Why didn’t you tell me that to be a good mom, you have to be overwhelmed and exhausted? Not only are you required to give your heart and soul to your kids, but you also need to turn over all of your time, energy, resources, and spend every waking moment tending to their needs and whims.
I think for moms raising military brats, something snaps somewhere in between the unexpected trainings, the deployments, constant moves and crazy schedules. The military can take its toll on our kids and it makes us feel like we have to do double-duty as moms to “make it up to” our children.
I have had it with this. I demand that we stop doing this to ourselves right now: we have it hard, we do it all, and yet we still hold ourselves to ridiculously high standard and wind up bending over backwards to try to achieve the impossible.
I know I should know better, and yet I still fall victim to these silent suffocating mom-guilt, so I know there are lots of you out there just like me. But the whole ideal of a perfect mom is absurd! If you are supposed to put your kids first in everything, then why in safety situations are we told to take care of ourselves first? The answer: because if we don’t help ourselves, we can’t help anyone else.
Step One: Realization
It is, in fact, okay (and necessary) to sometimes put yourself first. Your kids have you to take care of them, but you have you to take care of yourself as well. Bottom line: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will. Remember that you are still the same person you were before you had kids, and that you are just as important as your kids are. This is so important especially during deployment or other times when you are parenting solo because you are the only parent your kids have for right now. I know the biological instinct is to put your kids first, but realize you have to take care of yourself for your children. You can’t use up all of your sanity today because you have to roll out of bed tomorrow and do it again. Realize and repeat to yourself: “I am a better mom when I get coffee with a friend once a week”.
Step Two: Acceptance
There are always going to be those judgy moms that get their kicks from being the ultimate mom: perfect packed lunches, always on time to soccer or football practice, head of the PTA. I have to be honest with myself; I would rather send store bought cupcakes to school and be able to read for 15 minutes at the end of the day. That does not make me a bad mom. That perfect mom? She may look perfect but she also may end up crying her eyes out from stress behind closed doors. Don’t be her. It’s unrealistic to think you can be the “perfect mom,” because there is no such thing.
It may be hard to adjust your thinking to this, but come on. You need to be able to take a 10-minute shower without feeling guilty for leaving your kids alone. I think that military kids get to learn a lot about selflessness from their parent’s service so remember they need to practice this concept as home as well. Kids are naturally self-focused creatures so teaching them to think beyond themselves and showing them that there are other people in the world that need looking after (i.e. you) can teach them valuable lessons. You can ask them to pitch in and help out, even if it just means they need to occupy themselves or get their own snack. So ask them to use their imagination and occupy themselves while you get 15 minutes alone (and maybe next time you can shoot for 30).
Remember who you were before kids. What were your likes and interests? Did you have any hobbies? Do something that you love, or try something that you’ve always wanted to.
Remember that being a mom doesn’t mean you cease to be a woman, or even human. Being a mom means you are both of those things, in addition to bearing and raising children. You need to remember that you need time to yourself. Many times as military spouses we worry so much about how our kids are doing during a deployment or a PCS that we neglect to treat our own emotions and stress. You need to allow time for you to de-stress, freak out and even break down. You need to read a novel or watch your favorite TV show, or something—anything—else that is just for you.
You also need to teach your children what it’s like to respect yourself. If they see you making yourself a priority they will see that it’s important through your example. And remember, if you don’t respect you, why should they?
Your relationship with your kids is just like any other: it involves give and take. You give everything, and take responsibility. But you don’t have to let motherhood take away pieces of you. It’s not a crime to care for yourself in addition to your kids, in fact, it is necessary. Take time for yourself, take time to foster and nurture your relationship with your husband or partner. You will be a better wife, mother, and family member if you take care of yourself. You will look and feel better, be a little more sane (if only a little), and at least have the satisfaction of achieving goals that don’t have anything to do with housework. So, what’s the first thing you’re going to do just for yourself?
Adrienne May is a military spouse. Her husband is an Army soldier and is now serving in the Army National Guard. Together, they have three children, from preschool to teen. Adrienne regularly blogs for Military Spouse Central and Military Family Central. Follow Adrienne on Google+ or on twitter.
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