For most women, there seems to be a natural progression that can start as early as our elementary school days and follow us throughout our whole lives. This progression follows the road of nurturing and selflessness. The act of putting others before ourselves is something that just seems like second nature for most women. From nurturing our little baby dolls, our little siblings, kids we babysit, our boyfriends, our husbands, our children and also our parents. As honorable as it can be- putting yourself last, can overtime, take it’s toll.
At what point does it go from selfless to reckless?
For me personally, I have always had a hard time putting myself first, taking care of me, worrying about Sarah. I am almost 7 months pregnant with our fourth child. With each pregnancy, it’s become harder and harder to take care of myself. I laugh thinking back at my first pregnancy and how I had it so easy, just worrying about myself. Now, thanks mostly to my three beautiful, but rambunctious boys- I barely sit down during the day. And the nights unfortunately do not meet me with blissful and uninterrupted rest.
I go to see the doctor every four weeks for prenatal checkups. At my last checkup, my doctor looked at my charts and then looked at me, mildly concerned. He asked me why my weight had not changed in the last two visits. I wanted to bust out laughing and ask if he was serious, but I knew he was serious. He really had no idea what might contribute to my lack of nutrition. The way I wanted to answer him was, “Why haven’t I gained weight in 4 plus weeks? It’s because I burn almost every calorie I find the time to consume. It’s because most days, I forget to eat because I am doing my best to get food and calories into a 17 month old and a 3 year old, both picky eaters. It’s because on days that I do eat breakfast, it’s usually after I have fed the kids, it’s already about 10 am and for some reason the only thing my kids want are endless bites of my food, which I reluctantly give away to them. It’s because I wait until 2 pm to eat lunch because that’s nap time and I can finally eat a full meal in peace. Problem with that is the rest of the family is ready for dinner by 5 at the latest, but I am not hungry by then due to my late lunch. Point is, my day is so full of putting others first, that I might not be giving enough to myself.” Instead, I told the doctor I would try some protein shakes and went about my way.
My clothes are always the last to get laundered. My dinner is usually cold by my first bite because I’m trying to get everyone else situated and eating. My poor bedroom is always the room most neglected even though I desperately want it to be my peaceful retreat room. I will always be willing to drop everything I am doing to go help my parent’s figure out what’s wrong with their computer or phone or television. I want to spend time and money on the needs of my family before my own. Me. Mom. Wife. Daughter. And guess what? I like being needed, and I enjoy giving myself up to my family. It’s fulfilling- but it can get exhausting, and I believe that many of us feel the same way and are in the same type of rut.
So why can’t we have both? I think we can. I think we can be selfless and give of ourselves where needed but yet make the time to self nurture. It all has to do with guilt and making the decision to do it. I am not going to feel guilty the next time I tell my toddler he can’t have my lunch because I know he’s not starving and just finished eating. I no longer will feel guilty when I ask my mom to watch the kids for a few hours so I can just be me.
I won’t feel guilty during those times I put myself first because most likely, I still won’t be doing it enough. It’s in our nature to nurture and it’s fulfilling as a woman to be needed- but it must also be balanced by taking care of yourself before you lose yourself completely. Because sometimes, the person that needs you the most is YOU!