No need for guilt or shame…breaks are good

I can’t speak for anyone else but one of the upsides to growing older for me has been I am far more willing to speak my truth and be intentional in what I need to thrive and function as a fully actualized adult. Trust me, it has taken a lot of work to get to this place and in many ways I am still a work in progress. There are still those moments when I find myself backsliding into old destructive patterns of putting everyone else’s needs and desires ahead of mine. Though I find when I do that, I end up self destructing and reminding myself once again that I must put myself first.

I suppose some might read this and think me to be a rather shallow and insensitive human and that is most certainly their prerogative. Yet as women, we are often seen as nurturers and caregivers in fact many assume us to be that and as a mother and wife I feel it is one of my roles but even the caregiver occasionally likes to be taken care of.

This past weekend found me talking both online and off line with women on the issue of taking time for ourselves. I caught up with a dear friend of mine to share a leisurely cup of coffee; my friend is newly divorced and juggling the demands of single motherhood. She talked about one of the hardest things about being a single mom is making time for herself and sometimes the feelings that come up when you do make time for yourself. I recalled my own single Mama days and remembered how there were days I would get up an hour so before my son, just to be with myself and get lost in my thoughts.

That conversation (hey, gotta respect my girl’s privacy) reminded me once again just how important those moments are when we are by ourselves or maybe just doing something fun with friends. For most of us we need such time to stay healthy, both mentally and emotionally. It has nothing to do with not enjoying our kids or our partners because I know oddly enough when I come back home after either a solo outing or a girl’s catch up session, I feel refreshed.

On a different note, I think for most couple’s time away from the progeny occasionally is a good thing. Now this is where things get tricky, in recent years many people have started to practice attachment parenting which I think is a great thing. But somewhere along the road, women have started to look down at other women who admit to needing/wanting/taking time out sans kids to reconnect with their partners. So much so that over the weekend I saw a few testy tweets when I threw out the question to fellow parents on whether or not they regularly got time away with their partner.

I can’t speak for anyone else but as much as I love my daughter, the first four years of her life were hard on my marriage. She was a lousy sleeper which meant I became a lousy sleeper, until age 2.5 she was up every few hours to nurse. Throw in the fact she was and still is a high intensity child and there were times I looked at the Spousal Unit in my sleep deprived state and thought what had we done? Between juggling the kidlet, work, house stuff, my son and life we had become nothing more than 2 roommates who every third month or so had a wham bam thank you man! It was bad. I will say though around age four we saw light at the end of the tunnel and the 5’s have been grand. We recently have started taking actual time out to go on dates and let me tell you, we remember why we married in the first place. Recently we went out two nights out within a single week and those outings gave us back something we thought we had lost, we became two adults.

Our time away allowed us to come back home refreshed and in a better mental space. That meant the kidlet did not have grumpy Mommy and Daddy. We have since concluded that a date night is a must for us, even if it means a few extra rice and meal days to ensure that we can pay the sitter and go out. In our family, we already spend an inordinate amount of time together due to the nature of our jobs and sometimes we need to leave it (kids, house, etc) all behind and take a few hours for us.

I was inspired to write this post by a young woman who asked why must women feel guilty for needing time either alone or with our partner. My answer is we need not feel guilt; instead we need to feel good that we are aware enough to know ourselves so well that we can be very intentional in what we need. I think when we take care of ourselves; we are modeling good behavior for our kids. If anyone dares to criticize another woman or mother for taking care of herself, I say poo on you! (OK, not really but you get the point)

Asking for what we want

Why is it as women we often (not always) have a tendency to place ourselves last in the needs hierarchy? We often take care of our children, partners, parents, friends and whoever else is in need of mothering but take care of ourselves? Nope, it somehow feels selfish and for many of us we can’t even muster up the courage to ask for what it is we want and in some cases need.

I struggled with this today as I tentatively tapped out an email making a very legitimate request of someone for something I frankly need and most would say am well deserving of. In many ways I have made headway with this thorny issue as in the past month the Spousal Unit and I have deconstructed our marriage and are putting it back together. Yet it took being pushed to the brink of speaking the dreaded D-word…D as in divorce to actually get to what it is I want and need in our marriage.

Funny thing in our case these issues that lead us to that point have been lurking beneath the surface almost the entire length of our marriage, yet despite being with my best friend, asking for what I really needed never occurred to me. I know I am not alone in this as I know too many women both in my day to day life and in my virtual life who struggle to take the hour they need daily to exercise, meditate or whatever, instead feeling guilty for being in need.

It’s interesting to me how women still on average earn less then men, deal with frankly more bullshit in the workplace yet how many of us really speak up? Oh by all means if someone is truly harming us most of us will speak up, but too many times we sweep things under the rug, play the good girl and as I am learning it harms us.

So what about you, are you asking for what you need or want in your professional and personal life? Have you had to overcome that tendency to put yourself last? Let’s talk… I am still trying to figure this all out and would love to hear where others are.