As we were sitting down to dinner last night, my son Otto, got up and voluntarily poured each person a glass of juice including himself. As we all said thank you, he proudly sat down and started sipping his juice. My daughter Thora said, “part of being nice to other people is being nice to yourself.” I felt deeply moved by hearing this and asked her where she had learned that from.
She said “you told it to me.” I’m not going to lie, I totally had a hell-ya-high-fiving-myself moment.
I know I’ve talked to them about how important it is to love themselves but I never put it in this way before. What Thora said felt so true. If we want to work toward being nice to other people, we have to work to be nice to ourselves too.
It got me thinking about how important this piece is for moms specifically. I have always felt that motherhood means sacrifice. My mom would always give herself the burnt piece of toast. I am usually the last person to sit down to a meal.
My kids don’t listen, but they’re always watching and they don’t miss much. If they see me always putting myself last, I am modeling to them that it's important to take care of other people but taking care of yourself is not valuable.
After my son was born, 20 months after my daughter, I went into a spiraling depression. I had lost my job during my first pregnancy and I suddenly found myself a stay at home mom of two babies. Money was very tight so childcare was not an option.The person I defined myself to be was not the person I saw in the mirror. Rarely seeing other adults, I spent my days primarily with two small babies who were looking to me for guidance not the other way around. I felt lost and utterly alone.
My Mom had stayed home with us when we were young so I found myself consciously and subconsciously adopting behaviors from when I grew up. Shopping for the sales, canning and pickling and sewing clothing at home was good. But I also started copying my Mom’s tendency to take care of everyone else but herself. I stopped spending any money on myself. I didn’t need new clothing now I was at home with the kids. My life didn’t warrant the need for a smartphone, a flip phone was fine. Up until this point, I had always supported myself financially, but now that I was with the kids, I was not bringing any money in, so I felt like I didn’t deserve to spend any money.
I’ve spoken before about how my depression was a motivating factor for me starting Leche Libre. I needed a project which would help me feel my own value again, but that became complicated as I put any extra energy I had left over from parenting into my business and basically drove myself into the ground.
I became very depressed, angry and resentful at everyone around me. I knew I needed to go to therapy but how were we going to pay for it? I was so overwhelmed by life that the thought of figuring out how to get help was paralyzing. Finally after a particularly depressed 3 weeks where I could barely get out of bed, I decided that I had to commit to investing in myself and made my first therapy appointment.
I remember my counselor saying, “you talk about your family and you talk about your business, but where are you? Where is the time you put toward yourself?” I was like: “What? There is no time! What do you expect me to do? Go to a spa? A day at the spa will never be enough. I’d need to be there for like 30 days straight to get out of this pit and that’s not going to happen anytime soon.” My counselor laughed and was like, yeah I know it feels that way. What about small things you can do everyday that will make you feel good. What do you like to do?
I was like, what do I like to do for myself?? Aside from drinking alcohol, (which makes as much trouble as it helps) I couldn’t think of anything I could do. Slowly over time I was able to integrate small things into my daily life which make me feel good, like taking a hot baths at night alone, a drawer full of my favorite teas and Saturday mornings sleeping in undisturbed.
I know these daily things sound mediocre and hardly powerful enough to be life changing, but by creating time throughout the day, everyday that is just dedicated to doing something nice for myself, I’ve proved to myself that I really care. I have made a statement to myself and everyone else in my family that I, myself, am valuable.
My kids don’t listen to me, but they are watching me. They see me doing nice things for myself and setting aside the time to do them. They know the boundaries, that when I’m taking my tub, it's my time and I’m not going to help them with shit.
By taking care of myself, I’m modeling to them, that they need to take care of themselves too. The more we take care of and value ourselves, the less time we have for allowing ourselves to be treated badly.
I believe in teaching my kids the golden rule, which is treat other people how you would want to be treated. And part of being nice to other people, is being nice to yourself. Thanks Thora, I’m gonna keep that.