Last week I took myself off for a wild and windy weekend’s camping. I’d reached the point where all those plates I was spinning in the air felt like they were about to come crashing down so I did what I needed to do to forget all about them for a while, and I’m lucky that I have older children who were very willing to do what was necessary so that I could get my break.
I came back refreshed and weather-beaten to find that those plates don’t seem to be in pieces on the floor. They never are after I take some time out to look after myself, mysteriously the world is still turning, the house hasn’t burned down, and nobody’s died. The threats to put out open invitations to a wild party and share them on Facebook were not carried through (haha) and my children, as far as I can see, have not been damaged for life.
This week they have a much less stressed mother than they did the week before and everyone’s happy.
We parents have to look after own own needs, and with apologies to fathers, by parents I mostly mean mothers. There is a huge pressure on mums to look after everyone else’s needs first. Even though I know that it’s my responsibility to look after myself, and that sometimes means putting my own needs first, I still have to make a conscious effort to do it. I slide into a sort of martyr role without realising it – you know the sort of thing, all those barely conscious Mothers’ Justifications: ‘It’ll be quicker if I just get it done by myself’; ‘Might as well just do it, nobody else is going to’; ‘It’ll be less hassle if I do it’; ‘I can’t let him go without any lunch’; and of course the deeply unconscious underlying ‘IT’S MY JOB, I’M A MOTHER’.
And yet, you know when you do things like pretending that you’re ill and you have to lie on the sofa all day..? (Only me then..?) That’s when you find out how capable your children are, you discover that your five-year-old can make a cup of tea and bring it to you without spilling it, and you discover that everyone is really happy to look after you and help you out. And that they enjoy it and feel good about themselves for being caring and useful. Not honouring our own needs deprives our kids of discovering that part of themselves.
And in a desperate attempt to make this post relevant to the fact that it’s Fathers’ Day today, I think the experienced understanding that mothers have needs too is great training for all those dads of the future…