Contrary to Popular Belief, My Child Doesn’t Come First

Write Night

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in West Seattle with a friend and her brother. I’m crashing their weekly Write Night, laptop in hand and not really getting much done, but feeling content. The point is not to check off my tasks, after all, but to enjoy the evening.

Juggling at Saturday Market

Justin juggles between 1-3 hours a day. People often stop to ask him if he’s practicing that much for a performance. Nope. He does it because he loves it and because it’s his time for himself.

As parents, we give a lot to our child. As we should.

We’ve invited our son into our lives, we’ve embraced the responsibility of caring for his needs and his autonomy and we treat him with honor and respect for Who He Is.

We give to him, and we give abundantly. Yet we remain conscious of one simple truth: You can’t give what you don’t have. Which really just means….

You can’t give to your kids if you don’t first give to yourself.

My trips to the coffee shop, quiet walks, or early mornings with a notebook…Justin’s nationwide juggling meetups, motorcycle rides or solitary trips to the cinema…

They are the things that bring us back to our center; they reboot us and allow us to go back into our parenting (or our partnership) feeling balanced and whole and ready to give and love and serve generously.

It’s not the cure-all for our relationships (and it’s certainly not license to be “selfish”)…it’s the preventative medicine that keeps us living connected and healthy together.

Because our child – and yours – needs and deserves the best of what we could offer.

So, what are you giving to yourself?

38 Replies to “Contrary to Popular Belief, My Child Doesn’t Come First”

  1. Tara – thank you SO much for posting this. I’m crying right now. I have such issues with guilt over just about everything that I do. I hear people say – take time for yourself, stop feeling guilty, etc. etc., but it doesn’t work – every time I walk out the door I feel like my heart is breaking. This post made SO MUCH SENSE – giving to yourself so you HAVE SOMETHING to give to your kids is an awesome way to look at the things that my hubby and I do for ourselves with our arts and music. You are awesome. I’m glad you’re in my life, even just via computer.

    1. (((hugs)))

      That guilt is coming from somewhere Missy, and it will likely come up again. I don’t remember, did you get Digging Deep? If so, guilt is a really, really good one to DIG into.

      And remind yourself: You are an amazing woman and mama. Your kids deserve the best parts of you. Take care of you so that they receive it.

  2. Hey Tara,
    I needed this reminder right now. This week, I have been feeling really overwhelmed by all of the things we have going on. Claire has been wanting me to stay by her side as well. So, I havent been taking good care of myself lately. I havent been taking any time for myself and the kids have been feeling my stress. I dont even know when I have the time, what it is I want to do. I guesss I have some digging to do. 🙂

  3. Is Justin wearing a kilt? If so, he rocks it.
    Stephen Covey mentions sharpening the saw. But he also reminds us to put first things first. This life we live requires balance and checking in with everyone in our family, including ourselves, to ensure with are staying on course with whatever we’ve decided our family mission is in this life. Nice post.

    1. He is SO wearing a kilt! And he SO rocks! How many men do you know both wear kilts and juggle….or juggle in kilts!

      Love the “sharpen the saw” analogy. Very fitting.

  4. You know, even though I am not a mother yet I definitely think this is a good message for any relationship. I know that when I do not have my alone time or if I am not giving myself the time and attention I need I am not as attentive to Robbie or our relationship. I am glad you addressed that so I (and others) realize it is not a selfish thing it is really a necessity.

    1. Absolutely! In all our relationships we want to give our all…but if aren’t feeling our all, we don’t have much to give.

      Thanks for the comment, sis. 😉

    2. Totally agreed. In the past year I’ve gone from a long-distance relationship – where it’s good to give the other person your whole attention for the few days each month you see them – to cohabiting (with the same person!) in a place where neither of us know as many people. It’s good to be together but it’s taken a lot of effort to move away from the idea that I shouldn’t be taking time for myself when he’s around.

  5. I know this intellectually (probably, most of us do), but I seem to wax and wane in my implementation of it. I need to remind myself periodically to go till my own field. Perhaps a bunch of sticky notes around the house? Thank you!

    1. This is *very* common! I’d like to offer you this perspective: When we consistently resist something we know we need it’s because there is something beneath the surface keeping us from it. If that resonates with you, I’d invite you to spend some time with it. You might enjoy the Digging Deep e-book to follow this train of thought.

  6. Well put! I take a yoga class at least once a week to recharge for my son. I also regularly stay up a while after everyone else goes to sleep to read or just watch TV. I usually need a nap in the afternoons, but it’s what I need to get my time to myself!

  7. I think when this discussion comes up, there is often some ‘steps’ that are not acknowledged that some people might need to deal with. For some, like me, it is organizational as well as personal. I’m not organized enough and I don’t even know what I would want my ‘me’ time to be.
    For me to really do this, I’d have to take sometime to figure out what I wanted and then find the ways to implement a plan to get my ideas to happen, which is challenging. Then I’d have to make sure I follow through with it and stay on top of it.

    My partner is pretty great, most of the time, but he really doesn’t always get the need for a release/personal time.. He thinks I can ‘get’ this time for myself during my day when the kids are entertaining themselves and an occasional time maybe 1-2 times a month… I’m just horrible at managing those short unpredictable moments. And I’m too disorganized to manage his schedule and mine to allow more things to happen. It is frustrating (and I’m working on it) because I’m fairly certain that if I could clearly tell him what I needed and what he needed to do to help him, he would be responsive. Its a conundrum and I am finding time to work on that– but that just adds more things to squeeze.
    I’d like to simplify and do less, but my other interests (my volunteer work) is what I love to do, what energizes me, so I also would hate to give that up. So it can be easy for him to see that these things add to my burden and not see that they help.

    I also try give myself forgiveness and try not to feel guilty about things I should be doing and focus more on checking in with my self and trying to make the current time better

    1. There are most definitely steps and they will be different for everyone. The first one is acknowledging that it’s necessary, which is the purpose of this post. The next is to define your next step…not next steps, just step. Look too far ahead or get too bogged down in the overwhelm and details and you’re gonna trip before you get to the first step.

      When I read this I can see clearly what your first step could be…I wonder after you’ve written it out if you see it more clearly too (as is my experience)? 🙂

  8. Such a great message…but in my experience it is easy to say and hard to actually do! At what age were you realistically able to take a breath and start to give to yourself on a regular basis again? Between my 2 year old, my household, and my part time job, I struggle to find time for 3 workouts a week. I’m curious how old kids are before Mom’s start finding a better balance?

    1. It needs to start right now, or two years ago, at birth. Your kids deserve for you to feel whole now and they need to see you feeling it as well.

      It may feel difficult on this side of it, but once you’re feeling energized and connected and balanced everything becomes easier…it’s easier to parent, you have more energy for your work and you feel more loving to your partner. It’s like the oxygen mask on the airplane. You need to start breathing easy so that you can ensure they continue to.

      Ask yourself this: Does it have to look like 3 workouts a week? Can it look like something else? How are all the ways in which it might look for you?

      1. Agree with Tara! Just wanted to chime in that we often have to think outside our typical boxes. “Working out” doesn’t have to be a three hour trip to the gym, but it can be something just as refreshing and energizing but not as time consuming. I used to make everything I did a big production, but then it becomes exhausting, and you don’t even have the mental energy to do it, which of course defeats the purpose in the first place!

  9. this past week has been incredibly intense and frightening and empowering – and so i went out for coffee with a friend this morning and spent some time this afternoon one on one with a new friend – cause i know i have to take care of me to maneuver through this time while supporting these great kids of mine …

  10. This post is so true – and so hard to attain sometimes! Not only is time always a factor, but society brainwashes women into thinking that if they’re doing anything that is just for them then they are failing as a mother/wife/whatever. It’s sad.

  11. This is one of my personal mottos. And as you put it Tara, not to be selfish, but I have found I am more impatient with my daughter if I don’t feed my spirit first. Roller derby ( a very empowering sport that showed me a lot about myself) used to be my outlet until I moved to a small town. Now I head to our local YMCA to work out. Not only am I taking care of my mental health but my physical health too. Hopefully, I will be able to share a longer life with my family because of it.

  12. I’m finally really putting this into action. I’m hooping daily, pursuing other interests (painting, henna, photography, yoga) and have a new project I’m working on. I feel amazing and I have SO much more to give my kids and husband because I’m freakin’ happy! 😀

  13. I’m loving our traveling life, so that’s good for me. I do want to hoop, but can’t get my back to cooperate right now, so I can be happy with reading and escaping into good books (that are kinda mindless and aren’t for research as usual!)
    This reminds me of the “secure your mask first before assisting children” warning you hear on planes. If you can’t breathe, you can’t help others breathe!

  14. Thank you for this. I don’t take care of myself enough (or is that ever?). It’s something I’m re-committing to. A window was cracked this week and this post is another gentle nudge, a whiff of fresh air, a gentle reminder from the universe that I am worth taking care of, that in order to be the parent and person I want to be, I NEED to take care of myself. Be well mama; I feel blessed to have found your blog and look forward to reading more of your insights.

  15. So now there’s a kilt to add to the juggling and hooping, it would make so much sense to come and visit us here for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 😉

  16. This is SO true and not a message people often get. I both spend outside of the home connecting with other creative folk and time at home in my art studio–this all seems like time spent not on my family, but I maintain that when my cup is full, when I am inspired and creative, I actually have more to give back to my family.

  17. Such a good post and a point many parents (myself included) tend to forget or put off.
    Time at my spinning wheel, reading a good book, doing yoga, and hooping are how I give to myself. They are activities that I can just do and enjoy for the sheer pleasure of it … no goals or expectations, just pure fun. My husband’s time to himself is usually spent on chainsaw carving, whittling, and reading. His activities are much the same as mine in that he does them for fun and because he loves to. We are both definitely more balanced and happy when we spend a little time on our own, pursuing our own interests. Our hobbies refresh and inspire us and they carry us through the good days and the bad.

  18. A friend posted the link to this post, and I’m so glad… I recently found out I’m expecting my first, and while I’m thrilled, I’m also nervous. Losing my personal time is one of my biggest fears about life after the baby comes, and it’s hard not to think of that as a “selfish fear”. It’s something I’ve been meditating on a lot in the last few weeks.

    Thank you for putting this so simply– we are better people when we are nurtured. As my husband has said to me throughout our nine years, he is happy and content when *I* am happy and content, and if that means shutting myself in the studio for a week and eating on the fly so I can immerse myself in whatever I’m working on at the time, then that’s fine. I know that will have to change when the baby comes (no more 12-hour nonstop studio days when someone else is depending on you) but we can find a way to keep some “me” time in the regular schedule.

    I’m off to make a list in the baby journal– not of the things I will miss doing post-birth, but of the things I treasure for myself and will *continue* to do. It’s a much happier way to think about the solitary activities I love– reading, sewing– and of those that don’t have to be solitary– walking, baking, gardening.

  19. One lady I interviewed once put it this way: “cup needs to be fullull to over-flowing so that I can give to my kids.”
    How to I keep my cup full? I write, I blog, I lift weights. I like to go out on hikes (time permitting).

  20. I give myself time to write, time to sip and enjoy tea/coffee before the kids wake up and sometimes while they’re playing, I read books, I run, I drink wine, I take pictures, I sew, and I blog. Of course these don’t all happen daily but at least one of them does.

    I think taking care of yourself should be part of your routine as human being, whether you have zero children or twenty. Loving and valuing another begins with loving and valuing yourself. We wouldn’t forget to feed and clothe and entertain our children. Neither should we forget to tend to ourselves. And I find, the more time I give to myself, the more energized and productive I am with my children.

  21. Thank you for this post it was just what I needed to hear I am coming up on 2 years without a day away from my 5 children and I am feeling burnt out! I always carry guilt in wanting to do things for myself so I don’t do them. But this helped me remember that mama time is important for me to be a good mama. Hope your doing well on your travels <3

  22. Tara – I’ve just checked in on your site for the first time in a long time and I love that you’re coaching now. Your words glow, as does your smile in your pics. It makes me so happy to watch people move into their place of joy, power and connection. Yeah!

    So…what am I giving myself? Time to grieve and heal. Time to bring my own words and gifts to the world. Time to figure out – once again – what makes my spirit soar, my body happy and my heart sing.

    My daughter struggles with it sometimes – with me being gone or needing time to write at home – but she also sees me laugh louder, smile wider and when I have the time for me, I am fully present with her. We’re works in progress but after the year we’ve had, I am grateful for each and every moment of this life.

  23. Simple message yet so so so important! something I most certainly forget to do, well infact I forget HOW to do it… When the kids aren’t around me i think to myself “Now what am I supposed to do”…. But I know it is most important for me to find my balance in more ways than one 🙂

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