As the years with small children wore into years with older children, somewhere in the idealism, exhaustion, and “never enoughness” of it all, it slowly occurred to me that my well-being had to matter. That if I didn’t add myself into the lineup of people whose souls deserved to be fed, my kids were going to look back at their childhood and remember not the handmade dolls and homemade meals but how stressed their mom was while making them. They weren’t going to cherish the memories of their tidy, nurturing childhood home but instead beat themselves up in an effort to achieve the impossible just as I had taught them to. If I didn’t begin to care for, honor, and nurture myself, how would they even learn to care for, honor, and nurture themselves?
When we self-abandon as mothers, we send the message to our children that mothers are less worthy of thriving than others. Our kids then grow up to become mothers, fathers, and society members who perpetuate this narrative, and the cycle continues.
Mind you, I see all of this in retrospect. Had you asked me at the time, I’d simply have told you, ashamedly, that I was miserable. That I was so tired, so defeated, and increasingly afraid of what might happen if I continued to hold on so tightly to my crazy-high standards.
But my kids needed me to matter to me.
In the weeks and months that followed this realization—as I began to get time away, put much-needed boundaries in place, and prioritize my own basic needs for the first time in years—I unknowingly began rewriting an unconscious agreement that I had made with myself.
The old terms stated that I vowed to do anything to ensure the well-being of my four daughters.
The new agreement had an expanded focus. I would do my best to promote the well-being and wholeness of five women.
Five whole women. At long last, I was beginning to matter to me too. At long last, my own needs stood among my considerations.
Today, a decade and a half later, my needs are at the center of my life, not merely in the mix. I’ve done a shit ton of healing from codependency, I’ve explored the many reasons I over-functioned and over-gave for so many years, and I have deep compassion and a tender love for myself that influences every choice I make. But/and it might be important for some of you to hear this:
My motivation for learning to love myself started with my love for my girls and my desire to model something worthy of emulating. I wanted them to love themselves, and finally realized that the best shot I had at supporting this goal, was to learn to love myself.
What a gorgeous, under-recognized gift of motherhood. It’s a self-love guide in disguise, should we choose to say yes to the journey.
You’re worthy of upgraded agreements,