One of the stereotypes I always hated about moms is that they’re little saints of sacrifice, always willing to go without so their progeny can be well-cared-for. I remember being in a meeting in the marketing department of an online retailer when someone suggested using this quote, from a book she’d found, in a mother’s day promotion:
“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I blurted out. “It’s sexist. It sets up an impossible dynamic. It glorifies being a doormat!”
What I didn’t realize then was it’s also true.
On the one hand, I know that as a mom, I’m the heart of this family and I have to keep myself happy, healthy, and well-cared-for or I’m no use to anyone. On the other hand, as the bill-payer, the budget-maker, and the meal-planner, I have a keen awareness of where the dollars need to go, and it’s almost impossible for me to cut something out of the budget to make room for me.
Just this morning, as I pulled out one of my four tired, old nursing tanks, I thought, I really just want four new nursing tanks. I wear one of them every single day. And, for instance, when I do the bunny hop with my toddler, I have to clutch my baby to my chest as a sort of human shelf-bra or risk putting my own eyes out and possibly knocking over the living-room lamp.
Then I looked at my huge 9-month-old daughter – the last one I’m going to have – and thought, Eh, I’ll just put up with these for another six months or so. Her needs are changing, so it seems dumb to make an investment for such a short time, even if it means a happier chest.
My friend Kerri has a similar problem: Her daughter is just about ready to potty train, just as her cloth diaper covers are wearing out. She doesn’t want to buy new ones when she’s on the cusp of not needing them anymore … but busted-up diaper covers mean more accidents, more cleanup, more headache for Mom. She’d also benefit from an upgrade that seems wasteful.
It’s easy to say “of course you should upgrade! Your time and comfort are worth it!” But “worth it” takes on new meaning in a struggling economy. In other words, lots of things might be worth the money, but that doesn’t put the money in our bank account.
I’ve made myself sound saintly, and that’s far from the case. I’m just saying: I never thought I’d let my hair get so gray, my nails get so raggedy, and my moustache get so obvious while obsessing over my kids’ preschool applications. And yeah, it’s true: if there’s just one piece of pie, there’s no way it’s going to taste better than my kids’ smile is going to look. I’m a sap like that.
And that’s a surprise.
Do you find yourself sacrificing your needs for your family? Where do you draw the line – and how do you find balance?