We Don’t Have to be Mother Teresa…


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Mother Theresa of Calcutta

I confided in someone (whom I considered to be a wise elder) that mothering was exhausting and all consuming. I wondered aloud whether I could make some time to do some things for myself without feeling guilty. I mentioned that I had read some articles about how it was important for parents to take care of themselves and that doing so would actually help the whole family because the happiness of the parents directly related to the well being of the kids. This well intentioned friend said, “Well, look at Mother Teresa! She does everything selflessly. Why can’t you?”

That conversation kept me down for about a week.

Then it hit me (thank God!). I am not Mother Teresa, I’ve never held myself out as anything close to Mother Teresa, and I don’t even want to be Mother Teresa!

My bottom line is this: I am convinced that parents need to take care of themselves and continue to develop themselves fully as human beings in order to be the best parents they can be. This means that we need to nourish ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I heard Oprah’s doc, Mehmet Oz say that we need a balance of good nutrition, happy mental states (meaning finding whatever makes us feel joy and allowing ourselves to engage in it regularly), and healthy sex lives. I completely agree. My hubby often reminds me of that spiel the flight attendants give on the planes — if the plane’s going down, you need to give the oxygen to yourself first and then give it to the children. Well, this is the same kind of thing. We need to take care of ourselves first (to a reasonable degree) and then our fulfilled, nurtured selves can be more fully present for our kids.

So go out and do something for yourself today (without harboring an ounce of guilt). See what happens. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe it can be the start of a whole new attitude toward parenting. Or maybe you’ll just have something to look back on to help you through a trying day.

As for me, I just know this: I’m going to keep telling myself that no one expects me to be a saint (well maybe that one old friend) but I’m lowering my standards and I’m okay with it. Actually, I’m more than okay with it. I’m happy about it.

Have the courage to be imperfect and the wisdom to not even attempt to be saintly.



Filed under parenting, personal, Thoughts

8 responses to “We Don’t Have to be Mother Teresa…

  1. Joe

    Agreed. Self first and here’s why. If you aren’t tip top guess who suffers? The kids and hubby. No one wants that. You need to take care of number 1. I mean, not self absorbed but no need to feel guilty ever.

  2. I’m pretty much going to say the same thing as Joe, but here goes…

    Don’t think of it as “lowering your standards” — think of it as accepting a short term loss (e.g. an hour less to play with your child) as a trade off for a long-term gain (e.g. a happier, more relaxed you, which rubs off on your entire family).

    As much as I adore my kid. He knows that I need “Dad time” as well, whether it’s playing guitar, writing or just sitting around drinking a beer.

  3. Great post! I agree with everything that you said. I can’t believe the person that gave the Mother Theresa quip.

  4. I am so right there with ya. Amen sister! The saying at my house is (and my four year old has it down pat) :
    “When momma’s not happy…noooo body’s happy!”

  5. If a friend had suggested that I be Mother Theresa I would have laughed hysterically in her face. 🙂

    I agree with all that you’ve written. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I must give myself time and care.

  6. Perfectly said. It is the long- hidden secret to healthy families.

  7. you have to make time for yourself, most definitely! if you aren’t happy, then it is hard to keep a balance at home. you’re unhappiness is projected on to the kids and spouse and it has a spiral effect. so, in otherwards, i agree, completely! gosh, i need to get my hair colored…hmmm, that is considered taking care of oneself, right?;)

  8. Yep. You can’t help others unless you have something to give, and if you’re ‘given out’, you have to recharge first. Been there plenty of times as a dad, and I’m sure my wife gets that much more often. 😦