Is Mothering Wearing You Out?
By Margaret Paul
I always wanted to have children and I was completely thrilled
when I had my first child. Nothing, however, prepares a mother for what it's
like to be responsible for a child 24/7.
Before my son was born, I had time - time to read, to be
creative, to spend time with friends, to take long baths, to spend time with my
husband, to breathe. Suddenly there was no time for me. And, of course, after
two more children, having any time for me became even more challenging.
That's when I started getting sick. Not sick in the way you
could name it - just sick in the way of being fatigued all the time. As much as
I loved being a mother as well as continuing my practice as a psychotherapist, I
was wearing out. Something had to change.
The real problem was in knowing how to take care of my children
and myself, instead of just taking care of my children. I had been brought up to
be a caretaker, which meant that everyone's needs came before mine. That was
really what was wearing me out. Not only that, but putting their needs before
mine was creating children with entitlement issues - the more I put myself aside
for them, the more they demanded and felt entitled to my time and attention.
Unfortunately, I didn't discover this problem until my children
were adolescents. By that time I was headed for serious illness. My immune
system was shutting down and various doctors said I that if I didn't change my
lifestyle, I would end up with cancer or something equally serious.
It's not easy to start to attend to yourself when you've always
put others' needs before your own. Yet for me it felt like a life-and-death
situation. I had always been afraid that if I said "no" to my husband and
children, I would discover that they really didn't care about me. I was afraid
to find out that they wouldn't support me in learning to take care of myself.
Yet I finally reached the point where I was willing to lose them rather than
continue to lose myself and my health.
It was at this point that I began to develop a strong spiritual
connection, and Spirit eventually guided me toward a self-healing process which
we now call Inner Bonding. (For a free Inner Bonding course, see
www.innerbonding.com). It was through practicing the six steps of this powerful
process that I was able to start taking care of myself while I was working and
taking care of my family, and my health gradually returned.
I had always had enormous compassion for others but generally
lacked compassion for myself. My challenge was to turn my eyes inward to my own
feelings and needs instead of always being tuned in just to others' feelings and
needs. I needed to learn to treat myself as well as I treated others. I needed
to learn to stand up for myself when my family demanded that I take care of them
to the detriment of myself. I needed to learn to have the courage to withstand
their anger when I didn't do just what they wanted me to do. I needed to learn
to stand in my truth regarding what was loving to myself and others instead of
trying to control their love with my compliance. It's been a long and sometimes
painful road, but one with great rewards.
In a session with Renee, one of my clients, she told me that she
was struggling with this same issue. She was exhausted most of the time, and
often felt depressed. She told me of a recent incident that had happened with
her nine-year old daughter, Sarah. Renee had told Sarah that she wanted to watch
a particular TV program at 8:00 that night, so Renee wanted to make sure that
Sarah didn't need anything from her after 8:00. When 8:00 came around after
Renee had been spending time with Sarah, Renee said she was going to watch her
TV program. Sarah said, "Mom, so the TV program is more important than I am."
Renee got confused by this, bought into the guilt, and gave into Sarah, thereby
enabling Sarah's already strong entitlement issues. Then Renee felt even more
exhausted and depressed.
What Renee needed to say to Sarah was, "Honey, it is you who is
being selfish in not caring about what is important to me and just wanting me to
do what you want. I need you to care about me like I care about you." Then she
needed to watch her program, thus taking care of herself and at the same time
role-modeling personal responsibility rather than enabling Sarah's entitlement
issue by giving herself up.Learning to take care of ourselves is essential
for our own health
and the health of our family.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight
books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?", "Do I Have
To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?", "Healing Your Aloneness","Inner
Bonding", and "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?" Visit her web
site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com