Frazzled mom. Lazy mom. Worried mom. These are all phrases that I’ve been able to call myself over the past 12 years. It was old hat for me; calling myself exactly what I envisioned me to be at the time. Having to tackle great feats over the past decade or so (having babies, trying to have babies, getting rid of debt, saving for a home, being a Godly wife, keeping kids alive) has turned me into a person I rarely recognize. While I could call myself all of these phrases above, I most definitely couldn’t call myself selfish. I thought that was a good thing, until I was selfish for a week.
I Was Selfish For A Week – Here’s What I Learned
Now, before we get into the realness behind this experiment, I should explain exactly what my parameters were for the week. I was to take care of my needs first, do what my mind and body initially wanted me to do as I awoke and went through the day, and I was NOT to regret any of it. Seriously. If regret or guilt entered my mind, I forced myself to do yet another selfish thing. For a people-pleaser like me, this was almost torture. But, for science and sanity’s sake, I followed the rules to the letter. Here are the things I learned:
I Need To Eat First
I’ve written about my issue with eating, especially breakfast, but I’ve never really delved deep into why this has been an issue. I tend to “forget” to eat. This is mom talk for “I feed everyone else, every meal, and by the time I can feed myself, it’s already close to another meal time so I just decide to not feed me.” This was my everyday. During the week of selfishness, I ate first. I made myself breakfast or lunch, ATE IT FULLY, then made meals for everyone else. This tactic is very similar to the “place the breathing mask on yourself first, before helping those around you” survival tip. During dinner, I made my plate first, AND took the big piece of protein (which is usually reserved for my husband).
What were the results of this part of the experiment? I had energy to do ALL THE THINGS. I also had the energy to let go of things that didn’t matter. Because I had to eat first, cleaning the counters and clearing the couches had to wait. Survival first.
I Have To Take Downtime In Public
I’m sure you’ve read the funny memes about moms who hide in the bathroom or pantry with their magazines, to get 5 minutes of peace. That used to be me. I’d be overwhelmed from not taking time to relax in my own home, and resort to hiding in order to find a moment of solace. That was not allowed during this week. If I wanted to sit on my phone and scroll through Instagram, I sat down on the couch and did so. I had 4 magazines that I’d saved for 3 months, on the off chance that I’d have time to read them. 3 months of waiting to read a few magazines. That’s ridiculous, friends. I read all 4 magazines in one sitting. Why was this important? Because, my 3 very adorable children decided that they desperately needed me during that time period. All three of them made a point of interrupting me during my downtime. This was a difficult lesson for all of us, as I realized they’d never seen me completely take time for myself, and didn’t know how to respect that rare occurrence.
What were the results of this part of the experiment? I created new boundaries with my children, and with myself. I learned that if I want peace and patience from my family, I have to teach it to them. Now, when the kids come to me about some non-existant problem, and it’s my downtime, I can simply tell them they will have to wait.
Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness.
Listen to it carefully.
– Richard Bach
I Must Speak My Truth
Yes, I got to read magazines and eat full meals, but the real lessons involved me becoming the woman I used to be. I used to be a truth teller. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a liar, but I do sugarcoat the truth to make it easier to swallow. That might be conditioning from being a female in the military (no one likes a “ball-buster”), or being the eager to please first child and grandchild, but sharing the harsh truth has never sat well with me. Ironically, I encourage my inner circle to share the truth with me, and base our friendship on their ability to use this important part of our friendship. But, I still have an issue with speaking my own truth. Not anymore.
There were some things I shared with my older children that they never knew about their mother. I spent hours speaking with my husband about struggles I’ve had within myself and within our marriage. I made proclamations, shared my deepest fears, and started my journey toward inner peace.
What were the results of this part of the experiment? I found my confidence. It’s been lost for quite a while. I also realized a profound thing: no one gives a crap about me. Yes, I’m loved by my family and friends, I’m deemed resourceful and helpful by the readers of this website, but truthfully, no one cares about me. They all care about their well-being way before they even think about mine. I should do the same. No one cares about me, but me. I was selfish for a week, and found the real meaning of selflessness. Care about you first, so you can properly care FOR others.