Do you remember (many years ago) those “Baby On Board” bumper stickers? They became very popular and everyone agreed they were a good reminder to drive with more caution. After all, that tiny brand new soul was in the vehicle.
Well everyone except my clever pal H. I hadn’t yet spawned any offspring but she had a brand new daughter and as we drove off to lunch together (her baby safely at home with Grandma) and stopped behind a minivan at the lights she said “Those things are stupid!”
I will tell you, I was shocked! A brand new mother calling baby safety stupid?
She went on: “I am a mother and of course I will slay dragons to protect my child, and of course everyone should drive with caution and care. But what makes a baby’s life more important than an adult’s? Is it just dandy that I drive recklessly with my mother in the car? When I drive alone is it acceptable behavior to plow into my Datsun at your earliest convenience? Do you only have to access your brain and therefore your best driving skills when you see that bumper sticker? Stupid.”
I was flabbergasted. And enlightened. Because of course she was right. Yes, babies are magical little critters and so are husbands and grandmas and puppies and friends. And so are we. We as in individual human beings navigating this life through valleys and mountains as best we can. We too are important.
So when someone says “You always make it all about you” why do we take it as an insult? Well of course it’s because it is always meant as an insult. But much like that bumper sticker was meant to remind us to slow down and pay attention, maybe we are also meant to be reminded to take care of ourselves? Because the bottom line is if you don’t make it all about you, who will?
Now I’m not suggesting here that we all get up our own asses to the point of narcissism, selfish behaviour and lack of humanity. What I am pondering tonight is self-care. The innate right to not only put yourself first ON OCCASION but your duty to ensure that your well being is actually being attended to. Kind of like the oxygen on a plane. Take care of yourself first because if you don’t you will be rendered incapable of taking care of anyone else.
As parents we are daily faced with the great challenge of watching our spawn face their challenges. And as parents we desire with all our hearts to minimize those challenges with daggers and muskets if need be. Nobody wants to see their kid in pain.
But every kid has to grow up sometime and every parent has to loosen those apron strings so that said kid CAN grow up. Become accountable. Make wise decisions.
At the same time, we parents have to remember that we are also worthy. We are worthy of joy and adventure and contentment. We are worthy of emotional sustenance and a sympathetic ear. We are worthy of oxygen. It is not in our job description to abandon all individual pursuits in order to be available 24/7. Of course we need (and want) to be available. But it is also vital that we take in that oxygen for ourselves too and sometimes make it “all about me”.
I actually believe there is a certain selfishness in ignoring your own self. We are given but one life on this planet, at least in our current configurations. We are given countless opportunities to do good and help out and give back and pay forward. However we need fuel to facilitate these endevours and that fuel comes from self-care. When we devote ALL of our energies to others – even our children – we enter into a dangerous martyr-land where dying for the cause is preferable to living, helping, changing, sharing and living some more. Living some more.
I am fortunate to have in my life enough symbiotic relationships where the yin and yang of give and take ebbs and flows constantly … yet always fairly. Some of these associations have lasted 40 years, some 4 years, some 4 months. The beauty is no one ever questions if it’s all about me today or all about you today because we know that if it’s all about one of us today the other will have their day tomorrow. Or the next day. We understand that life is never 50/50. We offer help when it is needed and we ask for help when we need it. That is real love. Real friendship. Real relationship.
So I beseech you – every now and then make it ALL about you. Get that oxygen. And if you can’t reach it ask someone else to get it for you. Someone who believes in you and you trust. Someone who recognizes the ebb and flow and has no interest in insulting you. Someone who reminds you that yes, you are worthy.
Because you are. Even if you’re not a baby.