I wasn’t always the mindful, mostly Zen person I am now. In fact, I was the total opposite.
I was in my head 24/7. I lived an anxious life, operating from fear-based beliefs, and it showed up in my parenting, hardcore.
In my earlier days of parenting, my anxiety and fear exited my body in all sorts of ways, but as it related to my kids, it was yelling. Sometimes it was more than yelling. Sometimes it was a total meltdown, screaming and crying, and raw emotion escaping me.
I would overload quickly and often and then take it out on my kids. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth. I was someone who desperately wanted to be a good parent, who always thought she would be a good parent but wasn’t being a good parent.
It’s not surprising that my oldest resembles this anxious, fearful version of me, as he spent a lot of time with her. What I have witnessed, repeatedly, is that they learn from us, from our actions and behaviors, and the thoughts and feelings we carry inside of us. They soak it all up, just as we did when we were children.
This is why it doesn’t surprise me that my second child is much more like the person I am today. She had less time with the mommy wolf and more time with the mindful mama, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back then, I believed that good mothers sacrifice everything for their kids...time for themselves, their own interests, sleep, exercise, hobbies, fostering other relationships, etc. If you didn't have a long list of things you gave up for the sake of your kids, you weren't a good mother.
We, mothers especially but certainly not limited to, put ourselves last and think it’s what’s best for our families. We push forward, and we carry on, despite needing a break. We fail to do nice things for ourselves but don’t hesitate to do it all for our kids. We don’t have time for our own hobbies, because we are too busy taking our children to theirs. We can't be sick, so we push through, despite our bodies begging us for rest. We don’t have the time or place to meditate because our schedules are overcrowded, and there are no physical boundaries between our kids and us. We save our vacation days from work for the days our kids need us, never giving ourselves any downtime. We have to jump through hoops to get a single night out with our friends, so it rarely feels worth it and is saved for special occasions. It’s no wonder we are anxious, exhausted, burnt out, resentful, and quite frankly, miserable at times. It’s too much and not enough, all at the same time.
We are depleted. When we are depleted, our families feel it. They do.
When I started taking little pockets of time for myself, I first had to get over the outrageous guilt. That wasn't easy. My martyr complex made it so hard for me to go off and do stuff that was for me and only me. It meant I was a bad mother, didn’t it? Who does that? Selfish moms, that’s who. That was the story, anyway.
It wasn't just the guilt. Sacrificing had given me power. I wielded that power, that "I did it for my kids" power in exchange for a feeling of superiority. I had to set down that power and superiority, which was not an easy thing to do.
Despite the discomfort, in the beginning, I kept going. I’m not sure why but I guess I knew it was important. Maybe I realized I couldn’t keep going the way I was, so I had to try something new.
When I started taking my dance class which was 100% for me, I noticed two things happen. 1) I felt a lot better. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I got to spend 1 hour every week doing something I loved, with people I loved to spend time with, doing something JUST FOR ME. I even had to make arrangements for my kids, and somehow, that made it feel even more special like I was important enough to call in a babysitter once a week 2) Here was the side-effect I wasn’t expecting…my family felt better. The air lightened at home. Moods lifted. There was happiness, and it wasn't just mine.
When you think about it, it’s not that surprising. I was coming home excited and full of energy. I would play my song and show them my dance. I was smiling ear-to-ear. They loved seeing this version of me. The light-hearted, stress-free, smiling, happy version of me that wasn’t around much before then. This person was almost a stranger to them. It had been a while since I’d seen her myself.
When I started taking time for myself to meditate, journal, read, etc., in the morning, before the start of everyone else’s day, it affected not just me but my whole family. My calmness extended to the entire household.
My vibe affects my tribe. My energy affects the energy of those around me.
We think our sacrifice makes them happy. It really doesn't. Just as we experience happiness when they are happy, they experience happiness when we are happy. And when we are unhappy, tired, stressed, and unfulfilled, they feel that too.
The more you practice making yourself a priority, the easier it gets. Once you feel the changes in you and see the changes in them, the guilt goes away. You realize it’s important to everyone that you take your time. Besides, don’t you want them to know that it’s important to take care of themselves too? Hem, hem, they learn by watching you.
Your vibe affects your tribe.
Your vibe affects your tribe.
Say it with me,
My vibe affects my tribe.
If you can’t remember the last time you took time for yourself, find something that will bring you joy and spend 1 hour per week doing it. That’s it, one hour per week. Then, pay attention to the effects. Once you see how it makes you feel and how it makes them feel, you will make taking time for yourself an important part of your life. You will no longer think of it as selfish but, instead, as the best thing you can do for your family.
You deserve happiness, and they deserve a happy you, too.
Until next time…