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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Practicing Self Love as a Parent



Brene Brown, one of my role models and heroes when it comes to mental health, emotional well-being, and just being a effective and healthy person in general (check her out if you're not already familiar with her) talks about wholehearted living in her books, and specifically talks about how in order to live wholeheartedly you need to practice doing it. It doesn't come automatically, but is something tangible you actually have to practice to get good at.

And that's why I titled this post practicing self love. Because it's something I and many others definitely need to practice.

What is self love?

It really has so many different explanations, so there's no one right answer. But in short I'd say self love is believing you are a worthwhile and worthy individual, and, at the very least, to treat yourself at least as well as you treat others. I know the maxim is treat others the way you want to be treated, but often it is ourselves we put lowest on the totem pole, and treat ourselves and speak to ourselves in ways in which we'd be abhorred if we heard anyone else spoken to or treated that way.

Don't be mean to yourself. That's step one. And it's a really hard step, especially for people like myself who have been conditioned to speak nastily to ourselves, to be that horrid mean voice telling ourselves things we'd never dream of telling others.

Step two in practicing self love is engaging in self care. Don't neglect yourself and what is important to you, because if you do constantly neglect yourself, there are negative repercussions.


One of the things I've discussed with my therapist is the difference between emotional needs and wants. She said that when you ignore your wants and never have things that you want, something happens in your subconscious and these unmet wants turn into emotional needs that you can't manage without. She gave me homework to specifically get myself things that I want, and not just what I need, so I don't become so desperate. To validate myself and that my feelings and my wants matter. Because only when you validate yourself and your emotions, that you tell yourself that your emotions and desires matter, can you be emotionally healthy.

Unfortunately society expects women and especially moms to be martyrs, negating ourselves and our desires and needs, and just give everything to our kids, our spouses, society. And us? Who cares about what we need or want?

For years I gave in to this societal message, and did things just because I thought it was what I should do, just what I thought was best for my kids. When it hurt me to do these things for my kids, I did it anyhow, because I felt I needed to be the perfect mom, giving them everything that was best for them, even if that meant I ended up suffering. If that meant nursing them until they were emotionally ready to wean even if I resented every second of it past a certain age, when they started doing acrobatics while nursing and disrespecting my body. If it meant homeschooling them and spending every spare moment with them even when I really needed some "me time", a break from my kids. In so many ways I put myself last and my kids first, thinking that that was best.
But it has repercussions.

Something I've heard and it really rings true with me is that everyone has a cup, and when their cup is full, they have what to give, but if their cup is empty then they don't have what to give. Our emotions are like that, and if we don't do things to fill our cup, our wellsprings run dry, and even if we want to be the best mom we can, we have nothing left to give.

What kids need most is parents that love them, pay attention to them, cherish them, spend time with them, and give them a feeling that they are the most important people in the world to them. (Of course this is beyond the basics that all humans need for survival.)

If a mom doesn't take care of her own emotional wants and needs, its hard for her to give to her children these things that are imperative for them to grow up to be emotionally healthy individuals.

I've gotten some sanctimonious comments from people who see certain self care things that I do and criticize me for taking care of myself at the expense of my kids.

The thing is, people assume its a zero sum game. Mommy does stuff for herself, therefore she doesn't do things for her kids. Mom takes care of herself, she must be neglecting her kids.

Its exactly not like that.

Mom takes care of herself, and what she does by doing that is filling up her cup of emotional reserves, and then she is able to give more to her kids. I know for myself that when I make sure to do proper amounts of self care, I am able to be more patient with my kids, and we are able to have many more positive interactions together, that instead of just "putting up with them" we actually build positive memories.

And in addition to simply having more energy to do enjoyable things with the children when I take care of myself, by making sure to fill my emotional reserves, I end up having more energy, emotionally and mentally, to be able to work and earn more money, which ends up meaning that I have more money to spend on extras for the entire family, not just myself.

On top of that, by showing my kids that I validate my own needs and desires, I am modeling for them to do that for themselves, so hopefully they won't buy into society's messages that parents need to be martyrs.

Self care is not a zero sum game. Moms engaging in self care is a win win situation for the entire family.

So, how did I practice self love today?

The thing inspired me to post this is the fact that I went skirt shopping today.

I gained a lot o weight over the past year and a half.two years. A combination of the medication I'm on, emotional eating, stress, and probably many other things.

I wrote already about buying myself tops that actually fit me and flattered my body.

But I didn't buy myself any new skirts. The skirts that I had were still from when my body was smaller and thinner.

Although I am OK with having gained the weight (more or less, especially as long as it stays about what it is now, and doesn't go up more), I guess subconsciously I was punishing myself by wearing skirts that no longer really fit me. I mean the ones that don't fit me at all I haven't been wearing, but the rest I have been, the ones that the elastic digs into my stomach, or the ones that because my midsection is bigger, end up sitting higher on my body and not covering as much leg as I would like to have covered for modesty reasons, so I keep pulling them down when I'm wearing them, and feel self conscious.
Basically I had skirts to wear, but they were ones that I wasn't comfortable in.
Deep down I must have thought that I deserved that, I deserved to not be comfortable, because I've absorbed some of society's ascribed morality connected to weight.

Today I decided to practice self love.

I thought about the fact that if any of my friends would ask me if they should buy new skirts so they actually had ones that fit them well instead of ones that dig into their stomach or are shorter on them, or if that was a waste of money and excessive, I'd tell them to get their butts into gear and go to the store now and buy themselves skirts that fit them and weren't uncomfortable. That there is no reward for being a martyr. That they deserve to look and feel good about themselves. That punishing themselves for gaining weight is ridiculous.

And then I decided that I should be as nice to myself as I would be to my friends.

And I bought myself 3 skirts.

And I've decided that I'm not going to feel guilty about it. When I wear one of those skirts, I will remind myself that I am a worthwhile person, and I'm allowed to feel good about myself. That I work hard, and I am allowed to use the money I earn on myself and not just on my kids. That when I give to myself, I am essentially giving to the kids as well.

And to ignore the haters.

Self love.

Practice it.

It's not easy, I'll admit. Especially when so many people out there try to shame people for taking care of themselves.

Take care of myself, so that I have more in my cup to give to others.

It's not selfish to take care of me.

It's imperative.

Do you find it easy or difficult to engage in self love and self care? How do you define self love? What do you do to take care of yourself? At any point did you ascribe to the "parents need to be martyrs" mindset? If you were able to change that, what helped you be able to change that mindset?

3 comments:

  1. "Mom takes care of herself, and what she does by doing that is filling up her cup of emotional reserves, and then she is able to give more to her kids. I know for myself that when I make sure to do proper amounts of self care, I am able to be more patient with my kids, and we are able to have many more positive interactions together, that instead of just "putting up with them" we actually build positive memories.

    "And in addition to simply having more energy to do enjoyable things with the children when I take care of myself, by making sure to fill my emotional reserves, I end up having more energy, emotionally and mentally, to be able to work and earn more money, which ends up meaning that I have more money to spend on extras for the entire family, not just myself."

    I can't agree with your words more. The sad thing about not taking care of our needs first is that when we slip into that habit, we start resenting our kids, and then many of our interactions smack of that resentment. The kids pick up on it. NOT GOOD.

    I also really hear you about that skirt shopping thing. I'm pretty much in the same boat, and you are encouraging me to schedule skirt shopping sometime soon.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So true, for years I didn't buy myself clothes, making do with whatever I had been given by others. Being an immigrant, I hadn't yet learned, even after a couple of decades, where to buy, and I was sure that spending on myself was evil. Then at some point I realized that my kids looked great and I looked awful.
    It took me time to find suitable stores. Now I do most of my clothes shopping in a reasonably priced fashion chain for tops and dresses. And for skirts, I like a 2nd hand store, where I also found some great sweaters last year.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have worked hard at mothering and working next to full time for the last 7 years. Through that I had 2 kids, 2 jobs, moved twice, experienced a flooded basement (only this summer), became pregnant again (due in March), experienced thyroid issues which had serious effects, had a partner who didn't drive - so I did all the running around for our family. I took my kids to activities while on maternity leave and while working full time. I enrolled in Zumba last winter and .....began smiling more. I met some interesting local moms....and smiled more. I took my dog for more walks and breathed deeper. I started working from home in August of this year and found some peace in being able to clean my old house IN DAYLIGHT AND SILENCE. I realized I was rather unfulfilled in my job after trying so hard to make working from home work. My second job started up at the end of September and I was so happy to be back teaching - but certainly on a part time basis. In the last few months I have done more for myself than EVER. This has been SUPER frugal since my income is so much less. (So clothing shopping is not an option - however I frugally kept all my maternity clothes so I have no shortage). I grocery shop when I feel like it, not when I HAVE to. We eat fewer processed or fast food meals because I HAVE TIME. The house and my mental state because of it have never been cleaner. I am much more patient with my kids. I need the infamous work/life balance. It looks different for everyone. Lately I have been reflecting on this tremendously and looking forward with anticipation to what life brings the next year (with a new baby and staying home) and then in a new profession/office next winter. Thanks for letting me share my self-care experience and for sharing yours.

    ReplyDelete

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