I don’t think I could have ever anticipated how hard it would be to “play pleasant” as a wife and mother. You know, the way we pretend that everything is okay, when in reality, it isn’t.
Motherhood is constant work. Since taking on the new role of wife and mother five years ago, I’ve learned that the hard way. Sure, there are a handful of folks who watched their parents and have a firm understanding of the labor imbalance that exists in most families. I wasn’t one of them.
Making the transition from a carefree college student to an under-supported wife and mother caused a part of me to die on the inside. I lost myself a bit.
In the years following that loss of self, I learned to prioritize pleasantness over happiness. I don’t complain as much as I used to and I’m more likely to “go with the flow” around the house. My loved ones have likely seen these changes as positive. But deep down, I know I’m just one member of the latest generation of women to be indoctrinated into the culture of sacrifice.
And then one day a few weeks ago, I made the decision that I was done. I am done playing pleasant. I am done pretending. I am done suppressing my life’s joys for my family.
From here forward, I’m going to learn to put myself first — and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.
It’s hard to say the exact moment that I realized I wasn’t as concerned with my own wants and needs as I should be. This is probably because the change occurred gradually instead of all at once.
Naturally, I don’t expect my life with two children and a partner to look exactly the same as it did ten or even six years ago. Still, I believe we should evolve and adjust to new life responsibilities, not transform into a new person. My old self wasn’t perfect. But it was authentic and understood the importance of prioritizing one’s own needs.
I intend to create a hybrid between these two versions of self — my pre-mom self and my mothering self — who knows how to love and nurture myself without neglecting others.
None of this is easy for me. It’s a huge challenge when everyone in your life has either been overly sacrificial or completely neglectful. There are very few personal or celebrity examples whose lives are similar enough to mine for me to copy their method of self-prioritization. However, I know in the long run, my entire family will benefit from my decision to invest in myself.
With that in mind, I’m starting my “me first” plan by focusing on my health, social life, and me time in three key ways:
1. Eating more.
I spend so much time running after the children that I often forget to eat. Today was a great example. By the time I had a chance to have my first meal it was after 1 p.m. Not only is that unhealthy, it makes it hard for me to produce the milk I need as a nursing mother. Of course, this has negative consequences for my infant.
It also means that my brain is foggy and my temper is short, which leaves me mentally unavailable in work and home tasks. My physical and spiritual selves require food to thrive. And when I wake up early and make sure I eat, my day goes so much smoother.
2. Dancing more.
Before rolling your eyes on this one, let me tell you something. I’m rarely as happy as I am when I’m dancing. The music literally transports me to another place. More often than not, I’m supported by people who love me with a similar spiritual relationship to the beat.
I love dancing, but it’s so much deeper than moving to the beat. My commitment to dancing is reflective of my decision to put myself in more situations where I feel joy. Being surrounded by folks with similar interests who support me in my quest for joy is transformative for me.
More dancing means I’ll have more girls’ nights outs, travel, and celebration. It includes a commitment to the things that bring me joy. On the dance floor surrounded by a circle of friends in unity and mutual enjoyment is the best model for myself. I look forward to seeing how it spills into other areas of my life.
3. Going solo more.
You probably get the theme by now.
On one hand, taking myself out to a restaurant or to the movies is about having access to silence. I mean, who couldn’t benefit from more time away from kid tantrums? It’s an opportunity to spend my hard-earned dollars on myself instead of wasting $5-10 on a kid’s meal my son is just gonna smash into his car seat.
But the benefits extend far past saving money and being able to hear myself think for the first time in forever. Taking myself out gives me the chance to recharge my creative energy and reevaluate myself without pressures from the rest of my family around me. It’s a chance for assessment and self-reflection, which is necessary to know whether your actions align with your dreams. I’m determined not to let motherhood be the end of my goals. A key part of that is not losing track of where I am.
There are people who believe mothers should live for their children. I’m here to say that I have no interest in that sort of life. I know these small changes can lead to a big outcome. If I’m lucky, I might even inspire a few of the other women in my friend group to put themselves first.