I know I can’t speak for all moms (I really can only speak for myself!), but I do know that many of us want to raise children who are happy, respectful, loving, and aren’t selfish, spoiled kids.
The word selfish is one we probably don’t want used to describe our children, and certainly don’t want others to look at us as selfish moms. When you think of the word selfish, what comes to mind?
Merriam-Webster defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”
But, here’s the problem I’ve noticed: It seems like many of us are quick to judge behaviors or actions as selfish, when in reality, they’re not. Listen, our children are hugely important, and we should make sure their needs are met, but much of our culture sends a message these days that children are the priority. And, if we try to put ourselves first, or protect our time, our emotions, or our energy, then we’re being selfish. And guess what? You’re probably not being selfish!
Here are 5 “selfish” things that I do that, in fact, make me a better mom.
I go away on my own.
It took almost five years of motherhood, but in 2017, I have been away twice on my own. The first trip was for a professional conference, but the second trip was for 8 days. With a girlfriend. Without kids. For fun. My husband stayed home while I was away. Was this selfish? No. Indulgent, special, and probably not likely to happen again soon? Heck yes! I returned from this trip feeling rested, happy, more like myself, and more appreciative of what I left behind. These trips are not selfish.
I practice self-care.
I am a big supporter of taking care of yourself, even in small doses. A lot of moms feel that activities that focus on themselves are not only unrealistic because of their busy schedules, but also they feel like it’s being selfish. It makes sense: “self” is in the name of the activity. But think about it: Our kid’s lives are mostly activities that they enjoy doing and that help them feel good. Most of us wouldn’t dream of denying our kids the time and activities they need to feel their best. If our kids are tired, we suggest they rest; if they’re active, we often sign them up for activities or sports. Our kids are not being selfish; they’re being taken care of! We need to take care of ourselves so that we can better take care of others. Self-care is not selfish.
I sometimes work when I’m with my kids.
I am fortunate to be able to work from home. Most of my work doesn’t have to happen at set times, and I often sneak in some of my work in where I can. If my kids are playing happily at the park, I’ll probably check my email. If they’ve started a dance party and don’t need me? I might start a draft of an article. When we’re out at dinner, I might have a work-related idea that I need to “put down on paper” before I forget. Do I also end up on social media? Sometimes! Does being on my phone or computer with my kids make me selfish? Nope. If I’m not glued to it and unaware of what’s happening with my kids, I choose to look at this behavior as not selfish. If anything, it allows me to be more present with my kids at other times because I’ve got my work handled.
I set boundaries and say no.
This is a tricky one. I’m sure people look at these behaviors as being selfish because, yes, I’m protecting my time and energy when I set a boundary. For example, I’m the mom who will say, “No, we can’t go to that birthday party because it conflicts with nap” or “I’m sorry, I can’t volunteer for that because of work and other commitments.” These behaviors may appear selfish to others, but I am putting myself and my family first. By avoiding over-extending myself and my family, I stay happier and saner. I also do a good job with the commitments I do have. Is this selfish? Nope, I don’t think so!
I don’t always share candy.
I’m the sort of mom that will buy candy (or ice cream) and not always share it with my kids. Sometimes, I just want the whole bag of M&M’s to myself. I don’t always want to share. Is this selfish? Maybe. But guess what? I don’t really care. If hoarding candy is some of my most-selfish behavior, I’m okay with that. Because at the end of the day, I have a sweet tooth, and the candy makes me happy. So, I’m going to continue with this “selfish” behavior because a happy mom is a better mom.
It’s okay to put yourself first or, at least, be as important as the other people in your life. You can still do a good job addressing other people’s needs while you also tend to yourself and address what you need. It’s unfortunate that it can appear that we’re selfish because society expects moms to be selfless. If you can be a completely selfless mom and be happy, more power to you. I can’t. But guess what? I’m also not concerned “exclusively” with myself for extended periods of time, and I’m not doing so “without regard” for others. Yes, I’m taking time away and focusing on myself, but it’s within the bigger picture context that I’m still aware of my family. And, in the big picture, these “selfish” behaviors actually make me a better mom.
What do you do that might seem “selfish,” but you know is good for you?
Sara Robinson, MA is the founder of Get Mom Balanced. Growing up she always knew that a traditional 9-5 job would not work out for her: she likes variety, creativity, free-time and also wanted to fit in a family. She is a mom of two young boys, teaches mental skills to athletes, and now helps support moms finding balance with all that they juggle. When she’s not sitting behind a computer she can be found hanging out with her boys, mostly laughing, reading and having dance parties. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.