We can only give in relation to how much we have. If we are drained, our needs are not being met, and we are emotionally taxed, we have less to give to our children. Everyone needs a break and if we continue to push ourselves and not nurture ourselves and our needs, the chances of us falling apart or breaking down are high. A mother who falls apart will not be there for either her kids or her partner.
As mothers, we tend to have our priorities upside down. We tend to put our children first, then our partners, and only then ourselves.
This is an inversion of the correct order, which would be:
- To place ourselves first (just like on an airplane we would put the oxygen mask on ourselves before our kids because if we’ve passed out we can’t help them anyway!).
- To place our relationship second (other than single moms) – most mothers will place their children before their partners, but we need to remember that the two of you came before the kids, and will remain after they have left. A solid partnership helps the mother to cope, and provides a strong family base for the children to flourish. If your relationship is troubled or falling apart this will impact on all members of the family.
- Then come the children. We are so conditioned by society, the media, and well meaning friends and family that the children should come first – that we should give up everything and make sure the kids are ok. I’m not saying at all that their needs should be neglected, but that in order to provide for their needs we need a solid foundation.
Mothers tend to confuse self-love with selfishness, however self-love is the only way to extend love to others. We forget that our needs and desires don’t just disappear when we have children, and if we are unfulfilled we will be more irritable, resentful and will enjoy our parenting experience less, not to mention giving an unconscious message to our children in the long run that our own dreams and needs do not matter. The best way that we can inspire our children to live fulfilling, enriched lives is to live that ourselves.
I explained this to my kids one day by making a pyramid of plastic drinking cups. “Look here”, I said, “this cup on top, that’s me. Now what happens when I’ve had time to myself to do the things I love and I’ve had enough rest and I’m feeling happy and relaxed” (and as I do this I’m filling up the cup with a jug of water). “Can you see how my happiness and love and wellbeing flows down into the second layer of cups? Now that layer is me and dad – and can you see how when we’ve had time together and we’re happy and full of love that all that love and happiness flows down into the third layer? And that third layer is you two. So for me to be the best, happiest, most fun mom that I can be can you see that I need to fill myself up first?”
Now every time I need some time to myself to recharge my batteries or to see a friend, I simply remind them that I am the cup on top and I’m filling myself up so that I can be a better mom for them.