Being 'selfish' will help your whole family thrive.
OK, I'm probably going to rock the boat a little here. This might piss you off and you might call me selfish, but still, I'm going to tell you that no matter how deep the belief is imbedded in your parenting belief system — your children should never, ever come first in your life .
Sleepless nights, long work hours, social responsibilities, and everything in between all add up to ensure that most parents are in a perpetual state of exhaustion and overwhelm. (If you’re not only a parent, but also a highly sensitive person, this overwhelm doubles up in your system.)
Just think of the number of marriages that end with “we grew apart” or “I just don’t know who I am anymore”.
Usually, these are couples ... with children!
Women struggle with this concept more often than men because women are raised to take care of others, to put the family first (as well as everyone else) and to always BE there. And often, you WANT to be there for everyone you love.
When your child is born, you look at that tiny face and vow to always take care of them. Nobody will ever limit or harm your child. Not even you. Right?
There is also your partner, looking on from the sidelines. Now, biology and society kicks in. He will go to work pretty soon after the birth of this child and that bonding and getting to know the baby’s needs are usually left to the mother.
Men aren’t breastfeeding, etc., so Mommy usually “knows best”, and because of this, she does the most.
And thus begins the parenting journey where you start to forget that you were first husband and wife before you were ever parents. You were lovers and friends. You were each unique individuals with your own personality, interests, and dreams.
So that is why I am here to tell you, that your children should never come first.
YOU should come first.
They will go out into the world to create their lives and follow their own dreams.
And if you did a good job of putting yourself first, you led by example. You showed them how to live life fully, making mistakes and growing into who you are.
What you are is so much more than just a parent.
You don’t want to end up resenting your children for all the things you didn’t do in your life. You have to go and do those things, make yourself proud and make them proud.
“For only as we ourselves, as adults, actually move and have our being in the state of love, can we be appropriate models and guides for our children.
What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.”
~ Joseph Chilton Pearce
Put yourself first throughout the parenting years and also cultivate a healthy relationship with your partner (because again, your children WILL leave you). If the children are the only binding factor in your marriage or relationship and all of a sudden they are gone ... then what?
How do you put yourself first when the demands of parenting pressure you to put yourself last? First, make yourself a priority without guilt (a happy person makes a better parent).
Here are six ways to put yourself (and your marriage) first while still raising happy, successful children:
1. Be honest with yourself and your partner.
With no bitching or resentful comments, please. Have honest and deep communication with yourself and your partner about what you need and what you want in your life. This ensures that you are on the same track. Don’t leave it to guesswork or mind-reading. That doesn’t work!
2. Create a support system.
It's often said, "It takes a village!" But the sad part about modern society is we often feel pressured to do everything alone. We're not supposed to feel weakness or even admit we're tired.
My Dominican family is always amazed that I “do it all alone.” I don’t have extended family here in the Netherlands to help support us, but I do have the next best thing — an amazing nanny who comes three days per week. I cherish those three days (and her help) dearly.
3. Do one thing every day that makes you happy.
Even if it’s only 30 minutes of reading, meditating or dancing around the house. We ALL have 30 free minutes each day. Indulging in a burst of happiness pulls you out of chaos mode and shifts you into dreaming mode.
4. Encourage your partner to prioritize their needs, as well.
To really build a strong partnership, help your significant other feel fulfilled and whole, as well. Back each other up in taking time needed to grow, rest, and have fun.
5. Support your partner in pursuing their dreams.
A happy relationship requires give and take. Whether it's going back to school, running a marathon, or some other dream pursuit ... carve time into your overall lives for your partner to do what's best for them, not always just what's best for the kids and the family.
6. Go ahead and pursue your dream, too.
No, you won't get there as quickly as you could if you didn’t have children, but believe me, if you NEVER start, you will NEVER get there.
Start taking that course you have always wanted to take, put your dreams on paper or write 500 words a day/week/month.
Put yourself first.
Your children will thank you.
This article was originally published at Highly Sensitive Parents. Reprinted with permission from the author.