Lately, an issue has made itself known to me in several manners. Enough touchpoints have reached me that I feel compelled to invest some thought and explore it within my own life. The particular issue is regarding the balance between parenthood, specifically motherhood, and being able to keep yourself a priority without guilt.
I myself have battled this from the moment I became pregnant. My impression of the perfect mother began instantly to impair my judgment. Being very young to begin with I had barely begun to develop a sense of self. I felt that I had to create an image of a strong, independent, and knowledgeable mother. Even though I was none of those things. I didn’t ask for help when I clearly needed it due to this facade that I felt I had to put on for show.
Some things I did right and other things I certainly failed at, but the perspectives of my actions were always tainted with serious errors. My self-esteem was constantly compromised and I missed out on really being present.
I have not found the answer to this dilemma but I am a work in progress. I do realize that I am not alone in this struggle. I do realize that there is no such thing as perfect. I do realize that I must schedule me-time into my days, just as I schedule play time for the kids. Now, I know the sayings that are being thrown around by a lot of people now a days… “If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care for others.” “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others.” “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put your child’s mask on.” and so on and so on and so on, but in reality that is not always possible.
I do know the consequences for not making yourself a priority, from personal experience. You regret choices, resent your family, become jealous of those you feel have it easier than you, become ungrateful, lose mindfulness, lose your dreams, and get completely lost in everyone else’s needs rather than your own. This is not a fun path. I enter it several times a year without even knowing. It is so simple to lose yourself and get so wrapped up in what you think is “life”. Then, it hits you like a brick wall. You never know where the insight comes from…a friend pointing out an activity you would never have let pass by if you were paying attention, or a bout of days in which uncontrollable spurts of crying occur seemingly over nothing. It is like starting over from the beginning every time you lose track like that.
What is nice about all this, is that you can recover yourself and your priorities. Not that it is easy or the same process for everyone, but it can be done, so there is hope; a light at the end of the tunnel. I have to remember the activities that I enjoyed prior to children, what my dreams were and evaluate my needs and current desires. After taking some time to figure that stuff out, I have to find actions that are in accordance with meeting my families needs and my own, without anyone sacrificing values. It sounds simple doesn’t it. HA!! It is not. And like I said, sometimes it is truly not possible. That is when it truly hurts… aches all the way down into your chest. We do our best and sometimes our best is not enough. ASK FOR HELP!!!
What! Share my problems and inadequacies?!? Show my vulnerabilities!?! Are you crazy!?!
Yes. But that is besides the point.
We are so scared of being judged and criticized, that we rather suffer and be miserable. I remember hearing “It takes a village”. This doesn’t seem to apply to today’s society but I wish every day that it was a common understanding and standing practice. Instead, we must create a village. Not just for our children’s sake, but our own, as well. Our family, friends, churches and other groups are our village.
It takes extreme trust in your village to reach out and allow them to know ALL of you, not just the show you put on. This is a big leap for many mothers and the fear of the fall out or unknown can be crippling. There may be judgment or criticism. We must accept that fact. We also need to realize that usually by sharing our challenges, we allow others to find space to share. This has a surprising affect. Support.
Very quickly, it will be clear which of those people in your village have the ability to be of immediate help. Don’t discount the ones who shy away or even openly criticize. You don’t know their story. Those that stand with you are offering a part of their life to be joined with yours. This is not something you turn away from due to pride or worry of being in debt to others. It is offered with love and compassion. Not pity. Not ulterior motives. Accept this help and love with grace and humility.
We all need help at various times in our life. Sometimes we are the one receiving the help and other times we are the one offering the help. Think about all the times you have offered a hand to a friend; at any point did you feel the need to judge or hurt them? Feeling as though you were useful and able to make a difference in someone else’s life is such a lovely uplifting experience. It is a rare gift to be in a position to really show your thankfulness for friends in your life. Being helpful is one of the most satisfying ways to show appreciation of the ones you love.
Allow your village the opportunity to feel this gift of giving. ASK FOR HELP!!! Show your soft underbelly.
As for my personal journey I am currently evaluating my interests, needs, and desires. I am attempting to make me-time by joining a local gym for woman, calling various organizations in search of help with T., and reading a book called, “Living the Posh Mom Life” which doesn’t always apply to my situation but has given me some inspiration to maintain ME as a priority and lose the guilt. So, like I said, I am a work in progress. I still have trouble asking for help, but I am getting better at it. I try to be very aware of my interactions with other moms. No matter the situation, no one is going through something worse than any other. It is just different. We must support each other and share with each other. Our challenges will be at various times, giving us ample opportunities to help and support one another. ….if we allow it.