Is Mothering Wearing
You Out? by Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
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
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