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’?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo credits to the author.
Last week as I was driving my children to school, my son asked me out of the blue “Mom, what do you do all day when we are at school?” My daughter chimed in with,” Yeah…what DO you do all day?” (more…)
“From Technicals to Tummy Time: Inside My Decision to be a Stay-At-Home Mom”
Rebels, instability, armored vehicles, curfew, and no-go zones. Four short years ago, those words dominated my daily life. Fast forward to today and it’s diapers, infant Tylenol, Boogie Wipes, potty training, and “Dinosaur Train.” I think we can call that a pretty significant life change. Was it one that I saw coming? Not at all.
My husband and I always knew that we wanted to have children – definitely two and probably more. We were excited about traveling the world with them, raising them abroad, and teaching them about the importance of being open, understanding, and tolerant of other cultures. Our Foreign Service lifestyle was perfect for this. At the time I became pregnant with my first, we had already lived in Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Australia, and the Middle East. We were looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead with a family in tow. We could have a family, continue our careers, and introduce our children to so much of the world.
All the while, I could remain doing the very unique and powerful work that had defined not only my career, but me as a person. My role included participating in demining campaigns along the Mozambique-Tanzania border, serving as an independent observer in Mozambique’s local and national elections, barring Venezuelan drug dealers from entry into the United States, visiting and speaking with rebel groups and refugees in Darfur, Sudan, and being baffled – ad nauseam – by the lack of progress in U.S.-China climate negotiations.
I never thought much about leaving my career to be a stay-at-home mom. Before I was pregnant, a distant family member lambasted me for entertaining the idea I might continue my career after children came along – a judgment which deeply offended me (and still does). Working as a U.S. diplomat, and perhaps becoming an ambassador, is always what I had wanted to do. I didn’t believe working full-time and being a mom were mutually exclusive (and for the record, I still don’t).
My dad – a captain for Pan American Airways – and my mom – a flight attendant for National Airlines – continued to work after I was born for several years, carefully arranging their schedules so that one of them could be at home with me while the other was away. Why could my husband and I not continue our careers in the Service, alternating times we might need to work late to accommodate receptions and presidential visits, and raise our family in the way we wanted to? We could. So it was with that mindset I worked until the day I delivered my first baby. In the final weeks before delivery I worked until midnight, defining U.S. South China Sea policy – assured that I would be back to work after the standard three-month maternity leave period ended.
However, after the birth of our son, something changed for me – something visceral; something very basic. Once I held our baby in my arms, it became clear to me that no visits to U.S.-funded rural hospitals, Darfur peace negotiations, or U.S.-China strategic dialogues could convince me to be away from him.
While I had loved my job, my calling in life had changed to raising him – and other children we might have – in the best way that I could, making myself available to him as often as I could. I had changed my mind; my whole outlook on my career, and pretty much – life. I resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service and became a stay-at-home mom.
My husband and I were extremely happy with the decision, but there were many others that weren’t. My own dad called me a quitter and repeatedly voiced his “disappointment” with my decision. “I thought you’d be an Ambassador,” he said. At work, others tried to call my bluff. Why would I quit my career with the seniority I had accrued? That wouldn’t make any sense, right?
I write this not to judge others for their decision to continue to work after the birth of a baby – only to share my story.
I, so dedicated to work and ambitious in my career goals, chose to walk away from it all after our son was born. It was a decision that shocked me. It was not something I saw coming – not even at 39.5 weeks pregnant; yet, this was something that was crystal clear when I became a mother. I realize how important it is for parents to make their own decisions about work/life balance. Many moms, several of my closest friends included, feel the need to balance work and parenthood equally. I admire them for the ability to juggle both so beautifully and successfully. I also realize that many families cannot afford for one parent to choose to stay at home. To those families, I have the utmost respect, because I can only begin to understand how hard it might be to want to stay at home with your children, but not be able to do so.
Parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood – they change you. You might choose to remain in your same working pattern, but you will have become a more sensitive soul. You might decide that a Saturday trip to the park is far more enjoyable than dining at your favorite brunch spot. And you will begin to cherish sleep more than you ever thought possible. Welcoming a baby into your life is powerfully transformative. Things you never gave a moment’s thought to before become incredibly important – and may even change your path, and that of your children.
So, what changed for you?
Loren Braunohler and her family moved to Bangkok in November 2010. A former U.S.diplomat who served in Mozambique, Venezuela, Sudan, Washington DC, and Thailand, Loren resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service in July 2011 to be a full-time mom to son Logan, now age three and daughter Katelyn, age fourteen months. When parenting permits, Loren is a freelance journalist and regularly contributes to Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, CNN Travel, and Bangkok Mothers and Babies International Magazine, among others, and guests blogs for premier parenting websites such as World Moms Blog. In 2012, Loren started Toddle Joy, an online blog and resource for expat parents of young children who are new to Thailand and the region.
Samples of Loren’s work are available on her website www.toddlejoy.com. Photo credit to the author.
This past fall, I agreed to coordinate an art competition for my son’s elementary school. The oversight of this program included working with school staff, budget mapping, recruiting volunteers and judges, event planning, marketing, public speaking, and data management. Some may say, “But it’s for kids, right? Small scale?” I suppose. However, I think of kids as our most important shareholders in a way, so the stakes were high in my mind. Oh, and by the way, I’m not actually the “artistic” type. So the project management piece of this was just fine, but the actual getting-kids-jazzed-about-art was something that I hadn’t thought about before signing on. Yet with all of that, what concerned me most was whether I still had my grown up chops. I’m talking about being able to hold my own and remain verbally agile in adult dialogue over a multi-month project.
For the past 7 years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom with two young boys (by choice, and I love it). So most of my days are spent discussing the merits of dinosaur vs. oval shaped chicken nuggets or perfecting my living room fort building skills. I talk kid-speak constantly. When spending time with adult friends, I’ve accidentally reverted to my mommy-mode and announced I needed a “potty check.” My husband has greeted me with “Hi, Tara,” and I have responded on auto-pilot with “Hey, buddy.” I perpetually walk around with my hair in a wet knot while clothed in semi-clean jeans and a fleece top.
So entering into this project, I was a little nervous. What if I asked a professional photographer if her dinner was “nummy” ? Or what if I ended a talk with the principal by saying, “Sure thing, big guy.” These things just spray out of a stay-at-home parent’s mouth like a geyser. (more…)
This week we asked our World Moms Blog writers,
“If a magic genie appeared and offered to grant you one wish in 2012, what would it be?”
Here’s what some of our World Moms are wishing for…
Maggie Ellison of South Carolina, USA writes:
“As long as we stay healthy, then I would like for my husband to be able to find a stable, secure job where he is happy and provides a decent living, so I can continue to stay home with my children, have the stability we have always wanted and not have to move again. Magic genie, come through for us, please.” (more…)