I remember giving birth to my son, and feeling what can only be described as BIG LOVE. I say BIG LOVE, because before children, if you’ve been in love or loved friends or family…you think you grasp the concept of love. Then your child is handed to you and over the next few days, you acquire a whole new context of love and it is so much bigger and more powerful than you ever imagined. Its existence is frankly baffling.
While I’m sure the rush of hormones post-delivery plays a part, along with an overwhelming desire to nurture and protect your baby, there is a complete shift in reality. Awareness that the safety and well-being of this child rests on YOU becomes blaringly real.
For the first year of his life, I barely left him with a babysitter. No one could anticipate his needs or care for him quite like me. I judged and scoffed at other mothers who left their children for a night out with their girlfriends. I wondered what the hell was wrong with the mothers who couldn’t wait to get back to work after a couple months at home with their children. (Yeah, yeah, I know…just put the sticks down…I’ve had a change of heart. Read on…)
I spent the year siphoning every ounce of myself into motherhood. My belief was that the level of self-sacrifice I achieved was directly proportional to the amount of love I conveyed. I did everything within my power to ensure my kid was starting out in this world with balance, love, intellectual stimulation and stability. I would have given up EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING to make sure he survived and thrived.
Facing divorce coupled with being deserted while pregnant, does some pretty incredible things to your self-awareness. For one, it scared the shit out of me. It reinforced that nothing is constant and nothing in life is guaranteed. With these pretty powerful insights came some potent realizations. It showed me the extent to which my future dreams and sense of worthiness were contingent on my marriage and my family. What I learned, is that I am more than a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend…
Amidst all of those roles are these unique aspects of myself that I never gave much thought. So I asked myself who was I before I left myself and set out to be the perfect wife and mother? And is that who I want to be today?
I have this quote on my refrigerator. It’s from Grey’s Anatomy.
“So, do it. Decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate? Decide. Breathe in. Breathe out and decide.”
I am a woman. I am an athlete. I am a nurse. I am a writer. I am a powerhouse. I am worthy and deserving of being everything I want to be. I don’t need to sacrifice one for the sake of success in another.
Denying those pieces of myself, with the goal that I will be a better wife, mother, friend, co-worker does not make an ounce of sense.
Society says that sacrifice is altruistic and loving…but to whom?
I realized that no matter how many things I denied in the name of love, that nobody really felt the sacrifice of that except me. I wasn’t going to receive a reward for it and I certainly wouldn’t be better for it. The most I would receive would be a Mother’s Day card from my children thanking me for all of the lovely things I gave up to be their mother. I was going to be emptier, less fulfilled, and ultimately less happy. Holding a $6 Hallmark card. That just wasn’t going to work for me.
We can only give to our children what we possess. Therefore, rejecting parts of myself, in the name of love is to the detriment of my children. If I don’t LOVE and HONOR all the parts of myself that bring me joy, self-confidence, fulfillment and ultimately set my soul on fire…how will I ever teach my children to do the same for themselves? I cannot teach them to be, what I am not.
Emmett and Ruby are my world. There are no words to describe the depth of love I have for them. It’s something you can’t explain. I want my kids to have the most joyful and satisfying experience of life. I want my kids to love themselves and to show up with an attitude that they are not only worthy of love and contentment BUT that they deserve it. I can’t give them this, unless I give it to myself first. I can’t give them this, unless I lead by example, proving to them that these practices are meaningful and valuable pursuits.
While, I was pregnant with my daughter, when it felt like the walls were closing in on me, I went for a swim. Under the water, it was silent. The noise around me stopped. I was alone with myself. I swam until the tears and anger were exhausted. I swam until my shoulders ached. It was therapeutic.
Physical fitness was the first piece of myself that I decided to stop sacrificing. This simple decision to make an activity that I thrive off of a priority was a keystone moment. One decision to stop martyring. The result: I tapped into harnessing a power I didn’t know I had.
When I was lifting weights, training hard in the pool or jogging…I came back to myself. I returned to the home within myself. It filled me up. It reset me in a way that allowed me to go through the rest of my day with a clear understanding of who I was. When I tapped into that power, I was reminded what I was capable of, and what I was about.
Workouts decreased my anxiety, uplifted my mood, bettered my focus and calmed my soul. Because I took this time out with myself, my body, and my thoughts, I returned home to my children better equipped to fulfill my other roles. I was a better mother and I was BETTER TO MYSELF.
Beginning with just this one thing, I got to know myself. Through fitness, I became confident again. This one decision to stop sacrificing one piece of myself, ultimately led to my living an unapologetic existence. It led to freedom.
Sometimes I veer off course. Sometimes I get off purpose. But the beauty is that I RECOGNIZE it now. I recognize when I am out of alignment, when I am not being who I want to be, and I course correct.
So that Grey’s Anatomy quote on my fridge serves as my check- in. A check-in with myself to determine my “success” in the things I am doing, creating, and delivering to the world. Am I being who I want to be? Are the things I am doing in alignment with my top priorities in life? Am I living the life I want to live and showing up as the person I want to be? Answering these questions ensures my time is spent on the things that matter and this includes putting myself at the top of the list.