Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Bee-ing a Mom, Part 3: Selfishness versus Selflessness

found on pinterest

Part of the reason I remember desiring to have children is because I felt like I was starting to become a selfish person.  I figured if I was a mother it would help to get rid of the selfishness.  Looking back, I probably was becoming selfish, but oh how naive I was to think that motherhood was the cure-all for an unselfish life.  Yes, having another person you are responsible definitely takes some of the focus off of self, but I have now been around long enough to realize that there are many parents who are still completely selfish. 

Selfishness in motherhood is still something I'm trying to figure out.  We spend a lot of time hearing about how we have to take care of ourselves in order to be better mothers.  The airplane analogy of putting on our own masks first before we can adequately help anyone else is brought up frequently.  It doesn't take a lengthy search to find magazines and media encouraging women to take more time for themselves, and perhaps rightfully so.  Our own needs are usually the last ones met.

The paradox is found when I think of my kids, and I'm sure the same is true for most mothers.  When I take time to digest that these amazing people were entrusted to me, I want to be selfless.  I wish I could give them more than I already do.  I think back on the times when I do focus on myself and yearn for a way that I can be all they need me to be without needing to take time for myself.  The quote is often seen at  this time of year that,"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie," (by Tenneva Jordan).  I think that kind of sacrifice is what typifies motherhood.  We want our children to have happiness and know that sometimes that means our own happiness-even if it's found in something as simple as a piece of pie- comes second.

Can we have both worlds?  Can we meet that instinctual need to sacrifice as a mother and still care for ourselves?  How do we find the balance?

Last week while getting ready for church, Miss A got upset with me.  I spent time getting her ready (along with everyone else), but I also took a few minutes to get myself ready.  When I found her mid-fit and tried to figure out what had caused her feelings, she tearfully told me that I only do things for myself.  She was hoping that I would have time to paint her toe-nails that morning.  A combination of my duties and her dawdling led to us having no time for toe-nails, and she took it to mean that I had spent too much time on myself.  I tried to explain to her that had I really taken time for myself, I would have looked much different than I did that morning, but her words stung.  Having my child think I took too much time for myself, although inaccurate at that moment, was a hurtful accusation that I hope never to be rightly accused of.

I still have a lot of learning to do in this area, but it's something that weighs on me a lot. I hope that as long as it continues to be something I'm mindful of, something I try to keep in check, it will eventually be something I settle into so I can care for myself to be the mother I need to be, but still be able to give my children everything I can.  I hope someday I can become selfless enough to find fulfilment that as I care for others, it is the best way I can care for myself.  I'm not there yet, but I'm trying.  

"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.
I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
Marjorie Pay Hinckley

1 comment:

100 Percent Cottam said...

i can totally relate to the feelings about striking that balance of meeting everyone's needs...including your own! my take on the airplane analogy is not that i need to be "indulged" or whatever, but that i can focus better on what other people need from me, rather on what i still need to do for myself. for example, on the days i have the self discipline to wake up early and get myself ready before my kids are up, our days go much more smoothly. this happens...well, rarely, but i do notice that if i'm already taken care of, i can focus so much better on what my kids need from me. one thing i almost always do is make myself breakfast, but wait to eat it until we're in the car taking mason to preschool. that way i can concentrate on their eating and prepping for school, and then when they're strapped in and we're driving, i can sit and (mostly, you know) enjoy my breakfast. so that's the opposite, i guess. but anyway, it's an ongoing battle, as you know. working on it every day. thanks for your thoughts.