Thursday, November 19, 2009

What About Me?

Recently, I realized that I was no longer me.

Somewhere along the way, we mothers lose ourselves. We are no longer the women we once were but instead become Trace/Ross/Julia/Jenna/Ryan/Emma’s (fill in your own blank) mother. Our lives revolve around the early milestones of our babies and evolve into taxi services transporting our older children from activity to activity. Before we know it, we spend most of our waking hours taking care of our children’s needs and neglecting our own.

I’ve pondered this lately. I love being a mom, obviously. If I didn’t I would have stopped with kid #1 or 2 instead of having 6. But lately, I feel that my children’s needs have over shadowed my own, almost to the point of my own resentment. When is it my turn? When do my own needs count?

I had the most wonderful opportunity to go away for 4 glorious kid free days. I met an amazing group of women, fellow bloggers, some of whom I already knew via the internet, and some I had never even visited their blogs. Thirteen of us shared a 5 bedroom, 3 ½ bath house in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We laughed until we cried. We talked and bonded and created terms that will forever have new significance whenever we hear them (Hot Dish-Both Ways and That’s What She Said, to name a few.) I didn’t change a single diaper, serve a single child, wipe anyone’s nose, break up any fights. I fixed my hair EVERY DAY. I wore it down instead of my usual pony tail. I wore makeup and clothes without snot or food smeared across my shoulders and pant legs. I focused on me and I asked another mom the second day “Am I a bad mother because I’m not missing my kids even a tiny bit?”

I came home refreshed, relaxed and was greeted by a house full of children happy to see me and instead of being ready to jump back into my life, I came back reluctantly, unwillingly, and wanting for more. And like any “good” mother, I beat myself up one side and down the other for feeling that way. What kind of mother am I??? Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy to see my children but I continued to ask “What about me?”

Where along the line did we mother’s think that we had to give ourselves completely to our children and our spouses, leaving nothing for ourselves? And worse yet, when we do take time for ourselves, why do we find ourselves consumed with guilt?

I’ve tried to understand coming home from my trip only wanting more and I think I finally know. I’ve been running on empty for awhile and one trip didn’t fill up the “me” tank. Maybe giving myself permission to write a book and take a trip without my kids only made the need for me more apparent.

Our children are selfish creatures. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it's human nature. So the fact is that we will never give our children enough. They will always want more. It occurred to me this week that maybe we’re actually doing our children a disservice by focusing all our attention on them. They grow up selfish and egocentric. Maybe we’re actually doing them a favor if we show them that we’re real people, with real needs that sometimes have absolutely nothing to do with them. Maybe we’re teaching our daughters that it’s okay for mothers to have interests outside of their children. Maybe we’re teaching our sons that their future wives need time to themselves. Maybe, just maybe, we’re teaching our children that life isn’t all about them and to think of someone else’s feelings, even if the person just so happens to be their mother.

November has turned out to be the month of “me.” I’ve focused on writing my book so many nights dinner consists of chicken nuggets, frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese. I took my trip. This week I have activities 3 nights in a row (Wicked last night, New Moon tonight, a girl’s night out tomorrow night) and part of me feels guilty. But the fact remains that I’m there for my kids most of the time. I’m still taxi mom. I still kiss the booboos away, whether physical or emotional. My children still know that they are my favorite preteen/little girl/little boy/baby girl in the whole world. I read them books, tuck them at night and they know, hopefully without a shadow of a doubt, that I love them no matter what, with a love that knows no depth nor limit. And maybe, just maybe, if I love myself a little more, I’ll have even a little more love for them. The key, I think, is finding the balance.


C.L. Moyer said...

Amen, sister.

Anonymous said...

beautifully said...

Lorie said...

Denise, of course they know you love them and w/out a little you time, you might explode all over them one day. So don't feel guilty, in fact feel good, that you are able to balance both successfully and have wonderful children to boot. They will learn a little responsibility and know that the world doesn't revolve around's good for them to help and they are still loved even more!!!!! Glad you are feeling better.......... Although we think our world revolves around them, we are still people too, and just because we decided to become wives, mom's whatever the case may be, we still have to remember that we are still living this life too, so have a little fun and the children will be waiting for you when you get home, and happy to see you!!! XOXOXO

Brandy said...

Reading this gave me chills. So many times mothers & wives put themselves behind others, when basic logic says you have to take care of you first.

My world revolves around me & I fill it with people I love. That's what keeps it turning everyday. And if you ever feel like a "fill up" you're more than welcome to come to my world. :)

Kristin said...

You are so very right. Whenever I have the chance to be away (even for a few hours), I always feel guilty. Katie keeps telling me to enjoy that time but it's hard!

I am glad you've had a bit of "me" time. Try and make room for more of that as best you can. Thankfully, you are like me and have older teens/adults to help babysit. Even once a month would be great, huh?

Kat said...

Not only do we feel guilty around our kids...but often other moms make us feel guilty. That we aren't doing enough - playing enough - being interactive enough. I have stopped trying to defend myself and my style of parenting. Which is more about teaching than about friendship. I want to raise independent girls. And to do so, I need to be independent as well.

I am so glad that I got to spend time with you this weekend. So very glad. And I am ready to recharge. Again. Always! :-)

Heather said...

You are so right; finding balance is the key.

If you wrap yourself up in your kids, what will you have left when they are gone?

As mothers, we MUST take the time to be ourselves, and it IS important for our kids to know that they are not the center of our universe.

I KNEW I liked you when I met you last week! And how has it already been a week? It feels like a dream; we must make this an annual event!

Angie H. said...

I am so there with you on this... I know that I am on EMPTY but can't seem to find the time to fill the tank.... after reading this I know that I really need to work on that to make "ME" a better person which will result in making me a better mother, wife, daughter and sister.
Thank you for helping me see that it is ok ... :)
Angie H.

Melissa said...

Denise, I cannot tell you how relieved I am to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. It's so hard to know where to draw the line at too little "me" time or too much "me" time. Part of parenting is sacrifice, but if that's all we ever do we will eventually find ourselves poured out and completely useless to our children. I had a hard time getting back into the swing this week. I also feel that guilt for wanting to get away from my kids, but like Kat said to me this weekend, "You can be the kind of mom you want to be when you take time for you." That is so true.
I really enjoyed meeting you this past week. You are a special person with a God given gift for writing.
I'm dying to know how Wicked was....especially after our bedside Glee date (giggle giggle). I'm missing New moon tonight. I'll have to settle for a Sunday matinee. Let me know how it was! Talk to you soon!

Jill said...

ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT Denise!! I am going to read it again! GUILT TRIPS...LONG ONES...I put myself through those A LOT! My kids like all kids are selfish and indulged! AND, I am the one that DOES IT TO THEM!
This was a wonderful post...truly wonderful and I think it speaks to EVERY mom out there!

GOOD for YOU! Good for YOU Chick!

Angela said...

I had So much fun meeting and visiting with you!

I don't have kids yet but I do totally understand the struggle of "my needs vs. others". I deal with that daily and not always gracefully, but keep reminding myself I'm a work in progress, LOL. God's working on it! Try to relax and enjoy your "you" time and let those little breaks allow you to breathe, laugh, and love! Because I rarely get blocks of time these days where I can just do my own thing, i'm trying to learn the art of just taking moments wherever they come. This week (it sounds silly but) I bought some new beautiful sparly red nail polish and plan to give myself a pedicure. And I can't wait!

Hugs and please, seriously - anytime you want to get away feel free to come visit at my place!

Sandy Toes said...

Wow...sounds like you have a fun life though...3 nights fun!!!
sandy toe

Tammy Howard said...

I couldn't agree with you more. My sister and a few of our friends have what we call a 'Bad Moms Club' - thus named because three of us went on a vacation last year and someone said we were being bad moms for 'abandoning' our kids. (in all three of our cases we had 'abandoned' them with their fathers...) We, too, came back refreshed and renewed - so much so that we have made Bad Moms retreats and GNO's a regular thing. We've decided that we need our 'bad mom' time to make us good moms - which - dangit - all three of us are...

Shannon said...

So true! Why is it that as a mom, we focus all our attention on the needs of others... and disregard our own?

But when you think about it... wouldn't showing your kids that you love YOURSELF enough to take care of yourself be a good thing for them to witness?

Last weekend was the BEST. I'm so glad to have met you and talked with you. And can't wait to do it again! EE 2010, here we come! ;)

Kay Bratt said...

First of all, you are NORMAL! We all feel that way a lot. Lucky for me, my youngest is now 14 so I have a lot of "me time". Actually, by getting the opportunity to go to China and work in the orphanage, and really make it into 'my thing' turned into a me kinda world. I realized that life isn't about carpools, soccer games, who makes the best cupcakes or who throws the best birthday is about what kind of impact you make on the world and how everyone remembers you when you leave it. When you figure out that being yourself turns into you finding your reason for being here-- that is when it really feels good. And next time you have one of those better invite me....or I'll come kick your butt.

Grace said...

Wow... I think you took the thoughts out of my head and wrote them in your blog... Good for you to realize that it's not always about them. But you know? I feel guilty sometimes too... when I make it about me. Thank you for voicing what so many of us feel.

Jane In The Jungle said...

Excellent Denise! I remember you saying that and I so agreed! Didn't call to check on them at all...texted a few times and that was it. So enjoyed being away.
Enjoyed meeting you and look forward to EE 10!

BTW, how was your plane trip back??? As exciting as getting there!!

Shell in your Pocket said...

I am so "here"! Next year, all my kids are in school and I find myself asking "now what?"

sandy toe

Kristy said...

Denise this was a great post. You are totally normal and that guilty thing....well let's thank EVE for screwing up, now it is our cross to bare. I am so glad that you are making time for yourself. Once a month about 30 to 35 women from my church and community meet for S.O.U.L. Cafe (sisters of unconditional love) and it refuels me. We need that time as women to connect to people in our shoes and I think it is great that you are doing this for yourself.

Love and blessings, Kristy

ps I just wanna tell you that that the laundry detergent you taught me to make is working out just great for me!!!! Thank you so much girly!

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