The word "selfish" is thrown around pretty freely when it comes to moms and their parenting decisions. You're selfish if you got an epidural, if you formula feed, or if you opt out of co-sleeping. Should you dare to go back to work or leave the house without your baby, you risk being called self-indulgent. It's a word used almost exclusively in reference to mothers, too, and while dads get a pass. Well, I'm over it, which is why I refuse to apologize for being a "selfish" mom.
The other day, my darling 2-year-old daughter was reading to herself quietly in her room. I decided to take advantage of not having a baby sloth attached to my leg and enjoy the last kolache (a Czech delicacy popular here in Texas, which is essentially a hot dog wrapped in a doughnut). I unwrapped it without making a sound, held my breath as I microwaved it, and ate the whole thing. I love my kid, but she only eats the sausage part and it's a total waste. So every now and again, I opt not to share with her and if that makes me selfish, well, guilty as charged.
Since becoming a mom, I've gone back to work, treated myself to spa days, and made parenting choices for the benefit of my personal mental health. If you think I'm only out for number one, though, you're wrong. "Selfish" is just another label, but I'm more than happy to own it for the following reasons:
Because I'm A Person & I Have Needs
Becoming a mother doesn't mean you stop being a human being. I hate that I feel like that needs to be said. I understand that my child, at this point, is dependent upon me for survival. Her basic needs of nourishment, safety, and love are, of course, my priority. But it doesn't mean I have to sacrifice my needs for the same. It's really hard to meet the demands of motherhood if I'm not getting what I need. Taking care of me is taking care of the baby.
Because A Happy Mom Means A Happy Family
My husband is the first to admit that I am the glue that holds this family together. My daughter is also super in tune with my mental and emotional state. When I'm stressed, she acts up. So it's in everyone's best interest for me to be the best me possible.
In my world, that means self-care and anti-depressants. I know that some people were surprised that I continued to take my SSRI during my pregnancy. Some thought it was a selfish move, but my psychiatrist, midwife, and I decided that the best thing for my baby was a healthy, happy mama.
Because I'm Beyoncé
OK, I'm not Queen Bey, but I'm definitely with her. And Chrissy Teigen, and every other celebrity mama who dares to still be her own person after becoming a mother. So maybe I'm not noshing at Nobu (Applebee's and a movie is more my speed), but I go out and leave my baby at home. And it's entirely possible I'll come home with a new tattoo.
Because Work Fulfills Me
Work not only fulfills me, but it fulfills me in a way motherhood doesn't. Yeah, I said it. After 13 years in the classroom, I couldn't wait to be a stay-at-home mom. After a year, though, and with new opportunities cropping up, I started feeling the itch to go back. I enrolled my 18-month-old in a preschool program and started working part-time. It's been great, and I refuse to feel guilty for spending time doing something that fills my personal bucket.
Because Everyone Needs To Recharge
My husband goes golfing most weekends, and my daughter needs a daily nap to turn back into someone you'd like to be around. Why should I be any different? I put my daughter in bed at 7:30 p.m. every night, and I let her talk to herself for a half hour before falling asleep. Yeah, I could use that extra 30 minutes to work on her ABCs, but I'd rather use that time to drink a glass of wine and read a book about something other than potty training.
Because I'm Not Interested In Martyrdom
I'll leave that to Joan of Arc. I'm not looking for sympathy or admiration for my excessive suffering because I don't intend to suffer unnecessarily. Some of that comes with the territory, but I'm certainly not going to exaggerate my sacrifices so that someone can tell me what a good mom I am.
Because My Daughter Needs To See A Grown-Ass Woman Prioritizing Herself
Perhaps most importantly, I am setting a good example for my daughter. I'm not giving up who I am for another person, even when that person is someone I love beyond all reason. This year, I added an extra day to my daughter's preschool schedule so that I can get back into aerial pole classes. Sometimes, mommy puts herself first. In doing so, I hope to raise a young woman who will be able to, too.
Because I'm Nurturing My Child's Independence
I can't always respond immediately to my toddler's needs because, as anyone who has a toddler knows, they need something all the time (and sometimes those needs aren't "needs" at all and yes I'm looking at you, cup of pretend juice that I don't have time to drink just now). When I tell my daughter I will get her milk, read her that story, or put on her shoes after I answer an email or chop a carrot, she's learning patience. In fact, she's also learning how to problem solve on her own. That's a win-win in my book.
Because I've Seen How Selfless Works
It's not all bad, but there is such a thing as being too selfless. According to Psychology Today, selflessness can morph into pathological giving and lead to feelings of resentment. I don't want to be so wrung out from caring for my kid that I can't even enjoy her, and I refuse to have my identity wrapped up in my child's.
Because I Don't Actually Think I'm Selfish
I'll admit that inhaling the last cupcake was selfish, but most of what I do, I don't put in that category. I didn't quit breastfeeding because I didn't like it or it was hard, but because my baby was in the sixth percentile for weight. I sleep trained my daughter because both of us sleep better in our own beds.
Spare me the "maybe you shouldn't have had kids" routine. I'm an awesome mom who believes that having it all isn't a myth. If I have to be a little selfish to do it, so be it.