USA: Selfish Self – Finding the Balance

USA: Selfish Self – Finding the Balance

 

BeSelfish

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!

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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’?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.

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Photo credits to the author.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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UNITED KINGDOM: Parenting by Example

UNITED KINGDOM: Parenting by Example

I have been pondering this topic a lot just recently, it’s a biggie. We have a massive responsibility as parents to raise our children to be good citizens. To help them to develop the character traits that will make for a well-rounded adult, you know the kind of things.

We feel we ought to help them to be loving, tolerant, resilient, kind, honest, courageous, patient, responsible and self-disciplined. Realistically those are just a few of the traits many of us want our child to display, some parents will be looking for a high level of competitive spirit leading to academic achievement or sporting success and others are much more interested in their child displaying empathy and nurturing others.

Whatever it is you want your child to develop or display the scary realism is that you need to be demonstrating it to them, as children learn what they live.

We cannot just tell them how we would like them to be and hope they do not notice our actions nor replicate our imperfections, sadly that just does not work. Have you ever seen the poem by Dorothy Law Nolte? She wrote it back in 1972 but it is as relevant now as it was then. Have a read:

Dorothy Law Nolte Poem

I try to read this poem regularly as I believe every parent should, because it reminds me that to display the positive and to affirm is so much more powerful than to criticise. Even when that criticism is done with good meaning ‘Oh Jenny, you got a B grade, that is very good but I know you can get an A if you try a little harder’.

Do you know what Jenny hears? She hears I’m not good enough. Isn’t that worrying? It is such a fine balance to parent in a way that encourages the child to stretch themselves and to achieve all they can whilst also leaving their sense of self-worth intact.

A good example of children learning what they live was demonstrated to me the other day by one of my 7-year-old girls when they were in the car with me. We were driving along and someone stopped in front of me due to a traffic jam, it was perfectly acceptable to do so, and I had no issue with it. Quick as a flash Miss E shouts ‘Oi, get a move on, we’re in a hurry you idiot’. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Firstly, we were not in a hurry, secondly, I never use the word idiot, and thirdly, this is my quieter child!

‘Where on earth did that come from Miss E?’ I ask her and she starts to look a little sheepish. ‘Well, Mummy’ pipes up her more vocal twin sister ‘when we were coming home from gymnastics last week and that man nearly made you crash, you shouted at him and told him he was stupid’. Ah yes, I remember that and start to state my case ‘but Miss M that man was driving the wrong way in a car park and came out of nowhere driving far too fast and…’ and then I tail off. It is true the situation was different (to an adults eyes), but to the child, all they had learnt was that if someone drives a car in a way you don’t like you shout abuse at them.  Whoops, parenting fail!

It is a tough learning curve, this parenting lark, but if we are willing to persevere and learn from our children we will grow better at it, but boy does it take some work. I know for sure it is worth it though. Thank you for all you teach me my babies. This mummy will keep on trying her best, and I’m sure I’ll muck up again but do you know what? That is OK, as long as I acknowledge it and apologise because then I am teaching my kids one of the most important messages, that it is OK to mess up and then try again. We all make mistakes and we can all move on.

How about you, any good learning you want to share with us?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of Mummy from the Heart

Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world. Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank. As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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NETHERLANDS:  The Twelve Braids, or What Does It Mean to Be a Good Mom?

NETHERLANDS: The Twelve Braids, or What Does It Mean to Be a Good Mom?

twelve braidsImagine yourself in our situation. Your friends are getting married. The wedding is in beautiful Italy. You decide to go, even if it means leaving your two daughters with your parents-in-law, and just take the baby with you. Your in-laws arrive and you ask them to take your 3-year old to dancing class, show them where all the things are and tell them when to bring the girls to daycare. You’re excited. You pack your bags the day before the wedding and go to bed.

But you don’t sleep. Instead, you talk. You tell your husband that you’re not really happy with this arrangement. That you don’t trust your in-laws enough to leave your children with them. That you don’t even feel good about your decision to leave the children with anyone. In the end you start crying and tell your husband that your eldest daughter doesn’t like you and that you’re the worst mom ever.

And then your husband tells you that you’re an amazing mom. After you calm down and feel somewhat better he tells you that he’s not happy with this arrangement, either. You see, our little girl has just had the chicken pox, and according to my husband’s calculation, our baby would be at risk of getting it right during our trip to Italy. The baby was fussy for the last few days, he has had no fever, but his temperature is slightly elevated. What to do?

Consider two possibilities.

Number one: You decide to stay. You’re afraid that if he’s going to get the chicken pox, it will spoil your whole trip. You don’t want the other children to get it, too, and besides, traveling with a fussy baby full of ugly itchy red spots is no fun. You tell your in-laws in the morning. They stay for a few days, but that’s OK. Your MIL learns to accept your decisions and to get out of your way when you sit down to read a book. You learn to tell her when you’re overwhelmed and exercise your privileges as a mom.

When your children wake up in the morning, you feel as if you haven’t seen them for ages. You’re suddenly full of patience. You’re relieved that you didn’t have to leave without them. You braid your big girl’s hair in twelve pink little braids. You feel great. Your decision isn’t entirely selfless. You don’t trust your in-laws and don’t want to leave the girls with them, and that’s OK.

Number two: You wake up in the morning, check your baby’s temperature and decide he won’t get the chicken pox after all. You pack your bags, kiss the girls goodbye and leave to catch your flight. You have fun at the wedding, you dance and sing and eat delicious food. You realize that you haven’t had a vacation for ages. You enjoy waking up in the morning without having to get three children dressed and ready for the day. You get to have a whole conversation with your husband. You go back home and are happy to see your children again. You feel great and relaxed and you’re sure that going to that wedding was exactly what you needed right now. Your decision isn’t entirely selfish. You know very well that having a short vacation will make you more relaxed and a better mom. And that’s OK, too.

How did we choose? We stayed. I was sad not to be there when our friends said: “I do”. Our son didn’t get the chicken pox; his skin is silky smooth as always. So, was it a bad decision? No. Would it have been a bad decision had we gone? No. The thing is that while I decided to stay, if it hadn’t been for the chicken pox threat, I would have gone to that wedding.

You can make a selfish decision and still be a good mom. You can make a decision seen as selfless and make it for purely selfish reasons. It doesn’t matter. You’re a good mom.

Have you ever been in this sort of predicament? What did/would you do?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and mother of three in The Netherlands, Olga Mecking.

The photograph used in this post is attributed to the author.

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

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