How It All Started
We mothers have been culturally programmed to put our children’s needs or wants first, aircraft oxygen masks related stories, aside.
Recently, I attended an international women’s forum in Kuala Lumpur that focused on whether women can have families and careers simultaneously. Even in this day with many working mothers, women feel guilty when more time is poured into careers/ interests or as much to them as their home.
There’re most definitely times when our children’s needs come first. That’s when, e.g., they can’t fend for themselves and there’s no one specially tasked or employed to care for them. In emergency cases if you have a sick or terminally ill child, you may have to put your child’s needs “first”.
Still, you have to carve out some “Me” time. It’s essential to your well-being, as a person and as a mother.
The Balance Game
There’s a delicate balance that mothers must manage, between parenting their child and parenting themselves.
A good parent is one who nurtures, cares for her own self and puts her needs at par with her child’s. You are your child’s main role model. If you take care of yourself, your child will pick up this most important attitude from you.
A parent’s job is not to sacrifice for her child but to guide the child on how to take care of himself/ herself well enough. Self-love is indeed a beautiful gift to give a child. If you can teach children to love themselves, the other lessons will fall into place much faster.
I’m not asking you to not care about your child at all but to understand that we are all one.
Self-Love Is An Important Life Lesson
By caring for yourself you are caring for your child!
I quit my job for about 2 years, to care for my eldest child, 20 years ago, but by the time I had my youngest, I had so many things on my plate that I didn’t have as much time for her. By this time, however, I had learnt that my needs and wants are just as important as my children’s and so I didn’t sweat the small stuff anymore.
You don’t have to give in to their food requests or choice of activities all the time or attend every function if you need rest. Tell them when you need to bathe or have a meal. If they’re very young, have someone designated to attend to their important needs, while you finish whatever it is you need to do.
I stopped saying “no” to requests to meet friends because my daughter or son had a play date or an outing. Sometimes I tell my children, that they had to cancel their appointments because I needed to do my thing even if it was just tea with my friends, shopping or a spa date.
She Turned Out Fine
My youngest turned out to be more independent and well adjusted, more so than her brother whom I had dedicated so much of my time and energy to when he was younger.
She has a wonderful and resilient attitude towards life. Plus, she’s helpful, positive and forgives more easily than her brother with his more rigid attitude. She also has better personal boundaries, as she is able to say “no” to expectations and requests. She’s able to wait patiently, most of the time, and doesn’t sulk if someone needs to do something and it supersedes her wants at that time.
I’m grateful for the opportunities to tell her that I have bought something that is especially mine for my birthday or a sibling’s and that she’ll have to wait for hers to get her own special thing. Or that just because she is the youngest she doesn’t always get her way or get to bully older siblings.
At the same time she understands that if she is hurt or has an emergency I love her enough to be there for her as soon as possible.
Give It A Try
Next time you have an urge to give up something you need or enjoy for your child’s sake ask yourself, “Will my child really suffer if I said ‘no’?”
Don’t have any expectations, for example you may feel guilty, the first time you do it. But parenting is a life lesson on its own. Especially if self-love or self-worth or even setting personal boundaries is particularly challenging for you.
The first time may seem difficult if you have been giving in for too long, but really…it does get better. Remember, happy Mums raise happier children!