I’m writing this post today friends because this topic is one that weighs heavy on my mind, even after almost two years of separation and divorce. Although I am going to speak on this topic as a mother, it applies to anyone who is raising children as a single parent regardless of gender. In fact, it applies to anyone who is a parent, regardless of whether you are single or not.
I’ve heard it said that once you become a parent your life is essentially over and the next 18 years of your life belong to that of your children. Everything you do should revolve around your family ie., your children, and your time is no longer your own. Instead, it is expected that you will sacrifice every second of your time, energy, money and thought to raising these small humans. There’s no sacrifice too great or too small during these 18 years and it is expected that all of your wants and needs shall take a backseat to the wants and needs of your offspring.
On the other side of that coin are those who say, indeed these miniature humans you brought into this crazy world are your responsibility, but in order to provide the level of care they need one must refill their own bucket. We cannot draw water from an empty well, and since we are all humans with the same basic needs of food, water, shelter, affection etc., etc., it is necessary that we take care of ourselves first. We have to know or have some idea of what makes us happy and do those things for ourselves in order to fill our bucket, so that we’re able to properly care for our children.
Long before the divorce, my ex and I would spend hours and hours on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays as well on our bicycles, away from our house and children, training for an organized, century bike ride. There were other times even when we weren’t training that we’d spend half a day on either Saturday or Sunday away from the house cycling. This was the way we spent time together, and it refilled our own personal reserve as well. Other times, when I was training for an ultra-marathon for instance, I didn’t cycle as much but ran instead and this created the space I needed to be fully present with my children. This is the point of following your passion and taking care of yourself as a person: so that you have the ability to be fully present with your family.
Last November, I took two very hard falls when running on our local trails (my favorite place to run) and had to find another outlet to relieve stress and make me happy with myself as a person – outside of actively parenting three fabulous daughters. This is when it was decided that I really didn’t like being ‘skinny fat’ at 126 lbs and took on training for the figure competition. The training meant that I’d be in the gym four or five days per week for about 90 minutes each time. Is it selfish to leave the girls for 90 minutes out of the day to take care of myself? There were multiple conversations had with the girls about this topic.
You see, it is important to me that they understand the necessity for me to fill myself first. It’s necessary for them to grasp the concept that although I am their mother, I am first and foremost another living, breathing human being with their own needs that need to be fulfilled. We have an open dialogue, and they know that they are free to respectfully express how they feel without worrying about negative repercussions from me. At the height of training, the time I spent in the gym went up to six days per week, but this was only for the last month or so before the show and perfectly coincided with the time they’d spend with my ex.
The question is rhetorical really, selfless or selfish? Perhaps it is neither one. Everything we do in this life must have balance and moderation. If all we do is give to others without regard to our own health and happiness, what are we truly able to give once our reserves run out? Parenting is rewarding in its own right, however, it has never been that ONE thing that fills me up as a human. Since my eldest son was born 29 years ago, I have always needed other avenues of self expression. If you are one of those people who are perfectly content with being a wife and/or mother and nothing else, I applaud you. You, my dear, are truly selfless! That’s just not me, however, this does not make me selfish. Instead it means that I am self-aware enough to know that in order for me to be the BEST mom I can be for these wonderful children, I must take care of my needs as well.
Selfish or selfless is the question…
Until next time friends