I didn’t even know I was doing it

Look, Arnebya is here!
She is one of those writers who can be so funny, that they can get away with talking about the deepest truths in ways that bypass our resistances. Trough her blog I learned that we both navigate life with barely-eaters who live at the bottom of the growth chart, and when we metat BlogHer I found out that she can dance like nobody’s business. So yeah, I’m thrilled to feature her as the 2nd guest-poster in the Mama’s Comfort Camp birthday month blogging festival.

Arnebya is a writer, speaker, wife, and mother. She blogs at What Now and Why about life and all it entails (yes, that includes pie.) You can find her on Twitter and Facebook  (is it really so hard for you to click and like her page? IS IT?)

Passing the Mic to Arnebya:

I didn’t even know I was doing it (well, not every time), but evidently I’d been doing it so regularly that it became a habit. We were in Target for odds and ends (I had a list! This, of course, means nothing. That damn bull’s-eye hypnotizes you and your paltry list of 6 things totaling $30 turns into 30 things totaling $200+). I needed socks. We left without my socks because by the time I bought for everyone else, the socks seemed pointless. At home, my daughter asked, “Where are your socks?” I just shrugged and said I’d get them another time.

We were in the grocery store (again, a list! This, of course, means nothing as I must buy All Of The Things.) I wanted avocado badly. But, by the time all of the food was on the belt and I started to see the total climbing higher and higher (and anticipating my husband’s face as I came into the house yet again with 10 bags instead of 2 because didn’t we just talk about this?), I said never mind to the avocado. At home, my daughter asked, “Why did you put the avocado back?” I just shrugged and said I’d get them another time. Don’t worry about it.

Time and again this happened until most recently she decided to pursue my shrugging it off. I’d made dinner and handed each person her plate. I washed a few dishes, then went to make my own plate. As I did, there was only one piece of bread left. My daughter came in, asking if there was more. Grudgingly, though hoping I didn’t show it, I handed her the last piece. She said thanks and started to walk away. She turned, though, and asked if I was going to eat it. I told her she could have it. She put it on my plate and said, “You always do that. You don’t buy things for yourself because you’ve spent what you intended for yourself on us. You don’t buy things you want but will get what we ask for. Why?”

“It’s my job to take care of you,” I said.

“What about you, though? What about taking care of you?” Oh, how this hurt. I have been unwittingly showing her that I don’t matter, that it’s OK if I don’t take care of myself because it’s more important to take care of them. She’s 12. And I don’t want her to have this impression of motherhood. I don’t want her to neglect herself because that’s what her mom did.

I sat for a long while after dinner thinking about her words. Embarrassing that it is, having a 12-year-old tell me I need to take better care of myself, I still had to think about it. I have done their hair when I planned on doing my own and because it took so long I’ve decided to just wear a ponytail. I need new shoes but so do they; they’ll get theirs and I’ll deem mine good enough. The last of the juice, they can have. The last of the food, the better clothes, they can have both. I’ll wash the clothes, fold them, then put them away even though the latter is their job; I’ll just do it. It’s someone’s chore day for dishes but I do them just because.

It is true I do these things to take care of them and so they have less that they’re responsible for (because I’m the adult; I’m the mom. I should be able to keep the house together (stop looking at me like that; you know you sometimes think this)), but it’s also true that this is tiring. I am tired. I used to like going to yoga. It was my one day a week of something specifically for me. I looked forward to it. I craved it. And then, I just stopped going. Too many nights of extended homework help and the ease of saying I’m too tired. Why is it so easy to tell myself I’m not worth the effort to put on yoga pants (OK, different yoga pants, because I’m likely already in a pair)? Why is it so easy to deny myself things I need or want? I thought about this for a long time after her questions about the bread. I realized she was right, 12 or not.

I have conditioned myself to accept less — from myself. And I don’t like it.

The next morning, I told her I’d be home late because I was going to yoga.

“You should. You deserve it,” she said.

And you know what? I damn sure do. Now, who moved my mat?

Have your needs/wants taken a backseat since you became a parent? What do you do to reconnect with/take care of yourself?

One of my favorite soapboxes is keeping mama’s needs in the forefront. So no wonder I love the insights here. Thank you Arnebya!

Mama’s Comfort Camp will turn 1 year old on March 12.
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46 Responses to I didn’t even know I was doing it

  1. I’m so glad to be here; thank you, Yael, for all that you do to stress the importance of self kindness and nurturing and for providing a platform for moms to come and be.

    • Arnebya, your post is such a fantastic example of exactly the stuff Mama’s Comfort Camp is trying to accomplish in the world. I am so grateful for your words and for this story, and for the discussion it sparked.
      so much love.

  2. Arnebya, this was my mom to a tee. She was an amazing mother, but it took her years to realize that she needed to take care of herself first. I started down this same path as a mom. Now I realize that I need to take care of myself too. Hugs. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Thank you, Jenny. It is amazing the things we pick up from our moms. I’m glad I realized I was doing this in front of my children before it became too late, before it became habit for my girls too.

    • Since you wrote this comment two weeks ago, I went through an excruciating situation in my personal life. and there were a couple of instances where cookies were involved (the cookies were not excruciating at all) and in one of those instances I got the last cookie.
      I savored it as I tended to my emotions which were not getting what they were hoping for. the sweetness on my tongue was a balm.

      I think it is important to make sure mama gets some cookies, any cookies, and at times, yes, even the last one.

  3. My husband has been on a mission to, to make sure I eat. When I make their plates now, he comes in to oversee (which is irritating, but I know why he does it) and he’s taking smaller portions (all under the guise of watching his weight. Uh huh, sure. Although, truth be told, when there’s more left, I do eat more.)

    • I want to hug you, your husband, and have you over for dinner. my husband is vegan, so there won’t be chicken, there will be plenty of rice and beans. I’ll make you chocolate black beans, even the kids would love it.
      will put our kids in a little kids table in the living room, they’ll be close enough for us to see and hear them, but we will be just grownups at the dinning table and we will have a great time.

  4. This does a great job of describing what my own mother did too. I saw her prioritize everyone but herself. I knew that I didn’t want to repeat this when I became a parent. I want my children to know that we take care of all the members of the family. No one is a higher priority than another. OF course we’re still the parents and we do end up putting them first a lot but we’re also careful to take care of ourselves and fulfill what we need to do for ourselves whether it’s a haircut, a shower, a reading break an email break, new shoes, new clothes, walking the dogs etc… I hope that by taking care of ourselves that our children will learn from our example and that they won’t sacrifice themselves for someone else’s happiness.

    • Karen, I agree. I will admit, though, that it’s still sometimes hard. There are days when I am determined to give myself a bit of me time but one of the kids needs something. It could be important or it could be trivial; there is a need for the ability to make that decision of doing for oneself regardless of others’ needs or promising oneself that once we finish whatever it is the other person needs we will tend to ourself.

    • Oh, I have my days, believe me. Ain’t no playing on the floor with the boy, no reading with the middle girl, no talk of 7th grade politics with the oldest. I’ma be on the sofa. Just let me lay here.

  5. What a sweet girl you have. How wonderful that you’re taking care of your needs and desires! It’s so easy to put our own needs aside as mothers, but so important to take the time to care for ourselves.

  6. This is especially true with health care. We make sure the kids are seen for aches and pains, but us? We’ll ignore, and that’s dangerous. Symptoms, physical findings, body or skin changes, we need to get to a doctor JUST like we’d do with out kids.

    • It is. The minute one of them complains about a tooth (and after i pretend to be the dentist that I am not), they have an appointment. My damn shin can be torn in half by a rabid raccoon and I’ll still be saying, “It can wait until I finish dinner.”

    • so true! and it’s not just the moms, my DH was walking around with a fractured rib for a month before he finally took himself to the doctor.
      So strange, how that works.
      which reminds me that I need to make an appointment to have my achy shoulder looked at.

  7. Wow. Your daughter is so perceptive. What an amazing thing for a 12 year old to put together when they’re going into the time of me, me, me. I bet she smiled eat to ear when you grabbed that yoga mat. What a fabulous reminder for all of us moms.

    • Kari, she did smile. Two days later she was rolling her eyes because I was leaving and unable to find the nail polish remover, but it all works out.

  8. I am so glad that your children cherish you as much as I do…that they see how you sacrifice for them and want you to have GOOD THINGS too..it shows what an amazing mom you are, to be raising such a perseptive and caring daughter.

    Bravo to both of you.

    what is it about us, as moms and women, that we will take care of everyone else first and then ourselves? We forego our own happy moments to make theirs happy? Gio shared his RED Skittles with me last night..knowing I only like them. He took them all out and handed me the red ones, “here Mommy, cause you like these.” it felt good to be KNOWN.

    this was just beautiful Arnebya. XO

    • Kir, the red skittles thing made me cry a very happy tear for you.
      That is the sweetest thing!
      You obviously are also doing something very right.

  9. I am glad that they see it too, Kir. Glad that they’re paying attention. And it does feel good to be known by them, to know that they know our preferences, our dislikes. (Also, reds are my favorite Skittle. DOWN WITH GREEN!)

  10. Ok love the post. But seriously, your kid noticed? That is one smart, sensitive, self assured little girl. So even if you have forgone a few things for her, you’ve rocked it as her mom! She’s gonna be an amazing woman! :)

    • Andie, you nailed it! that is the bottom line.
      and yay for mama rocking it as her mom, and going to yoga or doing whatever it takes to feel nourished and connected to herself.

  11. That girl of yours is something special! How mature and loving and lovely is she?! So if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about what you are teaching her, because it’s clearly something good. You know, it’s only recently that I realized just how much my mother gave up for us. The woman always ate the heel of the bread. I always thought she just liked it, but now I suddenly get it. She’d eat the burnt piece of toast. She ate the dark meat from the turkey, because everybody else wanted the white meat. It wasn’t until after Daddy died, and I’d moved away, that she started eating the stuff she liked. I always loved that her last meal was a lobster, which she’d cooked all for herself, and a big bowl of black-eyed peas! She died peacefully in her sleep with a happily indulged stomach.

    • Thank you for that, Gretchen. We don’t see it, normally, what our mothers give up for our happiness. (If only this same 12 yr old would now realize that I have NOT given up these things for her to fail 7th grade, we’d be doing even better!)

    • wow, thank you for sharing the story of your mother, Gretchen. The mental image of her last meal will make me smile for a long time.
      love it.

  12. Girl, kudos to your daughter for calling you out! I’m glad that she is smart enough to know that something wasn’t right (I guess we’ll give you a lil credit for that 😉 ) AND that you’re taking her advice. You DESERVE some me time every now and then…if momma don’t take care of herself, she can’t take care of her boo boos (at least not 100%).

    Kesha Brown recently posted..Today Is Life: Living Fully Is NOT Just Mumbo Jumbo NonsenseMy Profile

  13. I hope you go back to doing more for yourself. I am reading a book right now that talks about nurturing the soul of your family and the first chapter says to work on your own self love first because you have to love and take care of yourself before you can love them. And I am not saying you don’t love yourself. I’m just saying in general, this is a GOOD lesson. Glad your daughter helped you realize…


  14. The last two weeks of my life have been overshadowed by a personal thing that has taken so much time and energy away from my life and my work. I was reading all of these posts, but didn’t have the wherewithal to respond. I’m so glad I took the time to do this this evening, I’m feeling nourished just by engaging in this discussion.
    Arnebya, this post is so important, and I’m so grateful that you shared it here.
    This is a lesson that we need to revisit over and over, I’m sure I’ll be reading this again in the future and taking new meanings from this.
    thank you.

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