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Gisele’s Right, We Need to Put Ourselves First as Parents

Gisele Bundchen carries baby Vivian in downtown New York CityGisele’s been at it again.

The world’s highest paid supermodel (she earned a mere $47 million dollars this past year before taxes), has advised us once more on the “struggles” of motherhood. And for the first time, I actually agree with what the 34-year-old Brazilian mom of two (Benjamin, 4, and Vivian, 22 months) has to say.

Interviewed in the UK’s Sunday Times Style magazine, she announced that motherhood is her most important job, much like it is for the rest of us moms. The difference, of course, is that her other jobs include being the face of Chanel No. 5, modeling for H&M and Carolina Herrera, designing a range of jelly shoes and lingerie, and being a wife to hot footballer Tom Brady.

This statement on motherhood is a far cry from other things Gisele has said in the past. She was accused of being a “sanctiMommy” when she ridiculously stated that there should be a worldwide law that requires mothers to breastfeed for at least 6 months. She also didn’t win any points when she added that she only gained 30 pounds during her entire pregnancy because she was mindful of what she ate, unlike others who get pregnant and decide to turn themselves into garbage disposals. Clearly she wasn’t looking to make any friends or supporters with these comments.

But finally, Gisele gets it right. In The Times, she says it’s vital that working moms remember to:

“Nourish yourself, take care of yourself. You know how they say on the plane you have to put the oxygen mask on first and then put it on your child? I think it is the same as a mum, to take care of myself. You can feel a bit guilty — you feel guilty if you do and if you don’t. But if I put on my oxygen mask first … then I’m going to be a much more patient, loving understanding mother and wife.”

AMEN, Gisele. Amen.

For too long we’ve let society dictate that our children, well, dictate our lives. But cast your mind to your own childhood. Were your parents running themselves ragged every weekend taking you from dance class to tennis match to party to play date to event? Nope, mine weren’t either. As a kid, my mum went off every weekend to her squash and tennis club, leaving me with my grandmother and her array of old friends who would swing by for a cup of tea and gossip about their cats. I escaped to watch old black and white movies in the den while the rain lashed at the windows. On the rare occasions Ireland was sunny, I’d gather flowers and make “perfume,” draw pictures, paint, and basically think of ways to entertain myself as a lonely only child. Now while this wasn’t ideal at all, I look at today’s parents who put their kids above all and think, “This has become insane.” People I know (and myself included here) spend their every waking moment tending to their kids’ needs and filling up their schedules so the kids are endlessly entertained. The result? We are all exhausted and broken!

Isn’t it about time we put ourselves first? I’m not saying that we should neglect our kids, but aren’t we all better people when we have a moment to ourselves, even just to read a book, watch a film, putter around cooking — whatever helps us relax?

Because if we aren’t happy, our kids are never going to be. We NEED to take a time out. I remember reading an interview with actress Uma Thurman in The Times in 2009, where she said:

“When my son turned 7 I sort of stood up straight, and I suddenly realized I had been like this [makes expansive gesture of exhaustion] in one way or the other, for the past 10 years. … My big wish now is to make a little time for myself. I think many women, working women, get this. I mean, how do you justify that hour and a half to yourself? When you have this to do and that to do and you want to be there. … I went to see a doctor a few years ago and he said, ‘I’m going to write you a prescription,’ and I went OK, what’s he giving me a prescription for? And he wrote down on the pad: ‘Hotel: one night a week.’ I never did it. But the idea that the doctor prescribed me to take myself to a hotel alone, to take my books or whatever and curl up on my own … that’s unthinkable!”

Now if these women who are wealthy enough to afford all the childcare, chefs, housekeepers, and personal assistants that one could ever need are complaining about being exhausted, then what hope is there for the rest of us mere mortals who are juggling jobs, homes, health, elderly parents, family, homework, etc.? When one evening involves doing three loads of laundry, bathing kids, housework, baking for the school sale, and writing that killer presentation before bed time?

We need to set the plates down and do something for ourselves. We need to put time aside so we can get some headspace. Like Gisele says, we need to put the oxygen masks on first and NOT feel guilty for doing so.

Photo courtesy of PCN Photos

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