Have you read the book by Shel Silverstein called The Giving Tree? It's an illustrated children's book about a boy and the tree who loves him. As the boy grows, he always needs something. The tree keeps giving of herself - leaves, branches, trunk. She gives and gives, and he takes and takes until his own old age, until there is nothing left of the tree but a stump.
Most people say what a beautiful story it is of a mother's love. The first time I read it to my children was the only time.
She is a tree that lives, and dies, for her child. And he is oblivious to her love and generosity, taking for granted that she will always be there to fill his every need. He NEVER gives anything back, NEVER says 'please' or 'thank you', NEVER asks about her. Maybe Mr. Silverstein would have been surprised at my interpretation, or maybe, just maybe, he wanted to us to think about this very thing.
* Are you feeling depleted? taken for granted?
* Have you forgotten who you were BK (Before Kids)?
* How will you put the focus back on you, without feeling guilty about it?
When you give, and give, and give, there is nothing left over... for you or anyone else. Yes, parenting is important, the biggest job you'll ever have. But a commitment to your family and to excellence in parenting doesn't mean that you lose yourself in the process.
In fact, it's exactly the opposite. Here are three great reasons to be mindful of what you need and to take your needs seriously:
1) You all know the airline warning, "Put on your own oxygen mask first, before trying to help others." When you are depleted, you can't be your best for others.
2) There’s a lot of talk about balance in life. (Most of us don't have it.) So what are you teaching your kids about balance, child-rearing and relationships when you put everyone else first, all the time? What are you teaching them about their place in the world and realistic expectations about giving and receiving?
3) One day the children will leave your home. Then what? If your life revolves around your children, the transition to an empty nest will be painful. Start taking back the best of your Before Kids life now, or creating a new one. You have so much still to do and be.
It's time to take hold, and let go. Let go of the mistaken notion that when you have children, you cease to matter; that it is selfish to put yourself first; that you must be all things to all people, except you. Take hold of a balance between family, work, and personal satisfaction; of doing something for you, on a regular basis, without guilt. Sometimes giving less is actually giving more. Think about it.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Coach, specializing in supporting parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations (including underachieving, disrespectful behavior, addiction recovery and more). With a parent-centered approach, Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life’s challenges. Learn more about coaching and workshops at www.fernweis.com and www.familyrecoverypartners.com.