[dropcap]B[/dropcap]uying a Red magazine before I go on holiday has become somewhat of a ritual over recent years. Ever since I cancelled my monthly subscription due to too many editions being left to gather dust, I have reserved it for treat time only. Just looking at that brightly coloured, glossy front page signals ‘down time’ for me.
I now ensure that I devour every single page of said ‘treat’ and this month, I came across an interview with the (still, at 53) stunningly beautiful Yasmin Le Bon.
I love reading the pearls of wisdom from older women. I think as we reach middle age, we can be left feeling as though it’s all about the younger generation. Well let me tell you people, that’s a lie! I adored Davina Mccall’s book, probably for the same reason: older women have been there, we’ve made the mistakes, we’ve got the t-shirt and are re-writing the rule book. Don’t dismiss us!
Anyway, where was I? *Gets off soap box*
I agreed with every single point Yasmin made – bar one where she mentioned that she will always be best friends with her daughters (probably a post for another day) – but the one piece of advice that really got me thinking, was this:
‘Put yourself first because no one else will’
Growing up as a Christian, we were taught to put ourselves last. Always. ‘Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between’ went the song lyrics (they spell JOY in case you were wondering!). Of course I agree in principle but as I’ve grown older (and maybe a little wiser) like Yasmin, I’ve realised that there are occasions when putting yourself first is absolutely essential.
When you’re a mother, putting yourself first is practically impossible to do. As soon as the midwife passes us that little bundle of joy, we are called to be selfless; it becomes ingrained in us and is a natural part of human nature. I don’t think motherhood would work any other way, but sometimes I think we can take it a little too far.
Along with that rush of selfless love that comes with motherhood, there’s a whole helping of guilt on the side and that my friends, is VERY hard to shake. I’ve been a mother for almost 18 years and I’ve been battling with it for the best part of those.
I still find myself justifying a lie-in, trying to prove to everyone around me why I deserve that 30 minute bath (by myself) and have even been known to jump up from the sofa when I hear the OH’s car tyres on the gravel outside our house!
Ok, when I write it down it sounds ridiculous to me too, but I bet I’m not alone in this.
There are a few reasons why I think that mothers (and everyone for that matter) need to put themselves first sometimes:
1. You’re the hub of the wheel; if you go down, everyone does
Mental wellbeing has been overlooked for centuries. Thankfully, we are slowly beginning to realise that our minds are AS important as our bodies – we need to look after both.
If I’m not looking after myself properly (ie occasionally putting myself first), everyone knows about it: I’m grumpier than usual, my patience is severely lacking and resentment begins to slide its way into my thoughts. It won’t be long before my back gives way, forcing me to slow down and rest. What are the tell-tale signs for you?
2. Our children need to learn the importance of rest (and saying ‘no’)
I seem to carry around this little voice of obligation 24/7, the one that taps me on the shoulder and whispers ‘don’t drop out now, you committed to this and they are relying on your attendance’ when I know deep down that I probably need to put myself first.
I have one child who seems hell-bent on running herself into the ground. She finds it hard to relax and naturally likes to be busy. Like most teenagers, she isn’t great at listening to her mother’s advice so the only other option is to model it myself. That includes factoring in time to rest and show that sometimes, putting myself first is not selfish but a necessity.
3. Entitlement is a very real problem in our children’s generation
Everyone is talking about the ‘Millenials’ at the moment; the generation growing up thinking that the world owes them something. To be honest, I feel sorry for the next generation and I think as parents we are partly to blame for this attitude of entitlement that they are accused of carrying around like a badge of honour.
This maybe a bit blunt for some but we really do need to say ‘no’ to our children more often! I think it’s important for them to realise that they are not always at the centre of the universe and that occasionally they do come second. If they don’t learn this valuable lesson in the comfort of their family home, they are going to come crashing down with a very nasty bump when the real world hits.
4. Motherhood is knackering
Our culture is obsessed with busyness, feeling the need to prove to others that our existence is worthwhile and that we are significant. The truth is, we can’t be either of those things if we are so worn out that we have nothing left to give. I know that I simply cannot give my family (or those around me) my best when I am depleted.
Most of us want to help and be there for others, don’t we? We want to demonstrate to our children that being kind and putting others before ourselves is important but how can we actually do that when we are at the end of our rope?
It probably comes back to finding that elusive thing called ‘balance’ but if we want to be there for others when it matters, we need to put ourselves first every once in a while; it’s not selfish, it’s a necessity.
Do you ever find yourself justifying ‘down time’ or have you managed to ditch the guilt?