I kept telling myself: You have responsibilities. You chose this. This is what being a mother and wife means. But I didn’t know it would feel so horrible.
Hey Selfish Moms. Yeah, you. You know who you are.
You’re the Mom who goes to the gym.
You’re the Mom who leaves her husband to finish the dishes (after he’s worked ALL DAY) while you go for a run.
You’re the Mom who has a regular BABYSITTER and gets out of the house for girl’s nights, dates with your husband, weekends away.
You’re the Mom who leaves her kids at DAYCARE for an extra hour so you can go do something for yourself.
Where are your priorities?!?
Your house is a mess and look at you all fancy with your clean yoga pants and curled hair.
Ugh. Selfish Moms.
In July 2014 I started therapy for postpartum depression five years after I should have. After four months I learned that it all could have been avoided had I been one of those “selfish Moms.”
I used to wear my I-DO-EVERYTHING-AND-ASK-FOR-NOTHING badge with honor. I was NOT a selfish Mom, a selfish wife, a selfish person. I was not a woman who asked things of her family, used her voice in a strong way, or dared to take up space.
I tended to my responsibilities.
Babies and children taken care of? Check.
House tidy? Check.
Super-healthy-cooked-from-scratch dinner on the table when my husband walked through the door from work? Check.
Lost the baby weight? Check.
Mother-in-law stamp of approval of my parenting, home, dedication to my husband? Check.
Children enrolled in hockey, dance, baseball, soccer, swimming, preschool, kinder gym, rhyme time, aaaaa-aaand story hour at the library? Check.
Mama feeling well, getting support, in good health, her spirit fresh and alive…..
Mama feeling tired, overwhelmed, empty, invisible, forgotten?
For five years I told myself in a million different ways that I didn’t matter. I snuffed out the inner voice trying to tell me that my feelings and goals were important by telling myself how much my children mattered, how important my husband’s work was. For five years I was having babies, moving countries and homes, supporting my husband while he went back to school. The more I gave, the more was asked of me, and the stronger my guilt became when I wanted anything: a night out, a haircut, to go to the gym, to be left alone for five minutes. I was…an inconvenience.
Postpartum depression affected every aspect of my life—my marriage, my ability to parent, how I felt about myself, the way I approached eating and moving my body, my social life, and my ability to make friends.
And my children had an unhappy Mom who was sad, sensitive, negative, and not role modeling all of the things she wanted for them: happiness, health, a love and appreciation for the gifts life gives us.
After five years of this I felt like a broken, used-up, worthless mess. I thought about walking into the ocean and letting the waves take me.
But I kept telling myself: you have responsibilities. You chose this. This is what being a mother and wife means.
But I didn’t know it would feel so horrible.
To me, “selfish” is the ultimate insult you could call a mother. It cuts to the very core of what being a mother is, which is about giving. We give our bodies, we give our hearts, we give up careers, we lose friendships, we retire goals. We do this because the moment a baby is placed in our arms nothing else matters but the health and happiness of that little soul. We would sacrifice our own lives for our children.
But who is looking out for the mother’s soul?
Calling mothers “selfish” happens every day, from the gossip you hear in your coffee group, to entertainment news headlines, to comments in Facebook threads about formula feeding and sleep training.
“She’s so selfish…”
It’s hissed like venom from one woman to another.
In some form or another it’s come from your mouth, it’s been typed by your fingertips, it’s run through your mind. Yours and mine. We are all guilty of judging other mothers for their words, their actions, their parenting choices, what their bodies look like.
What are we doing?
We’re saying these words about other women to fill up the deep void inside of us that used to be filled with the “selfish” things we loved and made us feel whole…Moving our bodies, laughing with friends, connecting with our partners, success in our careers, relaxing on a patio. We are saying these words to calm our own insecurities, to reassure ourselves and others that we are completely happy and confident with our choices, even though we aren’t. Nobody is.
And as long as we continue to focus our energy on judgements we will fail to come together to solve the deep social issues that are undermining the joy and health of our society.
Supporting our young families
Building strong communities
Imagine what we could accomplish if we stopped judging each other?
To heal myself I had to learn to be an advocate for myself. I had to be strong and use my voice and say “I’m important too.” I had to learn that in return for all that I do, I deserve for my family to make sacrifices for my heath and happiness too. I had to learn my boundaries, when to say no to others and yes to myself. I had to learn that I deserve to take up space in this world.
I am a supportive wife.
I am a sacrificing mother.
I am a valued friend.
I love my husband and children, I promise you that. But I love myself too, and I have made a promise to myself that I always will.
I want to be happy.
I want to be healthy.
I want to leave this world better than I found it.
And if that makes me selfish then I am hand-in-hand with a sisterhood of women saying: I am a selfish Mom.
And if you’ve always been a selfish Mom, I admire, respect, and adore the love you have for yourself. Let’s make it our mission to help other Moms be selfish too.
Jennifer Campbell runs Mama Lion Strong.
This originally appeared on Mama Lion Strong. Republished here with permission.