I had a little parent victory at home the other day. How it went down:
As usual, the kids’ Pandora station was playing in the living room. I was Kidz Bopped out, and wanted to listen to my Astrud Gilberto Radio. So I announced, “We’re changing the station.” Then I marched over and did it as my 9-year-old protested vehemently, as if I’d just revoked her right to inhabit our house or something.
As a parent, it’s all too easy to sacrifice your own pleasure for your children’s. I’m not just talking about ever-elusive “me time” — I mean how we handle our needs when our kids are around. My own mother was a veritable mom martyr. She spent her days volunteering at our school, helping us with homework and doing anything possible to make us thrive. Mom literally give us the food off her plates at restaurants if we asked. She finally took a job when we were in high school, where she spoke about my sister and I so frequently that her colleagues nicknamed us “Her love” and “Her life.” She’s still the same. If I comment on a new piece of jewelry she’s wearing, she’ll ask “Do you want it?”
I have never been that mother. To me, coddling myself isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity.
My son, Max, has cerebral palsy. I grieved deeply after he was born, and realized that I had to find ways to enjoy life or our entire family would suffer. And so, I’ve never had a problem leaving the kids with sitters; over the years, my husband and I have taken trips alone. If there’s an activity I want to do with a friend or alone on weekends, I do it. If I need a few minutes to decompress when I walk in the door from work before I get into the evening childcare routine, I head upstairs to my bedroom and shut the door. If I’m enjoying dessert and my child is eyeballing it, she gets a bite, not the whole thing.
No regrets. NO guilt.
I know some moms who basically give their lives over to their kids. One woman I know refuses to hire sitters on weekends, because she doesn’t want to be away from her children. Another acquaintance volunteers every day at her child’s school mainly, she informed me, so she can be near him. Another won’t pick up the phone to speak with friends anytime her kids are around. Obviously, there’s a lot of the opposite extreme happening — parents who are more attentive to their iPhones than their kids, and wealthy moms who outsource motherhood to hired help. And, of course of course of course, as Good Parents we should be there for our kids and care for them as best we can.
Still, I think it’s healthy and important for kids to know that we moms have preferences, wants, desires and needs, too. It helps them be less ego-centric and teaches them empathy. Parents who at times put their own needs ahead of their children’s aren’t bad parents — they’re great role models.
Listening to Astrud Gilberto’s lovely voice stream through the speakers the other day felt even more enjoyable than usual. The kids tuned out and returned to their respective Rainbow Looming and iPad. Maybe they weren’t hearing her, but I think they understood.
Image source: Flickr/Steven Depolo