We so often define a mother as being loving, nurturing, patient, and forgiving. Even if your mother did not have those qualities, you may have longed for a mother that did. And I think as well-intentioned mothers, we all desire to have those qualities to meet the needs of our family. As a person who loves deeply, I found myself longing to meet the needs of not just my family, but all of those around me. So, while I find it perfectly acceptable to love, nurture, have patience with, and forgive others, why couldn’t I do the same for myself?
I would beg to argue that selflessness must indeed start with self.
How could we possibly fill others from an empty vessel? As mothers I think we often pride ourself with the ability to put everyone’s needs before our own. I have hung much of my self-worth on how adequately I could meet the needs of others. What I thought was selflessness, was more often than not, self-destruction. For me, this distorted view of “selflessness,” started when I was a child, and you may find it did for you as well. As a child of addicted parents, I became a caretaker at a young age. My emotions and needs were frequently placed on the back burner because my focus was literally on life or death. It wasn’t unusual for me to stay up well past my bedtime, checking if my mother was still breathing. And while I was so scared and in need of comfort, I pushed that aside to take care of business. If I didn’t take care of my parents and put them first what would happen to them? Roles were reversed and I carried the ability to mute my needs into my adulthood, and right into motherhood.
Every single time I have ignored my needs in an effort to be more for someone else, it backfires. In the moment, I may be filling my children and those around me with love, nurture, patience and forgiveness, but slowly and surely it starts pouring from a place of bitterness. I have found myself there way too many times. Instead of enjoying my family, I have felt enslaved to them, which has been no fault but my own.
Mama, you have got to listen to your needs, meet the ones you can, and verbalize the ones you cannot!
This is so much more than “self-care,” which we hear typically consist of trips to the salon, a coffee break, a hot bath, alone time, reading a book, exercise, etc.” Now hear me out, all of these do contribute to meeting your needs, but often on a temporary, surface level. The traits you so often expel in your role as a mother should not just be a reflection of light, but a source of light. To become these traits and offer these traits wholly and organically… you must receive them first.
In closing, here are some thoughts I too have reflected on to get me closer to healthy and effective selflessness:
– In what ways can you better LOVE yourself? If you can’t find traits in yourself to love, then find out why others love you. Its definitely ok to dislikes our toxic traits and want to be different but find ways to love yourself through that change as well. Don’t just stop at the reasons to love yourself, but how you best feel love. Love yourself through your own language.
–NURTURE yourself in what you put into your body, physically, mentally and spiritual. Diet is so very important, the food and substance we put into our bodies has great effect on how we function. I think most of us could agree that we need to reevaluate the quality of our fuel. Don’t forget the unseen areas of the mind and spirit. As much as our body rely on nurture, our mind and spirit sometimes require it even more. Feed the mind by speaking it to a trusted confidant, a counselor… someone who can hold your thoughts without judgment. Your spirits health depends on a strength greater than yourself. As a Christian I must seek healing through my Creator and identify my weakness before I can find the strength. Do some evaluating in the spiritual realm… what connects you to healing?
-Give yourself time and PATIENCE. As a mother, the seasons are ever changing. Just when I think I have finally mastered a skill, the season shifts, and I find so much more I need to learn and change. Also, learn to find joy in the waiting. There will be a constant battle between wanting to hold on to the old and reaching out for the new. Just as our children are learning and changing, so are we. Slow down and ease up. Endurance and strength come from embracing patience.
-Grace! You are going to royally screw up this mom thing some days. And unfortunately, there may be mistakes made that our children will never forget. Sincere apology will often trigger sincere FORGIVENESS. Evaluate your flaws, admit your wrongs, and then forgive yourself on the journey. It is so important that we show our children the positive change that both apology and forgiveness can bring.
Our babies are watching us, so whatever traits you want them to acquire, show them first how to offer those traits to self.