Unselfish Women Put Themselves First

Unselfsih women

I’m going to give you the shortlist. But first you get my two cents on the matter. Let me ask you a question. Is it selfish for your husband to take a shower and get ready for the day? How about this one: Is your daughter selfish because she wants to have clothes that make her feel good about herself? And your son…is he selfish because he pursues his interests, and takes time away from his friends or the family to go to practices and play in games?

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Well, I’m going to say it anyway…Because we women need to hear it.

You matter! Your. Needs. Matter. You deserve to get enough sleep, eat delicious and nutritious food, exercise, spend time with friends, pursue your interests, and feel attractive. Balance is important, of course, but you have just as much claim on these things as anyone else in your family.

For those that feel a little lost in motherhood or life in general, it is an interesting place to be. After all, there was a time in your life when you were an egocentric teenager, around whom the whole rest of the world evolved. How did it come to be that your needs have ended up on the back burner?

Here’s my theory, and I believe we stepped into all of this pretty innocently. The quickest lesson I learned as a new mom was that my hungry, screaming baby got to eat before I did. Next lesson was that I didn’t get to sleep if he had other ideas at night. But here’s what nobody ever told us: that arrangement was just survival mode. That is not the kind of plan we were meant to stick with. Taking up permanent residence in that kind of paradigm is a quick ticket to losing touch with who you are.

Anytime I work with women who are in crisis, the story is always the same: they used to be happy, successful, organized, fit…you fill in the blank. But then some major life circumstances changed. A baby was born, they started working full time, someone became ill, etc. Suddenly, the old system didn’t work for them, and they were no longer capable of producing the same positive results. And because their systems didn’t evolve with the new circumstance, the outcome is predictable: they have become overwhelmed, unorganized, out of shape, and most of all – unhappy.

My first message to them? You are not the problem. It’s the old coping mechanism you adopted that was only ever meant to be a temporary solution. The bottom line is this: women who are happy and fulfilled and enjoying life have learned to put their needs back at the top of the priority list. And they don’t feel guilt. They don’t neglect responsibility. They have just instinctively embraced this truth:

“A mother’s satisfaction with her own life is directly related to a young child’s social and emotional skills—even more so than the amount of time the kid spends in childcare, her income, or her job.” (reference http://lifehacker.com/this-infographic-reveals-how-to-raise-happy-and-healthy-1542169077)

Translation: Your kids learn how to be happy by watching you. And guess what? They can’t be fooled. Same story with your spouse or friends or anyone else in your life. I love these words from Mariann Williamson:

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s all I ever wanted for everyone I’ve ever prioritized ahead of myself. I just want them to shine. Turns out the best way I can help them do that is to lead the way.

And so here’s the list, for you list–lovers out there.

Five reasons why you should take care of Numero Uno.

You are teaching your kids how to take care of themselves. Want your kids to be happy and successful? You’ve got to show them how.

You can’t pour water from an empty cup. I’d be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time I’ve repeated this old cliché, but I keep on saying it because we keep trying to prove that it’s wrong. But the truth? You can’t give the good stuff if you don’t have it to give.

The only life you can control is your own. Ouch! We spend an awful lot of energy trying to create a great life for our husband and kids. But in the end, it turns out they have to be the ones to choose it anyway. Don’t waste your time and energy; invest it in yourself, because your life is the only one you really have the right to control.

Whatever you do for yourself benefits your family. Pardon this metaphor, but you create an environment in your family that is like a virus. Positive energy, hope, and satisfaction spread quickly…as does resentment, dissatisfaction, martyrdom, and a poor self-esteem. The greatest gift you give to your family is your influence, so use it wisely.

You won’t resent things down the road. I have no interest in a mid-life crisis, which is exactly what happens after a few decades of self-deprivation. Ever see someone snap? You can bet that they have ignored desperate cues for years. Pay attention to those cues now! You’ll find happiness in the now, and peace in the years to come.

I would love to hear about some of the ways you are putting yourself first in your own life.

 

 

Image by Sandrine Hudgens at creoleartphotography.com

 

Comments

  1. Jenny, your tips are spot on! I really needed to hear this. It’s a message I myself am trying to promote, it’s just so hard. After 4 babies in 5 years, I definitely let myself go.

    I’m 29, & for the first time in my entire life – I just started going to massage therapy every other week. Come to find out, my body is severely out of wack. Lol! I also have a “God Date” at least once a week, where I go somewhere to eat BY MYSELF, journal, pray, read, or whatever else I feel I need at the moment. It’s really helped me focus my attention onto the issues inside myself that need addressed. When I don’t have my “God Date” I start falling apart again.

    I’ve also invested time in finding intimate friendships – not just the surface girlfriend friends, but some really deep and transparent relationships. You can’t have too many of these, but I’ve realized I need to know that there are a few people out there who will be there for me no matter what…ya know? I think we miss this sometimes.

    • Wow, Rebecca, good for you! I’m so glad to connect with you. Isn’t it ironic how depleted we can become when we are doing the highest work of all – mothering? I am so glad you recognized that need to refill your cup. You will be better mother because of it. And I love your idea of a God Date. I’m going to give it a try! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Thank you so much for these tips. I will sure try these as well as a God date. As a stay at home mommy of 2 young girls and wife to a husband who travels for work I really need some time to refill but I just feel so bad about it. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.

    • You’re never alone Robin! I hope you’ll stay in touch with The Happy Gal. We all need time to recharge, and we all feel guilty about it. It’s a rite of motherhood. But as you become better at listening to your needs, you begin to realize how necessary that alone time is, and the guilt diminishes until it disappears altogether. It’s tough to be home with two little kids and not have a lot of help. You are doing amazing things as a mother. Those little girls are so lucky to have you! Don’t forget that this sacrifice will pay the biggest dividends down the road, but make sure you are giving them your best by taking care of yourself as well. Love you!

  3. Putting myself first is something I’ve been trying to make a priority lately, but sadly, it’s as if I’m not sure how to do this. ‘You are teaching your kids how to take care of themselves’ really rang true for me! Looking back I’ve realized my mother always put herself last, which makes me very sad, but I also realized while reading your article, that by her not putting herself first, she was never able to teach me how to take care of myself! Which is also a crazy thought, because I’m 28 years old, married and have a 2 year old son, seems like taking care of myself would be common sense?! I feel like I’m selfish if i get up early, shower, dress, get things done before my son wakes, which is rediculous, and if i would feed myself half as much healthy food i feed my son, i would be in great shape! I am so glad I found this article on Pinterest, I think this can give me the push I need to make myself a priority! Thank you Jenny!!

    • Challenge accepted!! I will set my alarm and start making a list of what I can get done in the mornings! While my husband is home in the morning, maybe I could go for a walk by myself, clear my head? Alone time without any chores is not something I experience very often. Thank you so much for your response!! More energy in the morning would be great! Going for a walk, coming home getting myself ready, and getting a few things done before my son wakes up sounds pretty perfect to me!!

  4. Jenny.

    I am a man. A man who put his first and only wife through med school. Had three beautiful kids with. I have been in awe how successful my wife has become. I am proud beyond words. But the fact is I raised my kids while she was on her path of success. I have done everything outside of her work to keep the peace at home, make meals, DISCIPLINE etc. she deserves to take care of herself but at the same time it’s important that your man who does equally… if not more some respect. Especially those partners who have supported their much younger wives through their success. I was successful on Wall Street but found I was more capable with my children than my wife. Hence.. the situation for the last 10 years with a 7,4 and 2 year old at 54.

    I changed the diapers. I woke up early. Your comments are sexist at best. In a time in history where more men are taking this home role and women are extending their wings is a testament to men as much as woman and is equally if not harder to accept emotionally and psychologically. I have been deeply depressed at times and feel extremely alone.

    On a site focused toward woman let’s give those guys out there the same props. And encourage them to do the same that you are suggesting to your gals. Because they deserve it equally.

    • Rob, thanks so much for your comment and for the reminder that we are all in the trenches of life. You are spot on – these are principles that are important for every human being to embrace. Finding personal balance and peace is tricky, and applies to men and women alike. Kudos to you for the support you give your wife and the amazing family you are raising, and for the active work you are taking in your own personal happiness and success.

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