There are so many guilty feelings that come with being a mother, its crazy! There’s the feelings of “Am I teaching them the right things?” “Do my children know I love them?” “I yelled at my children—will they hate me forever??” “Am I giving my child enough attention?” “Am I giving husband enough attention?”
And that doesn’t even include the guilty feelings of a working mom who has to leave her child every day with a caregiver. I’m not a working mom, but a friend told me there’s a whole other set of guilty feelings that (so far) I have not had to endure. One could easily say that as a parent, you can spend hours wallowing in guilt and self-pity. Then on top of that, we have our friends and family to tend to! We give so much of ourselves! Many of us are not just mothers, we are wives, sisters, daughters, and aunts. Some of us have callings in the church, or are active in our children’s schools.
As women, mothers, and wives, we fill a lot of people’s needs and we sacrifice a lot — and we do so selflessly. I don’t know about you, but there are so many times I feel stretched to my limit! I never knew how much you had to sacrifice until I had children. I will say it’s been my biggest challenge, though—learning just how much I have to sacrifice. I love my family and I can’t imagine doing anything else, but it does require more energy than I can handle some days. When I was younger and I was involved in a sport that became too much or I didn’t enjoy anymore, I had the option to quit if I wanted to. If something was hard, I could take a break, and come back and try again. With motherhood, there are no “I quits,” and it’s not something you just walk away from. We are needed every minute of every hour of every day.
As I thought about this, I came to realize that often, I don’t meet the needs of the one person who needs me most: me. You might think that sounds selfish and guess what? I agree. I am Krystal and I am going to learn to be a selfish mom!
Okay, so let me explain. I have spent the last three years feeling guilty for wanting to get away or have “me time.” I told myself I must be the most selfish mom for wanting a weekend alone with no kids or husband. Because of this, it is not very often I take the time to do something for me. I have spent many moments crying at how, since becoming a mother, I don’t know who I am without it… Feeling like I lost my identity; that all I am good for is cooking and cleaning. Well, not anymore. From now on, I am going to be a little more selfish without feeling guilty about it! (Well, I’ll try not to, anyway.) Why? Because we moms need to be a little more… Well, us.
We spend a lot of time giving everything to everyone, but neglecting ourselves. Some may say that comes with the job, and I get that, but it doesn’t have to be completely true. I talked to my mom about this and she told me, “We spend all of our time taking care of everyone else, but at the end of the day, who is taking care of us?” We need to take care of ourselves, that’s who! We need to take some time for ourselves—time to meditate, pray, get a manicure, go out with the girls, or whatever, and not feel guilty about it.
I have been trying to get through motherhood thinking I don’t “need” the time, but I finally broke down to my husband. I told him I wish I was one of those moms that doesn’t need “me time,” but I’m not—and honestly, despite how they might seem, they’re probably not, either! I need time for myself, and I need it desperately—and I’ve decided that’s okay. I have noticed when I have not done anything for myself, I become more irritated. I yell more and love less. I am learning that if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! If I can’t remember what it is to love myself and who I am, how can I love my children and love my role as a mother, a wife, and all the other roles we play?
So ladies, it’s time to get to know you again. Take away the labels of mother, wife, etc, and rediscover who (insert your name) is. What talents do you have? Do you have hobbies you used to enjoy, but don’t have time for anymore? Is there something new you want to learn? Do you have a friend you keep telling you’ll meet up with for lunch but haven’t? Now is the time to do and learn those things!
Let your husband or a family member take the kids for an hour here or there and do something you really love. Make the time for you and only you. Sometimes leaving the kids is not always an option. I live with no family nearby, and friends and neighbors who are usually busy, so trust me, I know. In that case, after the kids are in bed, watch that guilty pleasure show or read that book you’ve been meaning to get to. The dishes and house can wait. I love that quote about how our kids are only small for a little while, so we need to spend time with them and leave the housework for later—but I think that applies to us, too. The dishes can wait for you and they should!
I know it’s not easy to ask for help. I was venting about being stretched to the limit to my sister-in-law the other day, and she said to me, “You have so many people, me included, that would bend over backwards for you.” That really touched me because I forgot that I do have a team behind me. I live away from my family—states away—and I am so used to being alone. I have been so used to “doing it all” that I forgot that I do have a support system behind me. If we are not asking for help, maybe it’s not because we don’t have it. Maybe it’s because we are not willing to ask it of the people who are there for us. We only need to use them more.
When I have thoughts of guilt for leaving my family or “choosing myself” over them, I am learning it’s not a matter of making a choice or deciding who is more important—it’s, “What am I doing to better myself and my entire family?” As mothers, we are the heart of the home. The human heart is the strongest muscle in the human body. It’s what gives life, what holds everything together. If the heart isn’t taken care of, slowly the rest of the body will deteriorate. So be a little selfish and do those things you want to do. After all you do, you definitely deserve it!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by President Gordon B. Hinkley, a former prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said,
“Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities….” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?” New Era, November 2001)
This article was originally published on April 23, 2014. Minor changes have been made.
Krystal is a latter-day mom and Holy Homemaker to 3 beautiful kiddos who is striving to find joy in the everyday trenches of motherhood and life! Her passion is sharing her experience of decluttering with a purpose to help others create a Holy Home where the messes subside and the Spirit resides. She is a lover of books, nature, music, food, the gospel, and all things Texas! Follow her at her website, Latter-day Mom!