I've been trying to come up with the antidote to the "I-feel-like-I'm-never-enough" syndrome. When I'm at work, I'm neglecting my family. When I'm with my family, I can't help but think about all that needs to get done in my office. This wreaks havoc on my self-esteem. Why do moms — especially moms who work outside the home — feel inadequate much of the time? I feel guilty!
Bette Levy Alkazian, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist: I think it's because we haven't given ourselves permission to take care of us. Then, we've got nothing left to give because we haven't replenished our own internal resources. Remember the metaphor of the oxygen mask? "When traveling with a small child always put your own mask on first before assisting your child." Why? Because you're of no use to anyone if you're not getting any oxygen! Take care of yourself first and then you'll be able to take care of everyone else.
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In my practice as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with parents, I have found that the healthiest families have a mom who takes good care of herself first, then takes good care of her marriage, and then takes good care of her kids. Her own "love tank" is all filled up and she has a lot of patience and good feelings to give. This priority order is the absolute reverse of how most families operate, but trust me, this works!
Why does it work?
When you take good care of yourself — spend time with friends, have some alone time, do whatever you enjoy — you're able to bring your best self to your relationship. You're happy on the inside and you are a person your partner wants to be around. Then, you're feeling good in your marriage and you're more likely to really connect as a couple, not just as parents. When you're happy as an individual and you feel fulfilled and connected as a couple, you bring a happy set of parents to the kids. By default, when Mom and Dad are happy, the kids are more likely to be doing well, overall.
Remember, there's always enough time for what's truly important. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and watch "I feel like I'm never enough" turn into "I feel great and I love my family."
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The common theme for busy working moms is to make sure you schedule and take time to nurture yourself. It's not selfish — in fact, it's essential! It will reduce resentment and stress, and increase your energy level, compassion and ability to continue giving. Your boss, coworkers, friends, family, partner, kids and especially you, will reap the benefits.