Oprah loves Oprah a little too much for my liking, so I rarely watch her show. I think she's fabulous, but I can only take so much. Earlier this summer, however, I did catch about five minutes of a segment with the life coach Martha Beck and it has stayed with me ever since. In fact, it resonated with me so much that I immediately turned off the show so that my memory of it wouldn't be muddled by a bunch of other random Oprah-lovin' and "light bulb moments." One was enough for me.
I thought about it again this week after reading the comment Shauna of Up in the Night left in response to my Johnny Depp Love Fest. Because, as Megan at SortaCrunchy pointed out, it was all really just a Megan Love Fest. Shauna said that she's "decided it takes a really good mommy to get away and truly enjoy the time alone." I couldn't agree more. Not because I want to toot my own horn as a great mom (which I am, who are we kidding? :> ), but because it is worth mentioning that taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to actually enjoy it can be a difficult decision and even more difficult execution.
Martha explains to Wendy that if she wants her son's forgiveness, she must first forgive herself. "Our children model what we do to ourselves, not what we do to them. So if you see unforgiveness in his eyes, it's because you're not forgiving yourself," Martha says. "Your only job is to learn to love yourself. The children, that's all they're waiting for you to do."
According to Martha, a mother who lives her life well is going to have happier children. "Let me tell you my favorite story from a psychiatrist who spent 20 years dealing with neurotic patients. They'd always say, 'I know my mother loved me, butâ¦,' and then they'd go into the problems," she says. "One day she met a really, really healthy man, and she thought, 'Gee, I wonder what a normal person's mother is like?' She never heard that. â¦ She thought he would say, 'My mother loved me perfectly. She made no mistakes at all.' Instead, he said something she had never heard before from a patient. He said, 'My mother loved life.'"
Martha says parents who neglect to love themselves raise kids who don't show themselves self-love, either. "They don't treat themselves the way you treat them. They treat themselves the way you treat you," she says.
This bears repeating: Your children don't treat themselves the way you treat them. They treat themselves the way you treat yourself.
Being a stay-at-home martyr doesn't help anyone. Breaking your back to devote your life to your family (or anyone or anything outside of yourself) will be for naught if you don't make yourself a priority. If all you want in the world is for your family to be happy and healthy, and in trying to reach that goal you neglect yourself, all of your work will be wasted because they will only be as happy or as healthy (figuratively speaking) as you are yourself. More specifically, only as happy as you allow yourself to be. As you show them that it is okay to be.
I hesitated to tell ya'll about my little break for myself last week. I didn't want to have to hear any "must be nice..." comments, as I knew I would feel compelled to defend my choice to take a breather. I felt like I would feel like I needed to justify why I did it, explain that I knew I was lucky to have the opportunity to do so, give a nod of respect to those laboring mothers out there that haven't gone to a movie in years, and so on and so forth. Defend defend defend.
Instead, I realize that I should be proud. By taking that breather, I was and am doing right by my family. I was teaching my boys and my husband an invaluable lesson about respect and self-respect.
I mean, seriously, what do I think there is to gain by being a stay-at-home martyr? When was the last time you saw a group of teenage boys or even husbands hanging out together and saying, "Man, you should see my mom (or wife) slave away all day and never take any time for herself. She's something else. Let's talk about how amazing she is and how she just gives and gives and gives and never takes. Man, I suck."
But I have seen teenage boys and husbands remark that their mother or wife is laid back or, in a round-about way, that she takes things in stride. I have actually heard the offhand (lest their friends think they love her too much) remark tossed out by a teenager, "No, actually, my mom is pretty cool."
What better way to instill the kind of confidence it takes for your older kid (or, yes, husband) to admit that they've got it good with you than to live a happy life? And if that means sometimes living that life without them hanging off of you every waking moment, then so be it.
Room to breathe means room to grow. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh.