I saw this on a bumper sticker on my way home from work yesterday. The message is so simple, but oh, so hard to put into practice.
As women, as mothers, we are ALWAYS putting ourselves last on the list. And really, when we wonder why we aren't appreciated, thanked, valued the way that we want or deserve, it is because all too often, we have taught others how to treat us. Although times have changed mightily and we enjoy the choices and freedoms our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers struggled to secure for us, we are rarely content with ourselves.
It is not that we are not happy, we are overwhelmed. With the choices we must make to help our families stay afloat, with being torn into a million different pieces, with the multitude of roles we must fulfill in one given day. And all too often, we are too tired to try to find some joy within our days. Some days, it is all we can do to fulfill our job requirements to a bare minimum, come home, be mothers to our children: feed them, supervise home work and baths, tuck in bed. Then be wives to our husbands: lending an ear, holding a hand, comforting.
We never stop to think that we CANNOT do these things for them, yet, repeatedly, we DON'T do this for ourselves. How many of us have ever stopped our husbands mid-story and said, " I just need you to listen to me." How many times have we sacrificed our children's needs for our own...we are just not programmed that way.
And I am NOT saying that our joy, our comfort for ourselves should come at sacrificing our children and spouses, but that we should also take the time in our day for ourselves...Because we ARE important.
If you think of it, so much is balanced on these shoulders of ours. We need to be on our game for the other people who desperately depend on us. Our children, spouses, elderly parents. How can we give when we ourselves are spent? And what do we tell ourselves each day?
"Tomorrow I will...When I am done with this task, goal, whatever, I will..." Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, months into years. We postpone our joy. Daily, constantly, decidedly, without compassion.
Perhaps it is not one big to-do that must happen to fill us with joy. Perhaps it is changing our expectations. I would rather a year's worth of silly or quiet moments with my family than a big blowout of a celebration for a few hours in one day and then 364 days of nothing.
I find that opening myself up to the beauty of each day: the gift of molding my children into the adults I would like to see, the gift of having a job that I somewhat enjoy (on most days), that I live with a man whom I so love and respect; I prepare myself for the joy that the day will give me. Because the joy maybe disguised in many ways.
It may not be flamboyant. It might be that a particularly difficult day has finished with no one worse for the wear. It might come from a kind word from an acquaintance or the knowing smile of a stranger. The gift is unexpected, but there. Or it might be something that I give to myself. That at the end of the day, the joy comes from knowing that another day has come and gone, that progress of some sort has been made. That I have crossed the finish line.
The reward of joy might be a cup of tea, a few pages from a magazine that has been sitting abandoned for weeks, soaking a warm bath, clearing the slate for the next day; but something; something that is just for me, must happen. However small, that daily offering to this weary domestic goddess must be made. So that she can continue to exist in balance...and joy.