I keep seeing these annoying memes online that look something like this...
This is a really damaging message. Its all candy and roses on the surface, but let's look a little deeper. It seems to be saying that if you want to be a good mom with children who will sing your praises, you must "sacrifice your own happiness for (theirs)" and "do everything to make things perfect for (them)" .
I used to buy into this line of thinking. I really believed that if I just sacrificed myself completely and lost myself in service to my children, that they would see my sacrifice and be filled with love for me. I was sure they would stand up in church and tell the whole congregation how awesome I was, and then I would be filled with joy and it would all be worth it. So I did all the things that I thought would make me a good mom. I baked bread, worked on Scout projects, started Homeschool Co-ops, made cookies, did crafts, woke up early and stayed up late spending every moment with my kiddos. If I was in the shower and they needed me, I jumped out. If it was 2am and my 6 year old wanted me? I was there. If I was talking on the phone to my mother and a child wanted my help? Gotta go, mom.
I know that some of you out there know what i'm talking about. You're reading this blog on your phone hiding in the bathroom and there are little fingers shoved under the door looking for you...
Sure I was tired and depleted, but I just knew that if I modeled this kind of selfless giving for my children, surely they would be happy and kind and then we would have a happy family. I never went to Girl's Night Out because then my kids would (gasp) be without me for a whole evening. I didn't dare go visit my sister in California because my kids would miss me. I didn't dare take more than 10 minutes in the morning to put myself together because the kids needed me. I didn't go exercise because it would be shallow and selfish to leave them in childcare just so I could have a beautiful body.
This went on for literally 15 years. I kept giving and giving and wondering why our family wasn't deliriously Happy. I was sacrificing EVERYTHING for them. There was literally nothing of ME left. I woke up in the morning ready to meet their needs and I did it all day long until I collapsed into bed exhausted. Don't get me wrong-there were moments of joy and i really did love my kids- but I was not getting the results I was hoping for. It hit me like a ton of bricks during a conversation with my oldest daughter (15 at the time) who informed me that she had no interest in being a mother.
I was shocked...
"Why not? " I asked
"Because it sucks. " she said. "Its hard and miserable and no fun- just look at you mom. You're never happy and you never have any fun; you just cook and clean and boss us around all day long. Why would I want to do that?"
From the mouths of teens. Since that day, i've taken a totally different approach to mothering and marriage and life in general. That approach has been to SEEK my OWN JOY. I decided that I would put myself first and then share what I gained with my family. I started reading books I wanted to read. I started cooking food I wanted to eat. I started calling my mom just to say Hi. I started a business because it makes ME happy. And guess what? Now they all want to grow up to do what I do.
You do not have to sacrifice your happiness for theirs to be a good mom. Please do NOT make everything perfect for them. Let them learn about their ability to create their own reality. I'm not advocating for selfishness and child neglect. I'm proposing that you find what makes you happy, and do that because happiness is contagious. Healthy Happy families START with Healthy Happy moms.