Sunday, April 15, 2007

Putting yourself first--virture or vice?

I don't know if I am particularly sensitive because its that time of the month, because I haven't had a really good nights sleep in eons, or because I have some working Mommy guilt--but when two people made the same comment lately it twanged a nerve. It wasn't a deep hurt, it was just one of those things that you end up thinking about later and can't help but wonder--was that a compliment or a put down? Was it there intention or were my own issues surfacing.

On both occasions friends have made a comment about me losing weight and asked what I was doing, my reply little bit of diet and a lot of exercise. Both of them responded, "its so nice you can take time to put yourself first." The first time I found myself denying that I was putting myself first--telling the person how I've been going to the gym first thing in the morning or at lunch time. She reiterated that she thought it was a good thing that I was taking care of myself and she often marveled at how I got everything done. She also told me she wasn't surprised at my inability to sleep or recent bout of forgetfulness. I laughed and told her that I didn't feel that way, I know its not a competition but I know so many people who seem to do so much more AND they have a clean house. (Which makes me look really forward to my next review assignment Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box: Cut Yourself Some Slack (and Raise Great Kids) in the Age of Extreme Parenting by Ann Dunnewold).

The second person who made the comment was a dear friend who is a stay at home Mom with 3 girls, two in school and an infant. I told her that I was really hoping that in addition to getting something out of it for myself, I am setting a good example for my girls--both that exercise is important AND that its important to take care of ourselves. She said of course, soon after I drifted away. Ever since I've been pondering the comments (and praying that this internal debate isn't one that keeps me up all night). I really didn't think of taking time to exercise as putting myself first, I really see it as something for all of us, it keeps my stress level down, hopefully it keeps me healthy so I can take care of everyone else, and hopefully my girls learn that exercise is something you can fit into your life.

It has had me thinking about the Mommy Wars as well. Us vs. them. Good vs. bad. Stay at home vs. working outside the home. And on and on and on and on. I am a little amazed that those two comments about putting myself first led me to try and defend myself, figure out how to deny I was committing that particular sin, or feel guilty about spending time at the gym.

So, after much rolling around in my head I'm declaring it, YES, I am putting myself first for a few hours a week. I am proudly going to the gym and taking care of myself. Sometimes I drag my kids along and they have fun with other kids, sometimes I get up at the crack of dawn, and sometimes I sneak out at lunch to get it done. Hopefully by putting myself first for those few hours I am better at taking care of everyone else the rest of the time. Hopefully I'll be around a little longer to do it. And I hope when my girls are grown up, they will remember that I made time to take care of myself, that it gave them new experiences and a Mom who was happier and healthier.

Update: Check out my review of Let's Get Ready for First Grade! over at Maven Says and head over to Parent Bloggers Network for a chance to win your own copy.


Devra said...

I think we've been sold a bad "bill of goods" that infuses mommy guilt where it need not be infused. We're coming out of the 80's and 90's where the common theme was MEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Somehow "me" got a bad rap during that two decade span! "Me" is good. "Me" is who can take care of "You" and "Them"! If we don't take time to care about "me", then as you said so well in your post, we aren't much use to anyone else. Somehow many people came to think of taking time for themselves as somehow depriving or neglecting "The Others". Not so!
Good for you, taking the Big Picture approach and realizing that taking care of yourself goes up and down the priority list as does everyone else in your family, work, etc. Also, maybe it will absolve your working mommy guilt to know that in our work we have determined that mommy guilt-o-meters are the same regardless of employment status, so let me wave my magic wand of absolution over you right now so maybe your guilt-o-meter will level off a bit. Go take care of yourself and know full well that putting yourself "First" isn't neglecting anyone nor is it putting your family "second".
Now, will you kick my ass some so I get on my elliptical? ; )

Builder Mama said...

I've thought about this a lot too. I am convinced that taking "me" time makes you a better, happier person. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I take my short Fridays during the summer, leave Monkey Man at preschool, and either go home and nap or hang out with my friends. Six days a week, after he goes to bed, I work out...and sometimes, gasp, I actually do it while he's awake!

I used to feel this enormous pressure to always be 110% Mommy all the time and I was miserable. The best thing I did for myself was pay attention to myself again. I'm a much happier camper now, which makes me a better mom and wife too.

I think it sets good examples for our kids, too, to see that taking time to take care of yourself is very important.

Heather said...

Devra, welcome and thanks for the absolution :)

Liz, I am right there with you. I remember rushing to pick PDQ up at daycare the moment I got off work, then I realized if I ran an errand or two first we were all MUCH happier.

Tree said...

Devra said it very well!

I do not think of it as putting myself first, second or third, but a necessity for my wellbeing, which translates into so many other benefits for me and for everyone around me.

I tell you, I wish that my mom or dad had taken better care of themselves and shown my brother and I that they valued their health.

g-man said...

I totally agree with you when you say it really does benefit us all, and as such I don't see it as putting yourself first per se. Making time to make yourself healthy? What is wrong with that? NOTHING! There would be nothing wrong with taking time that would be otherwise spent at home. You would not think twice about interrupting family time to go help a friend in need (We would all praise you for doing the right thing), you should have the same freedom for yourself. SHMILY :)

Danielle said...

I have been struggling with this myself for sometime. I decided at the beginning of the year that this is the year of me. I am going to spend more time doing the things that I love and enjoying life a little more. When I'm successful at it, I'm more relaxed and a better mom, wife and overall person. It's not always easy but it definitly helps. I don't think it's a bad thing when used in the right way.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I am with Devra, it is absurd the amount of guilt that is put on us by others and is compounded by the ridiculous amount we put on ourselves!

It's the same way with buying things. I can buy my children tons of things and never feel guilty, but let me pick up a $30 shirt for myself, and I am going to agonize over whether I really "need" it!

You said it perfectly....doing this for yourself helps to make you a better mom. I am sure your husband appreciates the effort, so it CAN'T be hurting in the wife category either! I see it as an "everybody wins" situation!

Good luck with the loss! I am trying to battle through one too! I am not doing so well with the exercise thing, though! I need you to share some resolve with me....I seem to be lacking! :)

MPPs Mom said...

Here Here!!!!

(and I love how you guys say SHMILY).


yerdoingitwrong said...

Everybody said what I wanted to say. waaaaaaaah! That'll teach me to slack on my blogging ways. DO not wrack yourself with guilt, girl. It is win/win for everyone. Keep it up!! It's a rough pace and you're doing a fabulous job!!

Esmerelda said...

I thought you were doing it so you could spend time with me? ;-)

I seriously think all of this that we do benefits the children significantly. Not only are we more relaxed, we have the energy to go roller skating, too. And we set a good example.

Look at your soccer girl!! Woo hoo!

It isn't just for you. It is for hte people you love (and who love you, too.

I think it would only be selfish if you didn't feed them or something so you could go to the gym. Otherwise, you're good.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Ditto you and all the others. and I must be a cold-hearted beyotch because I don't feel guilt when I get workout time. I think of it as necessary healthy time.

sillychick said...

copy and paste what the other said.

I'll only add a few more thoughts: when the Princess was just a year old, we decided to join the Y b/c it had a child care center. Well, she hated it, but I tried going a few more times and was miserable the entire time I was working out b/c I was convinced she was up there screaming. I would cut my workout short and found out later that she only cried when I left her and when I picked her up. Great. Thanks.

I live by the motto, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." That gets me over my guilt. You absolutely have to take care of yourself first. It's not as if you're going out every night drinking, right?


TxGambit said...

Just wanted to echo what everyone else has said. Me time is very good! And, sometimes I feel guilty about it but most of the time I don't! It really is important for us to take care of ourselves because if we don't, who will? And, if we are sick or crazy or whatever, who will take care of the children?


Mitzi Green said...

and more power to ya. seriously, this seems to be the first generation since the 50s that felt this need to "put the kids first." well, no, in the 50s it was "husband first, then kids, then everyone else, THEN you." now we're so busy adoring the little ones we completely neglect our spouses, our friends, and certainly, ourselves. and we need to cut that shit out.