Tuesday, April 12, 2016 1:55 pm
By Grace Essen
While growing up I watched women around me – my mum, my aunties, mums of friends and neighbours, my female school teachers repeat the mantra – when you have children, you don’t eat. So when for instance food is served in the home and for some reasons it does not go round, mothers will usually go without. When needs of family members have to be met, those of the mothers are usually considered last, even in cases where health is involved. I have seen and heard of mothers who neglected their health for the sake of family, and they never lived to see the future of the children for whom they made such sacrifices.
Having watched our mothers do this over time, we too have become mothers, and we have very naturally, continued with it – like mothers, like daughters. After all that is what every ‘good’ mother should do – put her personal needs last so that everyone else is satisfied. Seriously, I am beginning to have a rethink!
Sometime ago I was feeling ill. I felt too weak to carry out my daily duties in the home no matter how hard I tried to push myself, mothers never fall sick, you know, or who will take care of the family?! I tried until I just couldn’t keep up; my health was in desperate need of attention. I went to the hospital and series of tests were carried out after which my doctor recommended that I be admitted in the hospital. I said okay and he was shocked. “I know you to absolutely hate hospital Mrs. Essen,” he said surprised. “For you not to argue your being admitted… now I am worried.” I smiled weakly; I just didn’t have the strength to argue. He was absolutely right. Ordinarily, I would have put the needs of my family before mine, and insisted on going home. At home, I wouldn’t be able to do much, and I wouldn’t get better either. Now does that make me a bad mom?
When we continuously put ourselves last as mums, we are sending certain messages we may not really intend to send. We may be saying we deserve little or no attention, we are not worthy, not good enough, our needs are not that important, others should always come before us … remember I said messages we never really intended to send.
Beyond what we stand to lose when we put ourselves last, be it a portion of food, a bowl of ice cream or an opportunity to hang out with girlfriends, our children could be at the receiving end, particularly the girls. They very naturally will grow to toe this line like most of us have done. Just think of it, we don’t even have to think, we just do it, that means it is firmly ingrained in our minds. When girls are taught (consciously or unconsciously) that mothers should always ‘go without’, they grow up losing the will to speak up, to negotiate, to ask for their right, to demand for what is theirs, to push for positions or opportunities that should come to them, and they are more likely to become victims of rape, abuse, violence and discrimination all because they grew up learning that women should always put their personal interest last. Let’s not even talk about the misery of children who lose their mothers due to neglect and carelessness.
A few things we can do:
When there is not enough food for instance, (this happens sometimes), instead of going without, we could share what is available with them (they won’t die)! Or right before them we can come up with other options so we don’t give them the impression that we always have to go without.
Plan ahead for meals and household supplies; when we plan adequately, there will be less occasions where someone has to go without.
Due to family demands, many moms have had to let go of their careers, but you would agree that most of such decisions are made in haste. Working with a career counsellor or coach can help us make better decisions that will be in the interest of the entire family.
Take care of yourself and let your kids see that. Let them know when you need rest, let them know when you need a break, let them know when you are feeling unwell and need some time to recover. You would be pleasantly surprised how they will be willing to help out so you can get the much needed rest. The few days I was in the hospital may have been like a week or more to my family. You could obviously tell just walking into my home that mummy was not around, but then heavens didn’t fall, and everyone was just fine, including me!
Have you had situations where you neglected yourself for the sake of your family? I bet you have. Do you think you could have found a better way not to put yourself last?
Please share your thoughts with me. Thank you!
You may reach Grace via email: [email protected] You can also connect with her on twitter @GraceEssen, on Facebook, and also follow her blog @Mum2MumAfrica.com.