Prioritizing yourself isn't selfish—it's how you survive
The martyrdom of motherhood feels noble, but who does it serve? Hint: it's not you.
I’ve noticed a trend recently in my online parenting groups, where moms are crying out that they’re beyond depleted from giving all of their energy to their kids. They lament over a lost sense of self and miss the things that brought them joy prior to having a baby.
This of course results in resentment, frustration, and anger—which then often rears its ugly head with guttural screams directed at our children, once we finally hit the wall and break (or is that just me?).
I’m quite sure parents have always struggled with the inevitable shift in identity that happens upon having children. But things have changed with our current crop of parents. And not for the better.
Parenting has become an all-consuming activity, something the “culture” tells us we need to be concerned with at all times. The pressure that parents face today to ensure our children are emotionally intelligent, fulfilled, happy, and stimulated is next-level.
Throw in the lack of community and family support due to the pandemic, with a healthy side of Covid anxiety, and it’s no wonder we’re running on empty.
When I started this newsletter, it was from a desire to have my own space, away from my kids and from the demands of life—something just for me that, hopefully, would resonate with others as well.
Writing has always been my escape and my way of making sense of the world. Without it, I was languishing.
I pushed it aside because there were too many competing priorities—too much to organize, to manage, to fix, to take care of. And when I did have some sort of semblance of spare time, I sank into the couch, an empty shell, and stared at the warm glow of the TV so I wouldn’t have to think about waking up and doing it all over tomorrow.
Several weeks ago, I spoke to my therapist about the challenge of finding the time to do the things I enjoy doing, and the guilt that often follows if I do make space for my needs.
She said something that lit a fire in me: “Take the time. STEAL it.”
Okay, maybe not a fire. But a spark.
Something about her words and the conviction with which she said them—steal it. It’s like I needed permission to carve out time to nurture my neglected self.
I’ve been making more of a conscious effort to prioritize my own needs, as difficult as it often is to do that. And I’m not talking about self-care in the sense of pampering or physical nourishment—although I hope to incorporate more of that somewhere, somehow. I’m talking about the more meaty stuff. The stuff that makes me excited to face each day rather than dread it.
I’ve been writing, and reading, and devouring podcasts that invigorate and teach me. I’ve been seeking out community and people who inspire me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want out of life, for myself—my dreams, my goals, my ambitions, which I had shoved aside. Which I had forgotten mattered.
I think as parents, we get really good at showing up for everyone else, and we get lost in the labyrinth of the endless list of demands begging for our attention. The martyrdom of motherhood feels noble, but who does it serve? Who really benefits from a burnt-out, cranky, bitter parent?
Perhaps there are those selfless people among us who can devote their entire being to their family and feel fully complete and satisfied. But for many of us, we need more. We need to remember who we are outside of someone who wipes dirty bums, and books doctor’s appointments, and makes time-consuming meals that end up cold, or on the floor, or in the garbage.
We need to show up for ourselves in order to show up for everyone else.
We need to steal the time—wherever or whenever we can.
Right now my son is behind me watching TV. Should I be spending quality time with him instead of writing this? Maybe. Should I be concerned about how many times he’s watched the Paw Patrol movie? Possibly. Should I be reading to him instead? Probably. But this is how I steal my time.
This is how I survive.
I’ve been in a bit of a zombie-state the past couple years (haven’t we all?), going through the motions, seeing each day as something to get through. That obviously didn’t pan out well for me, as I became depressed and anxious and angry.
I’m waking up now (as much as I can, considering the many years of sleep deprivation). There’s been a shift—I can feel it. I’ve rediscovered what it’s like to create, to plan, and to dream. I didn’t know how much I had lost until I found it again.
I hope that all the parents reading this will take the time to remember who you were before having kids. That person is still in there. Go find them. I promise you’ll be better for it—even if it means your kid has too much screen-time, and the house is a mess, and everyone’s eating cereal for dinner.
“But I don’t have the time!” you’re shouting at me.
Take the time. Steal it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what can happen when you do.
Stray thoughts 💭
If you’re thinking, “I don’t even know what I enjoy doing!” you might find this podcast a good place to start.
This resonated big-time (there have been a lot of snack dinners happening in my house and I have zero qualms about it): The Pandemic Made Me Depressed About Dinner. I’m Not Alone.
It’s possible my house is haunted. I promise to update in the future if there are any developments/ghost-sightings…
Thank you as always for reading! Leave me a comment, click the little heart, and remember to subscribe if you’re not already doing so. I appreciate you 🙏
This really resonates with me.