But I will.
I think it's an important topic. On the surface there seem to be two distinct camps of mothers-those who believe that their children come first and those who believe that they come first. It can be easy to judge one as 'better' than the other, but the truth is the appropriate level of selfishness is a very complicated topic.
On the one hand there is the argument that all things should be sacrificed for your children. Their needs and happiness comes first-after all, you decided to have them and they are yours to take care of. You have been entrusted with tiny people who need you to teach them and care for them and love them and that should be top priority at all costs.
On the other hand there is the argument that you have to put yourself first in order to be capable of taking care of your children. As an example, the oxygen mask instructions on airplanes tell you to put your mask in place before assisting your children....after all, if you pass out from lack of oxygen your kids are on their own anyway. So moms on this side of the camp put their metaphorical oxygen masks on first for the future benefit of their children.
See? It's not black and white. There is one thing for certain though-people with extreme attitudes on this topic end up with extremely bad results...let me tell you a story about two moms I know who embody these extremes.
One mom is Martyr Mom. She puts her children above everything in her life. She cooks their meals from scratch. Everything in her home is hand sewn. She's on the School Board, the PTA, she coaches Coach Pitch, and she is a Den Mother. She tirelessly works for her children from sun up to the wee hours of the morning with never a complaint, and her children think that the earth revolves around her. This is very admirable (I complain all the time and I do half the work she does on a good day)-but in order to survive this, this woman is on a pharmacy of drugs. Since having her children she has suffered with depression, anxiety, OCD, panic attacks, phobias-you name it she's experienced it. She is suffering, her marriage is failing from lack of attention-but her children are tended to with absolute care.
The other mom is Oxygen Mask Mom. She puts herself above her children because she believes she is entitled to after her recent divorce, which caused her a lot of pain. She feels that she needs to take time by herself, doing things that she likes to do. She was a very young mom who never got to spend time for herself, she's coming out of a mediocre marriage, and she wants to spend time relaxing claiming a relaxed and happy mom will be best for her children. This is an absolutely valid point-but she takes it to the extreme and her children are suffering for it. She enrolled her children in as many programs as possible so that they could be shipped to and fro by bus and she could be alone most of the day. She spends only a few hours at home with them before they go to bed and then three to four nights a week she hits the bar. She reaches for alcohol and the company of strangers, bringing them both into her home after her children are sleeping. She feels that the holidays are too stressful for her this year because of her delicate emotional status and has decided that she and her children will not be celebrating them...it's too hard for her. She is bouncing back from her marriage and is, at this point, happy and relaxed-but her children are suffering.
Obviously, none of us want to be either of these moms. Common sense dictates you must balance somewhere in the middle---but where? And how?
Where is the line between self preservation for the benefit of your children and selfish behavior that is harmful to them? At one date night a week? At two martinis? At a nap extended to benefit Mommy? At frozen dinners?
How do you walk that line, respecting your needs as a person while carefully attending your children and fulfilling your role as Mommy? Do you do something for yourself once a day? Once a week? Once a year?
How do you become a self-preserving mother, devoted to the health and happiness of her children?
That is the million dollar question...and I have not figured out the magic formula yet. My own parents were high on the selfish scale, and as a consequence I fear selfishness to an almost irrational point. Sometimes I do things that, even when I look at them, seem ludacris-like staying awake the entire time The Bean is awake at night even if she isn't crying, just in case she needs me. Like going days without a shower because I don't want to leave the kids in nap longer than the agreed upon time period. Like leaving the house only once a week to pay bills so that I don't take time out of the time I spend with the kids, even for one day. I push myself so hard that I eventually flop from exhaustion and then I go over into the other extreme-I've made entire meals out of a combination of boxed/frozen/canned items-I've made dinners with only one item! I've fallen asleep on the couch while the kids were playing right in front of me. My house has been so dirty that I have seriously questioned it's safety.
Still, there are times when I'm not too exhausted and I'm not too stressed about being entirely selfless that I seem to hit that sweet spot. The one where the house is disorganized but clean, the meals are cooked and balanced but simple, I get out a few times but still manage to spend equal time with all of the kids, and I get a nice hot bubble bath to boot. How does it happen? Luck mostly-though I do have one little secret.
My list. I make a list in my head of things that I would like to do for myself, and each thing has a different time requirement and level of involvement. Then, when I have a spare minute I see what on my list I can fit in. If I have an hour during the day I'll probably read my blogs. If I have an hour at night I'll take a bubble bath. If I have twenty minutes during the day I'll do the crossword, at night I'll watch something off the DVR.
So I'm curious-what do you do for yourself? How do you balance your Mom time with your Mom responsibilities? Where on the spectrum of selfishness do you think is the best place to be as Mom? I'd love to hear your thoughts.