My daughter wants a new pair of Vans — and she wants them bad. I told her she’s either going to have to wait, or she needs to earn the money herself. While I could probably make it work financially, I’m saving money for some home improvements I’ve put off for a while. Even though it’s tempting to cave and make my daughter happy, every penny counts. I need to stick to the promise I made myself and I’m excited to meet my savings goal so I can get it all taken care of. The small improvements aren’t a huge emergency, but they will make me happy and give me peace of mind. Those two things can go a long way for a mother. But also, they are two things we are quick to give up.
While any excuse to spend time shopping with my daughter is great, I can find another way to bond with her. It doesn’t have to involve buying her a material thing, even if she’s a bit mad at me for turning her down.
Sure, I could keep putting this goal of mine on the back burner, and push my kids’ desires to the front of the line (again). Or I could stick to my plan and show them (and me), that my wants and how I take care of myself are important too.
I used to feel selfish about doing this in their younger years. I was the mom who would walk around in ratty underwear because I used all my energy and money to get them what they needed. I thought that was the best way to show my love and affection for them. Time after time, I’d head out to shop for myself and come home with nothing for me but something adorable for them.
I’d give them my french fries while dining out just to keep them quiet if they didn’t like their meal and I’ll tell you, I struggle to share food. Especially fried potatoes.
My point is, I’ve done it. I’ve sacrificed a lot of things and cancelled a lot of plans to accommodate my kids. I created mini-monsters along the way because I wanted to give them everything. This isn’t anything they’ve ever asked for either. It was something I’d done over time because I wanted to give them all the things I didn’t have.
They just assumed they would always came first because that’s the example I set. And it made for a miserable me. That wasn’t fair to anyone.
As my kids got older, I started putting my priorities first sometimes, and I really didn’t feel as guilt-ridden as I thought it would.
Yes, there are times when I cancel plans. Like this fall when I had lunch plans with friends and my daughter had a wardrobe malfunction at school which caused me to run to Target, then go to the high school and rescue her instead. That’s what moms do when they sign up for parenthood.
But the other day when I was exhausted and fighting a cold, my daughter wanted a friend to spend the night and a ride to a hockey game (that didn’t start until 8 p.m. and ended around 10 p.m.). I told her, nope.
It was after I battled with it in my head for a half hour telling myself I could suck it up so my daughter could have fun. Besides, it was just a 20-minute ride into town, and this was just the start of a cold. I could totally do it. But I didn’t want to. I wanted my bed and a quiet house so I didn’t end up sick all weekend. So I put myself first and we all survived. Because I’ve been doing this for a few years now, they’ve started to get used to the idea that I’m not always going to drop things to wait on them, or meet their wants with a “yes.”
Being a parent is a sacrifice. I’m a better one when I don’t make it an Always-A-Sacrifice though. Putting things I want on hold (like new underwear or a new front door) all the time because my kids want something, or exhausting myself to drive them around with their friends when I have the worst post-nasal drip ever, doesn’t work for me. Or them. Maybe in the short term, but it’s my job to think about the long game too.
There are many times I need to take care of my kids first. But there are also times it’s good for me to show them I need them to hold on a second, or say no altogether, so I can tend to myself.
My kids don’t need to grow up thinking they are the center of the universe. And it’s up to me to show them that by saying no to them at times, and saying yes to myself.
Because if I don’t, not only are they are going to have several rude awakenings, but people in the real world will have to feel the wrath of my self-centered children. That’s not something I’m willing to risk.