One of our favorite “practices” when our family goes on a trip, is we plan for the breaks. As a general rule,
We hire a babysitter to come in once every 3 days (so, for a one week trip, 2 babysitter visits)
We give each other a night off at least once per trip
We’ve realized that the interspersed breaks give us both an opportunity to regain our sanity, and to feel like “us” again. 🙂
For our most recent trip, we went to South Lake Tahoe for Spring Break. One of the first nights of the week, my husband offered to give me the night off and he brought the kids to meet another friend for dinner.
As per my own tradition, I took myself to get sushi, went for a nice walk, before heading back to an empty hotel room for a nice shower before the kids came back (yay!)
I posted this wonderful tradition to social media, and here are the responses I’ve gotten (over the years):
“Good for you! But who’s watching the kids??” (um… my husband)
“How awesome for you? I wish I got to take a night off” (why don’t you?)
“Yes! Moms deserve to have a break!” (so do the dads, for the record)
“That’s nice, but don’t you feel [insert negative feeling] about leaving your kids/husband behind?”
#4 is my all-time favorite response. Because it implies that for moms to take a break, there MUST be some guilt/selfishness/neglectfulness on the mom’s part. Hm. Let’s dive a little deeper.
Years ago, before I had kids, I had the good sense to take a class called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Effectively, it’s an 8-week class to teach you how to breathe and meditate. I was so bad at this I actually took the class 3 times. At the end of the 8 week session, we’d say a bunch of affirmations to our classmates that’s similar to this:
“I wish you safe, I wish you health, I wish you happiness”
That part was always easy for me. I can always wish someone else well. The difficulty, for me, was to wish MYSELF well.
You see, I was raised in a family that didn’t value rest and recovery. My parents were/are workaholics and overachievers, each were success stories in their own families/community at large. They instilled in me the value of hard work, and dedication to whatever I wanted to do; and I am grateful for that.
I was also taught that love had to be earned…. With good behaviors, with good grades, with compliance. Love was not conditional, and I should always work hard to earn it.
But, as I would later learn in therapy, and as RuPaul always said, “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
I’ve always been good at loving others. I’m generous to a fault. I always make time for friends no matter how hectic my schedule might be. I’m a doting wife and mother. I remember everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries and send gifts/notes appropriately.
The loving myself piece…… that’s HARD. No matter how many classes I took, a little voice inside of me always said, “hm, you don’t deserve this,” “work harder,” “why are you being lazy”? “Don’t you know that you can be more/better/have more money/get more love?”
So, what changed??? I became a mom. I HAD to learn how to love unconditionally. Even when my kids were throwing tantrums, even when they’re being “bad,” even when I didn’t feel like it.
And over time, I learned from my kids, THEY LOVE ME NO MATTER WHAT. Happy mama, sad mama, tired mama, crazy mama. They love me just the same.
And from that building block I built my own self-love, brick by brick, day by day.
I’ve learned that….. Loving your kids does NOT mean the following:
You are with your kids 24/7
You are “active engaged” with your kids in all your waking moments
You’re providing an enriching, stimulating environment for your kids all the time
You give your kids EVERYTHING they ask for (and anticipate their needs)
Perhaps, most importantly, I’ve learned that love does NOT mean sacrificing your own happiness/fulfillment/life experiences in order to provide the “perfect” life for your kids.
It’s actually EXACTLY the opposite. By loving myself first, valuing my own needs, giving myself oxygen, doing the things I enjoy and pursuing my own goals, I’m teaching my kids that *I* matter. I, Merry Yen, is in fact a PERSON first, and their mother second. A person with a full spectrum of emotions, needs and wants and wishes, and most importantly, this person needs REST.
Rest comes in many forms, it doesn’t simply mean sleep. Rest could be going for a nice walk, taking a long shower in peace, or watching my favorite show (Ted Lasso!). Rest could be enjoying an evening with my friends and being silly; it could also mean a quiet dinner with my husband, where we relish in the wonderful relationship that we’ve built together.
So, prioritize YOU. Prioritize YOUR relationships, prioritize YOUR NEEDS. Not only is this the way to loving yourself fully, but you’re setting an example for your children that you too, are deserving of love and compassion and rest.
And when you do love yourself fully, and believe that you’re deserving of love, joy, rest….. The guilt just goes away. There’s no space for guilt or shame. There’s only space for love. Love that nourishes, love that gives and shares, loves makes it possible to go on.
I wish you all the LOVE in the world. Today, practice loving YOURSELF first.
Happy Mother's Day,