I just dropped my kids off at my parents, so I could come home alone for a couple of days to work on my new course around conscious parenting. Ironic? Not so much.
We as parents talk so often about how we would sacrifice anything for our children, how we would go so far as to die for them. Don’t get me wrong – I would do the same, but I have been curious for a long time about why we aren’t talking more about how to really live for our children?
Jada Pinkett Smith has a video that has gone viral speaking to her daughter about the experience of being a wife and a mother, how important it is to care of herself first, and when you don’t do that you get out of balance, and you really forget how to take care of others. Here it is if you haven’t seen it yet.
You know why this video is so popular? Because women know inwardly that something is wrong with society’s idea that women be unselfish and self-sacrificing. They want permission to believe Jada’s words to be true, and even more to actually start taking action. This will happen when we start dialoguing more about how to care for ourselves, and ultimately give ourselves the permission to start taking care of us. To even need permission to take care of us seems ludicrous when you bring voice to it.
We are our children’s first and main teachers. They are not going to know how to take care of themselves if they don’t see us taking care of us. It’s that simple. Children are so smart and your preaching is not going to do it, if you aren’t “walking the walk”. Don’t tell them they can do whatever they want in life, if you are sacrificing and suffering all of the time. Don’t tell them how beautiful they are inside and out, if you can’t accept a compliment or if you constantly express dissatisfaction about yourself on the inside and out.
Lying to them and pretending won’t work either. My 2 year old is always concerned about my happiness. She asks me all day, “Are you happy mama?” Now she is usually asking because she has misbehaved or not listened and relates my happiness to external actions. But it does make me think about my joy, my bliss, or lack thereof, and the affect it has on my children and their environment.
If we don’t nourish ourselves how can we truly impart how important it is for our children to nourish themselves? If we don’t find our own fulfillment and joy, how can we hold the space for them to do the same?
Our children are our best teachers too. I don’t know where my son got it, but he started each day and sometimes throughout the day saying, “I love myself most. And I love you mama, I love you dada, I love you sister.” And then his sister learned from him and started saying it too. How many days do you wake up and say, “I love myself”? And if we don’t truly do the conscious work we need to in order to love ourselves, how long do you think our children will keep believing and saying “I love myself most”?
I have traveled for retreats that I participate in since my son was 18 months old. He is 6 ½ now. I know some people in my life had judgment about my leaving him to do something that was for me. But they were so off base. My going on these journeys to dive deep into my inner landscape, to laugh with my community and to become a more conscious woman and mother, is not just for me, but also for all of us.
One of my mentors taught me that I am not leaving my children, but rather I am leaving the home and that I will be back. What a brilliant reframing from what initially felt like abandonment, to instead teaching them about the leave and return back to home. This way of holding it for myself first, and then expressing it to them, begins the process of teaching my children how to spread their wings and fly. They can begin to understand at an early age how our house together is home base and a safe and loving place to leave from and return back to. I am supplying them the tools now so they can transition more easily when the time comes for them to take their leave from home.
I tell my kids that when mommy gets home I will be a better mama. And the truth is I am a better mother, wife and friend. I come home nourished with an ability to be more present and give more of myself.
Now I’m not saying you all need to leave your homes to accomplish this (although I do highly recommend it), but find your way to demonstrate to your child how to live. Find the balance needed to sacrifice at times and flourish at times. Find what brings you more alive, and then witness yourself feeling happier, lighter, more open hearted and available to those you love. Maybe it’s a date with a friend, an online course you have been interested in, a monthly massage, a women’s group, anything that is for you and brings you more into balance.
It is critical for us to start getting more interested in how to truly live life, rather than be in a constant state of sacrifice and suffering. It is critical because you matter and you are essential, therefore it’s time to realize your potential so you can truly be of service to those you love, in supporting them to realize their essential nature.
Of course old beliefs leave me feeling guilty each time I am apart from my kids, but I do it anyway, because the truth is I am able to then offer so much more than their physical needs being met. I am able to affect them spiritually because I have more of my conscious self to offer.
Nicely written. I enjoyed it.
Thank you, Kevin. That means a lot!
Love this- thank you Jennifer!
Anne Morrow Lindbergh touched on this many years ago in Gifts from the Sea. It is such a mysterious and profound truth of motherhood, and bringing it forth again and again is so important for our children until we all can finally honor its legitimacy. Well written!
I’m not familiar, I will check it out. .Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
Love it, Jennifer!!! You always had a way with words and your message is so true. We often forget to take care of ourselves as moms and eventually we can’t be the moms we want to be. And that’s hole other chapter. Thanks for brining it up!!
Thanks for taking the time to read it, Pernille, and for your kind words.
Jennifer, thanks so much for writing this! Your post really resonates with me. I’m just starting to re-focus on taking better care of my ‘self’, now that my daughter is almost thirteen months old and I’m finally coming up for air. Your words are such an inspiration and important reminder for me to make the time to reconnect with myself. It’s amazing how true it is that by spending time away with our selves that we return to our home and those we love feeling renewed, calmer and more present. This post also excites me, as I begin to think of all the possibilities for self-exploration. Thank you!
This was such a fresh and powerful read for me!! I can’t wait to share your thoughts and experiences with my own clients (and friends and family) struggling with the “permission” for self-care vs “best” parenting. Thank you for expressing how intimately they relate and most importantly, don’t have to be mutually exclusive!
Thank you, Lindsey!