I have myself and I have to take care of self. You’ve probably heard it or read it somewhere…’If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else’. I have heard people reference it to when an aircraft loses oxygen and you are to put an oxygen mask on yourself before helping someone else, even your own child, put on her mask. Still, the word ‘selfish’ isn’t used here, even though it may be more concise and cost less to print. I do understand why: it just doesn’t sound good.
Nonetheless, being selfish (to an extent) is necessary for sanity, self-esteem, creativity, and a dynamic life.
I don’t know about other mothers, but I tend to analyze a lot. It used to be that before I left the house (children and husband in it), I would think of all I could do to make sure everything for the kids was where it was supposed to be so my husband could easily find it. It was as if the time I was going to be away had to be excused in my own mind, and that I was negatively selfish for not being there to care for them myself. I know this is absurd because we are both their parents and my husband hasn’t indicated, in any way, that he thinks or feels any of the things I am explaining here.
I realized I was hindering my own self from taking a break. From clocking out from my Stay At Home career. From taking care of me. From figuring out how to take care of me beyond taking a shower and maybe putting on some make up.
So about a month and a half ago my husband and I had a conversation. We acknowledged that we both feel the difference in our lives from how it was pre two small children and a teenager, to post two small children and a teenager. We agreed that we both need time to be ourselves individually and together. At the end of that conversation it was decided that I was going to begin taking scheduled ‘Me Time’.
The first time I had no clue what to do with myself. I was happy to leave the house and go do something. I didn’t want to waste my time. I didn’t want to do something as mundane as go window-shopping or take a nap in my car…like I have done a few times in the past. Then I realized I could do anything I wanted and I would be doing it by myself!
When I returned home I felt energized and didn’t feel like I needed to clock out again for a while. The second time I felt kind of guilty, leaving everyone again, so as it was already hard to schedule something with holiday travel, I just let that one go. Today was my third scheduled Me Time and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to take my selfish self to the forest and hike! Yes, I was going to take a hike!
My hike was phenomenal. It was something I needed more than I thought. I wished for my husband and my children to be with me. I kept envisioning them there, but I knew I needed to be by myself. I needed to not worry about what they might need… if they are hungry, thirsty, or need a diaper change. Or if the 15-month old had eaten a crayon or is putting his finger in his mouth and maybe is now interested in sticking it in an electrical socket.
That’s the thing, you know? Being a Stay at Home Parent means that as long as your children are awake, you have to be aware while you’re cooking or cleaning, or doing whatever else you may need to do, Additionally, you have to be present for the myriad learning moments young humans have. I personally think that is tiring. I feel like I am wrong for feeling this way. That, as a parent, but more so as a mother, I should want to be with my children all the time and I should only get a tiny bit tired just as any human would from being awake and doing regular things.
To continue, my hike was what I needed. I focused on thinking of nothing. I took deep breaths as I walked briskly onward in the chilly air. Every time I thought to meditate I would first repeat a prayer I know, and then somehow ended up seeing Purnima Ramakrishnan’s face as if she was leading a meditation session. It was so strange and SO funny! Then I kept thinking about how I should have asked if there are wild animals to be concerned about on the trails. Black bears and cougars would have to just let me have my Me Time, you know?
After the hike I watched a R-rated movie (The Big Short) and ate a cookie.
I got home to two little babes wanting to be tickled and wanting to use me as an obstacle they had to demolish. It was a lot of fun and I knew I was better for them since I went and had some time with my own self.
Do you take time to do things on your own? Do you ever feel like you could be better for your children? When you do take time away, are there specific things you do that bring you back to center? What do you think about the word ‘selfish’?
Photo credits to the author.