For some people, being in a relationship means giving up who you are. I’ve seen friends and family members get into relationships and leave all their interests behind. If their new partner likes baseball, then they like baseball, even if they don’t. If their new partner likes going to breweries, then they like going to breweries, even if they don’t like beer.
How long can that last? How long can you ignore your own wants and needs in the name of being a part of something new?
The same goes for becoming a parent. Suddenly your life revolves around these little people who you want to give your all to. You make sure their every need is met 24 hours a day until they can start to take care of some of those needs on their own. By that time, you’ve forgotten what it was like to do things for yourself.
A part of me feels like we were raised to believe that once we got into a relationship, that it was our job to please and take care of our partner. Or somehow, we got the idea that to be a loving mother and wife you need to give your all to everyone every moment of the day. As if sacrificing your whole self is the ultimate way of showing love. Um, can you say exhausting? How can we be in a successful relationship if we don’t have an identity? How can be our true selves and grow with our partners if we’ve stopped taking care of ourselves? How can we raise our kids to be happy and healthy if we don’t show them first-hand how to take care of themselves, by taking care of ourselves?
Over time I’ve learned that I can only share what I have to give.
If I’m spending all my time taking care of others and prioritizing their likes and dislikes, then I have to ignore myself. I have to tuck away all the things I enjoy, the things that make me happy, and the things that bring me happiness as an individual. So, what’s left but a shell of who I used to be?
As the years passed, I found myself identifying as a wife, mom, and even a teacher (back when I was still teaching). My identity was based on what I did for other people. I kinda didn’t even remember what I liked to do. On the rare occasion that my husband and kids weren’t home, I’d be looking around like “now what?”. I lost myself.
I realized one day that it was totally possible to enjoy my life to the fullest, even while raising a healthy family.
In fact, it is a necessity! If I wanted to have a strong marriage, I needed to have a strong sense of self. If I wanted to raise strong daughters that could excel at life, then I needed to be their living example.
I made it a priority to schedule time for the things I used to love to do (back when I took it for granted): reading, exercising, meeting up with friends, etc. I totally felt guilty at first. For wanting something that didn’t involve my family at times. And guess what? It was fine. My home didn’t fall apart. My kids were fine. And….. I felt so much better.
Listen, bottom line, you want to have a strong marriage? You want to raise your kids to be happy? You have to take care of you first! Easy? No. But necessary. You have to be whole as an individual. You have to be happy with yourself, your choices.
If you’re giving yourself away to everyone else, you can’t possibly be a partner in your relationship. If you’re exhausted and neglected, the truth is you’ll be raising your children to believe that love equals self-neglect. Break the cycle. Do you. Find things you love. Then come home and enjoy your family, because that was the goal from the beginning.
Keep it burnin',