The Mother is Always Selfish – How self-care can save your sanity and your family.
Once upon a time a little girl sat on the floor beside her mother as she sewed. The little girl was
playing happily with her mother’s box of buttons. There were big buttons, and little buttons, colorful buttons and plain buttons. There were many, many buttons of all shapes and sizes gathered from garments her mother had reclaimed as she sewed for her family over the years. The little girl was playing her usual game of making button families. She would arrange the little groups of different buttons into pretend families of parents, children and pets. She gave them names, and made up stories about their lives and adventures.
The little girl’s favourite button was the big red rounded one that had the hatch marks on top. It had been removed from the neck of her mother’s old worn-out winter coat. It was the only one if its kind. She always made this button the mother of the biggest button family.
One day as the little girl was naming her latest button family her mother heard her say “and the mother’s name is Selfish.” The girl’s mother turned to ask her daughter “what did you name the mother button?” The girl replied “Selfish”. The mother suppressed a laugh and explained to her daughter that selfish was not a name but a quality, and what it meant.
The girl listened intently and then thoughtfully replied, “well the mother should be selfish, or she won’t be able to take care of her family.” Then the girl returned to her play.
The girl’s mother sat back and thought to herself, “Yes the mother should be selfish so she can take her family.”
The story was shared among the family’s members and became one of those little inside jokes that only those who are in on it understand.
When the mother needed a moment to herself, a cup of strong coffee before tackling a job, a quick snack, a hot bath, a nap in a sunbeam, or anything else to take care of herself, she would tell her children …."Well the mother is always Selfish.”
The children would smile, and laugh, and know they needed to let their mother take care of herself so that she would be able to take care of them in turn.
This is a true story. The girl wasn’t me, but the mother was my own. Many, many times we giggled over the mother always being ‘Selfish’. I knew my mom just needed to take care of herself in those moments. She would always give me a hug and a snuggle and then take what she needed to be her best self. In doing so she was teaching me to set boundaries, practice self-care, and make myself a priority. Most importantly of all she was making sure she was well enough to take care of all of us.
Self-care is critical. It is not uncaring, mean, self-indulgent or self centered. It is the way we
ensure that we have the resources to be well enough to manage our lives. This includes making sure that we have sufficient resources available to be able to offer care and support to others. After all, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
People get things in the wrong order. They try to be selfless and put everyone else first. Then they end up so depleted that they have nothing left for themselves. They put kids, spouse, job, volunteering, community etc. etc. etc. before themselves. Eventually they can end up so run to ground that they have nothing left for themselves or for anyone else either. Then when they are exhausted, out of resources, and their cup is empty it is too late. Their relationships, work and everything else suffers. This can lead to resentment, guilt, and both physical and mental health problems. In this situation everyone loses.
In short, they forgot to put their own oxygen mask on first.
If a person makes themselves a priority and takes care of themselves first they have the best chance of maximizing their well-being. When they are really well across many domains including physical, mental and emotional health, energy, and resources they are able to be a great partner to their spouse. When they are a great partner, their relationship has the best chance to flourish and be strong. When their relationship is strong and healthy, they will have a solid foundation to provide excellent parenting. When they provide that excellent
parenting, they will have the best chance of their children
being happy and well. When their children are happy and well the person will have less concerns about their family. This allows them to be present and contribute effectively to their friendships, work, or other communities. Thus, by caring for themselves first everyone around them benefited from their well-being. In other words they need to be selfish so that they are well enough to offer their additional resources to those they care about.
Take a pause.
Reconsider your priority on yourself.
And on this Mother’s Day take a moment no matter who you are to think of that family (button or real). Then think about the message of the little girl, her mother, and the big red button. Remember that to be able to take the best care of her family the mother was always ‘Selfish’.
Happy Mother's Day Everyone.
If you are struggling to be ‘Selfish’ we want to help. Contact us to talk about how you can support your own self-care.
You can also check out our article on boundaries as they are an important part of self-care too.
And we have a great article on things that demand our time and energy here.
You can find a good read on the power of quitting here https://www.balancepsychservices.ca/post/do-n-t-be-a-quitter
For more information on this and other topics checkout our resource page.