I once read a book called The Sacrificial Mother, which describes many mothers who sacrifice pretty much all of themselves for the sake of their children. For example, they dress their children in designer clothes and provide them with lessons of all kinds, yet they dress themselves in old sweats and never take time to do things they enjoy. Over time, this habit leads to depression and frustration, and often the sacrificial mothers simply want a way out.
We know that if we really want to have the stamina, enthusiasm, and patience to raise great children, we need to take care of ourselves first. The common airplane/oxygen mask analogy applies here: you put the mask on yourself so you can then care for your little ones. Underneath the title of “Mommy” is a real live lady with her own name who is just as important as everyone else.
There are certainly times when sacrifice is necessary and noble. We give up sleep for the sake of our newborns or sick children, we let the house get messier than we’d like it so our children can play and enjoy the excitement of childhood, we give our children the last grape popsicles (even though that’s our favorite flavor) because their eyes light up when they see the color purple. Each of us has benefited from the sacrifice of a mother, and we are dedicated to sacrificing for our own children, but throughout all this, we need to believe that we are of value as women…as people.
All people get to do certain things
There is definitely a balance between realizing this time is not just about us and recognizing that an empty well can not give water. To further explore this topic, I have made a list of some basic things that people get to do.
(1) People get to use the restroom. As a little girl, I would lay on the carpet in the hallway and watch my mother’s feet through the gap under the bathroom door. I would beg her to please come out soon. Did I have nothing else to do? I’m paying for it now—everyone wants to sit right next to me and talk, read books, or climb on my lap. It does get a little tricky, but as my children get older, I am starting to want a little more privacy—and that’s okay!
(2) People get to take a shower and get ready for the day. My days of 45-minute showers are a distant memory, but as long as I move relatively quickly, the lunch-packing, permission-slip-signing, and squabble-solving can wait a few more minutes. While awaiting the birth of my first daughter, I told my husband, “I’m not going to be that kind of mom that is still in her pajamas at 9 am. I’m going to get dressed and ready every day.” I ate my words not more than a week after my daughter was born, and we took a photo to celebrate the day I became “that kind of mom.” The time and frequency of the “getting ready” is negotiable, but when we have the desire and ability to do so, we don’t need to feel guilty about it.
(3) People get to exercise. This definitely can take some planning and creativity, but exercise relieves stress and has so many other benefits—isn’t it funny that when the day gets hectic, that is often the first thing to go? I haven’t always been the best at this, but generally, we’ve been able to make this work. Gym memberships and jogging strollers are great to have, but exercise can happen at home, too. I used to do a pilates video a few times a week, and my children liked to throw their big bouncy balls at my feet while I did the “kick-kick front, kick-kick back.” It kept them entertained, and I got a little workout. Exercise is not always easy, but it’s worth the effort!
(4) People get to read. We are constantly encouraged by society to read to our children, make plenty of books available to them, and sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Program, but outside of my book club or casual conversations with my girlfriends, no one seems to care if I pick up a book or not. Reading is one of the best ways for us to keep our minds sharp, enriched, and excited about life. It is okay to sit down sometimes and read while our children play or read near us. We can slip a book into our diaper bags or carry a great volume with us in case we have to wait somewhere. At the library, I used to avoid the adult section at all costs because my children would get bored and noisy. Now, I ask, “Do you want to get your books first, or do you want me to get my books first?” I look up the titles and call numbers on the Internet before I go, so I don’t have to peruse the aisles while saying, “SHHHHH!” over and over again, but now we all come home with great books, and I’m a happy camper…er, reader.
(5) People get to think. Julia Roberts once told Oprah that when she became a mommy, her brains fell out. Oprah wasn’t sure what to make of that, but all the moms in the audience were nodding with understanding. It takes everything I’ve got to keep my brain synapses firing when I am in the midst of “mommying.” When I had three children under four years old, the noise was sometimes too much. My oldest child was very verbal, and I would sometimes have to say, “Alia, Mommy needs 15 minutes of quiet so she can think.” One time Alia responded very seriously, “If I stop talking, my body will die.” Somehow I convinced her otherwise, and she went along with my request, but think-time is like gold, and it’s all right to ask for it.
6) People get to have conversations with other people. We can’t spend all our family time talking on the phone with our friends or chatting online—our children need us. However, if we would like to have a reasonably-lengthed conversation with another adult, that is an acceptable request. If my children need me while I’m talking to someone else, they come hold my hand until there’s a break in the conversation (Okay, actually, they interrupt all the time, and I have to keep asking them to please hold my hand if they need something. Occasionally they remember, but not very often).
(7) People get to snuggle with their spouses. I like to sit by my husband, and if we want to smooch in the kitchen while the kids are yelling “Gross!” that’s okay.
(8) People get to take a break. In the general work-force, each employee gets a lunch break and a couple of short breaks during the day…enforced by the law. When I am home with my children, no one is knocking on my door saying, “Excuse me, but did Mrs. Perry get her nap in today? We’re here to make sure she has a twenty-minute break for every four hours she works.” That would be great, but we are the ones responsible for planning our own breaks. We can sit down and put our feet up every once in awhile, take a night away when we’re in need of some rejuvenation…whatever we can creatively come up with. It is an investment in our families!
(9) People get to dream. Just because we’re caught up in the pressing needs of our children doesn’t mean that we can’t think about our own goals and dreams. I know one mom who’s working on her “six-pack”, one who is training to be a photographer, another who wants to travel with her children all over the world…there is no right or wrong way to dream, but let’s not forget that dreaming is a wonderful activity! If we want our dreams to come true someday, those dreams have to exist in the first place.
Enjoy being a real person, as well as a great mom!