Saturday, January 13, 2007

What comes first?

We moms have a tendency to lose ourselves, to get lost in nurturing others - we curb our hobbies to make time for our kids, we curb our free time to make time for our husbands, we curb our appetites to provide for our kids (or we just eat their leftover mac & cheese with a side of applesauce). In the midst of focusing all our attention on others, our own values, intellectual development, social lives, and personality get run down, toppled, and trampled. In placing everyone else first, we give out all we have. Martina McBride says it well in "In my daughter's eyes":
And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes

That was my mantra in the early days of motherhood. I kept telling myself that mothering was about giving more when you feel like giving up. And in part, that's true. But I think there's another side to it. Two books I've been recently (Scream-Free Parenting and Chasing God and the Kids Too) point out that as parents we have so much more to give when we're filled up. In other words, if we take care of ourselves better we'll be able to take better care of others. I think there's a lot to that. So, to that end, I've started taking time after dinner, when the kids are happily playing together and my husband is around to watch them, to read a good book or spend some time knitting. I know that for a good 20 minutes, I'll be able to do something I care about. And I also know that my kids will see that, and they'll model that behavior as they grow. If reading is important to me, or if knitting is a good way to spend my time, my kids will gravitate toward those activities or similar ones.

Also a bit counter-cultural, I think that my husband should be my next priority, even before my kids. If I can focus on my relationship with him, think of how my kids will benefit from seeing that love in action! I truly believe that my children take a backseat to my marriage. I'm actually sad for women (and their husbands too) who derive their identity from their kids. I see it all the time - email addresses that read "timsmom @", I've even seen car license plates that say things like CINDYSMOM. How hard for those kids to know that their mother depends on them for her happiness and fulfillment! What incredible pressure to put on a child. And how sad for that mom, to think that she has completely lost herself in her child's (or children's) identity.

So, to all you moms out there, get out and do something you love. And by something you love, I'm referring to something that doesn't directly relate to your children. Treat yourself. Take a night off. Fill yourself up (emotionally and mentally) so that you'll have more to pour out later, and so that pouring yourself out won't leave you empty. It'll be good for your family, but more importantly, do it for yourself!

No comments: