Friday, January 28, 2011

If Mama ain't happy...

I'm going to admit something that may change how you all think of me.

Last night, while drifting off to sleep, I was watching an episode of "What Not To Wear" and the lady they were making over was a mom. Like most moms on the show, she said she didn't care what she wore because she was too busy taking care of her family. And then it was an emotional scene with Stacy about the importance of taking time out for ourselves.

(And that wasn't the part that will change how you think of me. Come on. It's "What Not to Wear." You've all seen it. It's when I start admitting to Tivo-ing the Duggars that you all can act shocked.)

(PS...I totally do. Judge away.)


I don't know when it became trendy or popular to sacrifice yourself for your family, but that's just not one bandwagon I've jumped on. Or even understand.

Maybe I'm just that selfish.

When I was a teenager, I told my mom I didn't want kids because "they break your heart." Maybe it was because I saw what we put our mom through (which hey, we didn't end up on a talk show or in the police reports or anything, but still, things weren't the Waltons all the time) that made me come to this decision. But I was 16 or 17. Kids weren't exactly on the radar at that point.

Now, I have three kids, as you all know. I love them. Of COURSE I love them. Does that mean that they are my whole world? Nope. A good-sized portion of the pie, but not the whole thing.

So it's when I read or hear about moms that feel guilty about spending a night away from their kids or those that use their kids as an excuse for not nurturing themselves, it makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong, because I don't have these feelings.

Did you hear about Jessica? She actually sleeps through the night! And does things without her kids. What a horrible mom.

I'm not sure where the unwritten code is published, but I'm sure it is. Mom's are supposed to give up themselves for their kids, end up feeling depleted and have to be talked into taking time for themselves. What if you're already at Step Three? Am I not as good of a mom as you because I got to the conclusion first?

Do my kids keep me busy? Sure. Do they keep me from being me, absolutely not.

(Now, to be clear, I am not out everynight partying it up. I'm not wearing inappropriate clothes for my age . I'm not the mom that lets her kids get away with everything. You all know that mom. Some of you are that mom, and hey, if it works for you, great. It will never work for me.)

A good example for me is sleep. I will sell vital organs or family members for an uninterrupted 9 hours. It's one of the highest things on my priority list. And sure, I've stayed up with the occasional sick kid, but when Disgruntled Husband is home afterwards, I tell him about my evening awake and head to bed. I'm not sure I even apologize.

When my kids were babies, sleep was still as important. My first child, Larry Potter, came home from the hospital at 2 days old. And slept through the night. I joke when I say Because he had to. It amazes people still and my in-laws insist it isn't fair that he was such a good baby like that.

(Don't worry, my other two did not do this. Hoover and Mini Me slept through the night at 5 months.)

I know Martha Stewart's crabby self-centered child is all grown up, but why on earth does she only get 4 hours of sleep a night? Four hours? I call that a nap, and not a very good one at that.

I did a lot of reading back in the day. Most of what I read in college (besides my assignments - hello English major) was non-fiction Christian books on how to land a man. Isn't that horrible? And they all pretty much said the same thing - don't buy into what you see on television or movies. No one will "complete you." You have to be a whole self before you can even think about loving someone else. And we all know how that story ends.

It's the same for parenting. I know my kids see me on my worst days, and those are the days that I haven't done what I need to for myself. Our best days are the days that I've taken care of me, are feeling good about myself, and able to properly care for my family. There's a reason the airlines tell you to put on your emergency mask first before you put it on any one else. (Because you're going to be of no help to anyone if you're slumped over in your seat. Take the illustration to everyday life.)

Why did I think "kids break your heart" as a teenager? I'm still formulating a theory, but I know it has something to do with being so important to my mom that we couldn't possibly be held to every standard she had. (I'm sure this is the way it is in most families during those years.)

So while I'm in the thick of the big Momming years, I want my kids to see that there's something else to me besides them. I'm a mom, but I'm also a realist - if I do nothing but focus on my kids for the next 15 years, by the time MM leaves for college I'll have nothing left of me.

And that must never happen.


  1. "if I do nothing but focus on my kids for the next 15 years, by the time MM leaves for college I'll have nothing left of me. " ...I think this is SO true and so important!

    On shows like WNTW they sometimes (inadvertently) make it look like a balanced mom is one that regularly proclaims her independence by buying something expensive and frivolous -- I could list right now a handful of women I know who seem downright obsessed with the idea that they are making huge sacrifices and should be awarded the medal of honor every day, and constantly talk about rewarding themselves.

    I think you've pointed out something much better -- simply finding balance between taking care of your kids but still being your own person.

    After I finished high school and all us kids moved out, my mom went back to college and got a degree, took up fitness and running, pursued the stuff she wanted to pursue...reclaimed herself, maybe. And you know what, in the process she went from being my exploited caretaker to being my best friend. -- Which is awesome!

  2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this post! I am so tired of feeling guilty because I feel exactly the same way. We should start a revolution!