Once we have children, there are a lot of freedoms we sacrifice. We give up our sleep, our work, and our basic control over our days when they are infants. It’s hard to find balance. As our children grow, there are other things we give up, including, for some women, working life, self-care, and personal dreams.
There is a strong current still out there of the old “ideal” of the self-sacrificing mother.
Messages tell us that it is selfish to value ourselves highly, that our children’s needs and wants are always more important than our own. Especially if we’ve practiced any kind of Attachment parenting (which has many benefits, don’t get me wrong), we bump up against this idea of the exalted self-sacrificing mother.
Is It Really So Exalted?
The rarely-discussed underbelly of the self-sacrificing mom is low self-worth.
As human beings, we all want to be of value, but if you are sacrificing your well-being, you may be disregarding your inherent self-worth to find value only through your children. This is not only a huge disservice to the light within you and the contributions you can make to the world, but it is also harmful to your children.
As parents we teach by example. We know that how we live day-to-day teaches our children far more about our values than what we say. When children see a mom who does not practice self-care, who has no fulfillment outside of caring for them, they learn that model. They do not learn to love themselves, they do not see a model who follows her dreams. They do not see an example of a woman who knows she is worthy.
Self-care = Self-love
We all know the lesson of putting on our own oxygen mask first, but do we practice that? Oxygen to parents like self-care and meaningful goals and contributions should not always be shunted aside. Our children need to learn from our example how to value themselves and care for themselves so that they can live healthy and fulfilled lives.
Often it is hard to understand that we cannot give what we do not have. If we do not encourage our own light to shine at it’s brightest, we are offering our children a meager version of ourselves.
If it has been allowed to dim, how do you start shining your own light?
Begin with taking care of yourself. Create a daily practice that is nourishing to your mind, body, and spirit. In my work, I help clients create a yoga habit, but your practice can include other healthy movement plus a bit of time for stillness and reflection.
Practice observing your thoughts and shifting your negative self-talk into words that are caring and kind. Place reminders around your house that uplift you and remind you to nourish your self-worth. Let go of the need to please everyone. Start to ask for help. Carve out time for yourself and enjoy it without guilt.
It’s about balance
As with all things, this is about balance. There are times to put others needs before our own, and that is healthy. But it shouldn’t be all the time. The middle path is the hardest to walk, and it takes a good dose of self-awareness. But with a self-care practice we can build that self-awareness, growing and learning. We are always changing whether we realize it or not. Start to be intentional about where you put your energy and how you grow.
In my work, I see that when we as parents are healthy and thriving, we not only become more vibrant contributors to our worlds, but we also become better parents because we are grounded in self-worth. Give your children the gift of your own self-care.