“Only those who value and understand themselves can value and understand others.” Danny Silk
I think the best piece of motherhood advice I’ve ever received was,
“take time to take care of yourself because you’re only as good to your family as you are good to yourself.”
This was a concept I wasn’t quite sure how to put into practice at first. Time alone is one way I recharge. When I get away by myself to read, pray, journal… whatever, I feel energized and renewed. This is pretty impractical with little ones, when going to the bathroom alone is a major victory. This was also a source of contention for my husband, who’s idea of alone time involved a handful of his favorite people. He had no idea how anyone could enjoy being completely alone, let-alone feel refreshed all by themselves. He still doesn’t.
However, after nearly 14 years of being together, he has seen the difference it makes in me and how I parent and even how I love him. It took me a while to understand that I needed to value myself enough to make time, and I needed to do this whether or not my husband, or anyone else understood.
Over the years of adding four kids to our adventures, I’ve learned a few things. To begin with, saying “no” is a very good thing. My children need to hear the word; learning to accept it from others, and learning to speak it appropriately for themselves. I’ve encountered too many adults who grew up believing that the word “no” was hateful, rude or doesn’t apply to them. Encounters with these adults are miserable, and draining. The word “no” is protective, freeing and one of the most loving words we can learn to appropriately apply in our everyday lives. I had to learn to use it and give myself permission to use it, even when others didn’t like hearing it. But, saying “no” means I’m saying yes to something more important to me, my marriage, my children and the values we’ve set up for ourselves as a family.
Along with the word “no” often comes the word “wait”… which isn’t always spoken, but is essential. My children, myself and my husband all have to learn to wait. This is a very difficult one, but so very worth the pain of learning and living. We are all learning to wait on each other. An unexpected twist came from this one. As my children have learned that mom and dad won’t always be available the moment they want us, they have discovered that they are quite capable of doing things for themselves. Not only that, they have learned how to take care of each other, both waiting for and doing things they need each other’s help with.
Sometimes we all need help or patience with things that no one else fully understands. This one is a biggie that feels like we’re still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to put into practice. Accepting what we don’t understand about each other, means all of us are free to be and do things that none of us understands without worrying about being punished. By being punished, I mean, we don’t tolerate the jokes and teasing that is really just sugar-coated jabs in sensitive places. We don’t tolerate sulking or edginess toward someone who doesn’t do something we want, or the way we want. This is a biggie for the mom and dad in our family! And finally, if we aren’t going to speak to a person about what’s bothering us, we forfeit the right to continue hanging on to any offense or hurt. If the subject is brought up in offhanded ways or angry-outbursts the consequence lies with the person who holds onto the issue.
These are just a few of the practices that have evolved over the years, and which have allowed me the space and freedom to not only have alone time and take care of myself, but have become valuable teaching tools in my kids’ lives, showing them how to maintain and value themselves in order to value and accept others.