As moms, we have a unique set of pressures on us. Some are imposed by the outside world, but you may be surprised about how many of them may be self imposed. I remember a situation when my first child was only about a year old. I was working with a fitness trainer to try to get back in shape before having my second child. One of the things he insisted on was that I eat breakfast daily, something I had never been good at doing. So one morning I was in the kitchen making my baby and myself some breakfast. He was waiting in his high chair. I was done making his breakfast, but was waiting for my toast to pop up before I went over to him, so we could eat together. I suddenly felt this rush of anxiety and guilt inside my body as I waited for my toast. I noticed this and asked myself what this feeling was about. I realized that I felt guilty that I was making my child wait a few extra seconds for his breakfast because of my own breakfast. I found it intriguing that I would have this response. It became something I pondered throughout that day. I came to realize that I had an underlying belief that to be a “good mother”, I must always put everyone else’s needs first. That it was not even acceptable for my child to wait a few extra seconds to eat so that I could eat too. My subconscious belief led me to feel guilty about this and feel like I was not being a good mother.
Wow! Just wow! I realized how completely irrational that was. I realized that if I kept this belief (that I hadn’t even realized I had) I would teach my children all of the wrong things in life. I would teach them to expect to always come first. I would teach them that my sole role in life is to be there for them. I would teach them not to respect me. And in the mist of all this, I would likely grow weary, feel unappreciated, and possibly even come to resent my role as mother. I knew I needed to change this. I needed to become consciously aware of thoughts that lead to guilt about things like my own self care. I needed to make a conscious effort to create balance between my role as mother, as wife, and as human. I needed to be sure to treat myself with the same respect that I give to my children and my husband. I needed to throw out the thoughts that lead to guilt for taking time for myself, for doing things like eating or sleeping or working out or taking some time for leisure.
I work with women every day who are struggling with this very issue. They have spent years serving at the expense of themselves. They have lost who they are as a result of not affording themselves the same rights as everyone else. Now they are in a place where their children don’t respect them or appreciate what they do for them. Some find that their husbands now find them uninteresting. Many feel unfulfilled or don’t remember who they were before becoming mothers. To work through this and find their zest for life again, they must begin to care for themselves, set boundaries with their children, stop expecting themselves to be everything for everyone, learn to say no, and work on finding what it is that makes them feel fulfilled beyond the very important role of mother. If we can all remind ourselves that is ok for those we are serving to wait for our toast to pop up, we will begin to break this unhealthy pattern.