The baby was up all night. You promised to bake for the bake sale. The house is a mess. You have a report due at work, and your daughter forgot to do her homework. You are ready to scream . . .
Mothers are supposed to sacrifice themselves for their children, right? Yes, but there is another side to it. As a mother of five, I’ve learned some important things that have changed the way I think about sacrifice. I have learned that the only way to give more to my children is to make sure my own needs are met. I’ve discovered that there really is only one person who can define those needs and make sure they’re fulfilled: me. I have found that, while my husband and I work together to fulfill the kids’ immediate needs, we also have to make sure the long-term needs of our relationship are fulfilled. And I have figured out that getting my needs met is an ongoing endeavor that I must always be vigilant about.
Most of all, I have learned that if I don’t take care of myself, I become resentful and irritable, and ultimately the whole family, and my business, will suffer.
When my babies were small, I made a point of getting out, even though having a baby in tow slowed things down. At home, I looked for opportunities to take hot baths, read good books, or bake special things. I wrote in my journal while my babies slept, and I developed friendships with other moms. I encouraged my husband, Prakash, to develop relationships with each of our children, which allowed me to get the minutes—then the hours—I needed to myself. I found ways to take small “vacations.” At one point, I took every Sunday afternoon off while Prakash cared for the kids. I made arrangements to get massages, have lunch with friends, and exercise.
I have always had something going on in my life beyond the children: a graphic design project or a non-profit business to work with, developing my own business, and the like. I discovered the importance of finding things that brought me joy without sacrificing the needs of my children.
Now that our kids are older, Prakash and I have a regular weekly schedule that gives us both time off. I get Tuesday nights, and he takes Thursdays. Fridays, we go out together—without the kids.
Recently, I have found that if I get ready for bed and take my planning notebook and journal into the bedroom with me, the kids will fall asleep as I work on the next day’s schedule and make the notes that bring clarity to my life. Exercise is another very important way I take care of myself. I make sure I have time for yoga every morning and that I walk or work out at least four times a week.
I know making changes in your life seems impossible when your kids are small. Take the time to define what you need the most, and then find a way to do it. Take your children along, join friends, work out a deal with your partner or your parents. It’s only by taking care of yourself that you can feel good about the sacrifices you make for your children.
Jody Wright is the owner and president of Motherwear. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband Prakash (Motherwear CEO) and their five daughters: Olisa, Mahajoy, Sundarii, Liina, and Emily.