The term "selfish mom" is an unkind one, bringing to mind a storybook Evil Stepmom character who cackles wickedly as she casts her stepchildren into the woods so she can keep herself well-fed on their father's dime. However, this is not what the term "selfish mom" should evoke. Instead, a mom that's "selfish" is someone who recognizes when she must put her own needs in front of those of her children and partner, because it is the healthy thing to do. There are times when every mom should be the "selfish mom," and it is important to note that these are acts of a mother's self care that, in turn, take care of her whole family.
If I had to pick out one feeling that has followed me around my entire life, it would be guilt. I won't go too deep into that right here and now (you're welcome), but I will say that, not surprisingly, this only worsened after I became a mother. The theme for me, and as my therapist pointed out, has been that any time I put my needs before someone else's ,I feel guilty. Becoming a so-called "selfish" mom was a conscious journey for me, and something I had to put a significant amount of time and energy into learning. I imagine this is true for many mothers, as our natural inclination is to martyr ourselves for the sake of our families. Choosing our own pleasure, and our own needs, and putting them at the forefront just feels so un-mom-like.
This mode of thinking, in my experience, needs a complete paradigm shift. We need to be more selfish in our motherhood. I lose count when I think of the days I've spent with my kids where I literally did not urinate for eight hours, let alone eat anything that wasn't leftover soggy cereal or toast from which the peanut butter had already been licked. How did I feel on those days about myself? About as good as a person eating soggy cereal could possibly feel. There are times when moms absolutely need to be more selfish, especially in the following types of moments:
When You're Sick, In Pain, Or Just Need A Time Out
When we mom, we mom hard. As a result, we are bound to burn out once in a while and require down time, like mornings to sleep in (no, Mother's Day does not count). This should not be a strictly annual occurrence. My husband and kids know I need at least an hour of extra sleep every weekend to make up for how hard I push myself during the week. It also doesn't help that I keep late nights folding laundry and making the house look like it has been professionally cleaned, before everyone wakes up every morning.
Also, I suffer from chronic migraines and the extra sleep definitely helps. Sometimes my need for sleeping in comes up as an issue in my relationship, but I rail against that hard. I cannot survive without it, and I will not allow that to be taken from me. I am extremely selfish when it comes to my weekend sleep.
When You Can't Stand Your Own Image In The Mirror Anymore
Mama, it is time for some hard truth. I know you've said you just don't have the time, but girl, you had kids five years ago. You better make some time for that haircut/hair color/eyebrow wax/running session you promised yourself forever ago.
Whatever it is you've been skipping out on for yourself to sacrifice for your littles, if you've reached the point of covering every mirror in the house like someone has died, you have a problem. It is one thing if you really and truly do not care about your appearance (I just can't relate, but go you) but if you're having self-loathing issues, then you have an issue. Make the appointment. Go. You deserve it.
When You Realize You Can't Face Another Day
As moms, we are so willing to put the needs of others before our own that it becomes second-nature to avoid facing some of our own most pressing needs. Many of my friends have lived with postpartum depression for years without even knowing, because they were so busy just getting through each day with their children. This is not OK. It is not good for you, and it is not good for your kids to be around a mom who has lost her light.
I was lucky, because my OB-GYN spotted my depression pretty early on during one of my follow-up appointments to check on my c-section incision. I can't imagine what life would have been like had my depression progressed. Before I started taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist (at my doctor's recommendation) I could feel myself spiraling out of control, even to the point where I had irrational thoughts of my baby wanting to hurt me. This, my friends, called for some serious self care in the form of medicine and making time to see doctors and therapists.
When Things Are Rocky With You & Your Partner
I know it is not easy for everyone to find friends or family (or to afford babysitters) to watch the kids so that they can get away for a little child-free couples time. However, if there is an opportunity to be selfish and either spend the money on a sitter, or put in a big ask on a family member, this is another worthy one.
My husband and I can tell when we are not connecting or when we haven't spent quality time with one another. There are weeks when we are both so busy, we only see each other before we pass out in bed. Those are the weeks when we snap at each other and misunderstand one another via text and it is just all around not pleasant.
When You Want That Last Cookie
You know your kids are probably going to ask you for dessert later, but you forgot to pick up those cookies they like at the store earlier that day. They're not home from school yet, and you're getting a serious hankering for something chocolate chip-filled. Only problem? There's just one cookie left. You also know that your kids are terrible at sharing and would never settle on splitting the cookie in half.
This is a perfect opportunity to be the "selfish" mom and house that cookie. No one needs to know. If they ask just say it was a Mommy Tax.
When You Start To Get The Feeling You Might Want To Be Doing Something Else
If wiping tushies and chasing kids around with toothbrushes starts to feel well, old — but you feel guilty about the fact that you're starting to wonder if maybe your real passion in life might not be contained within the four walls of your cozy home — it is time to get selfish.
Maybe your old boss called recently and is wondering what you're up to these days, work wise. Maybe you've been working and excelling at a new interest and think it could actually be something if you had more time for it. Without being selfish, these ideas will just remain floating around in your head, as little seeds of "what-ifs" that could possibly sprout into big feelings of regret years later.
When You Haven't Seen Your Friends In Forever
Sometimes mama needs a girl's night. There is something undeniably rejuvenating about connecting with friends who just "get it" and with whom you can say things out loud that you can't say anywhere else.
Every few months, a few friends and I get together for a dinner that ends up lasting three hours. During those three hours, everything gets thrown on the table: marriage, our deepest fears, our perceived failures about our own motherhood, and our goals. We lift each other up. We affirm the ways in which we are doing a great job as parents, and we help each other figure out which things aren't worth sweating and which things do, in fact, need some work. If we weren't selfish, and we didn't carve out a night together away from our families just for the pleasure of being in each other's company, we would surely suffer for it.