The longest relationship you’ll ever have is the one with yourself. This is also the relationship that takes the most abuse and neglect. If you were checking out your virtual dating profile, would you be into you? Do you cultivate the things that make you love yourself? Do you actually love yourself?
Because this relationship is natural and enduring, you can’t just divorce yourself, it is easy to ignore. We aren’t really taught how to be alone or grow such a relationship. In fact most of my life I have been groomed for being in a relationship with a man. There was never any consideration for how I might view myself, how I might have value outside of a man. I’m sure the thought alone would alarm my parent.
I am in an enduring marriage. I am happily married. I honestly have spent very little of my adult life single. Although I have spent much of that time with myself. My spouse was military and then security and still works long hours. The first hardship of motherhood was the long hours alone. I struggled to entertain myself because I couldn’t stand to be alone. I was drowning in me…
What has helped in my relationship with my spouse and my children is learning to spend time with myself. Devoting time to things I enjoy, to growing my relationship with me, has changed everything. It’s not that I work out or read a book, but that I give my mind, body, and spirit time to recharge. I am present in their lives because I am happy.
I give love because I have love. I am no longer insecure about who I am or what roles I should play. I must admit I did imagine an entirely different life for myself, but that is the joy of adulthood. I have surprised myself with the things that give me meaning and joy. I am deeply rooted in family and giving in nature. If not checked I would give until there was nothing left for me.
As a mother there are many that attack me for taking this time for myself. I have been called selfish and cruel because I work out. I try to read two books every month and was told that it was a detriment to my family. My ability to keep up with the house is sacred but my desire to spend 30 minutes running is absurd. Who quantifies what is of value to my family? What are the qualifications for sainted motherhood?
I am no saint. I let my children watch television so I can sneak in a chapter. I allow chicken nuggets because I need to write. I even leave the dishes in the sink or the laundry on the floor. I have learned that those chores are always there. My ability to deal with chores is only hampered by trying to keep up with them without fulfilling my own needs. I’m a wonderful mother, humble too. I have no fear of my relationships in others. But I do fear the relationship I have with myself.
I keep the commitment to work out every day as recompense to myself. After a particularly hard day I have this moment to say “you are capable.” I prove to myself that I have value or that I can do more than I thought possible. The physical opens my spirit and makes me feel incomparable and that allows me to tackle the every day problems that become overwhelming on their own.
I went an entire year of Mothering without reading a single book. The house was always clean, the kids were always first, I nearly broke. I felt lost in the role of mother. As if I had disappeared in the name. The only balance I have found comes in taking time to date myself. My idea of a date may be different than yours but it is vital to your relationships that you take that time.
If you hear the voices attack, let them go. Do not feed these people. You’re not selfish to take care of yourself. You are made better by fulfilling your needs. The children and your spouse are not more important than you. I love both my husband and my children with all of my heart, but they are not more important. Family is not a hierarchy, you all have needs. Of course take care of the most vital needs first, but do not neglect your own.
Go do something tonight that you have wanted. Do something you miss. Read a book, watch a movie, get in a run. Whatever you chose just commit to taking the time for you. “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha