Putting Ourselves at the Bottom of the Priority List
Written by Marcie Stokman, Founder and President of Well-Read Mom, Author of The Well-Read Mom: Read More. Read Well.
The following blog is an excerpt form Well-Read Mom founder Marcie Stokman’s book, The Well-Read Mom: Read More. Read Well. This book empowers women to reclaim time for reading and friendship while authentically seeking out all that is good, beautiful, and true.
One of Aesop’s fables is about a goose who lays, each day, a golden egg. Her owners, thinking she must have pure gold inside her, greedily cut her open. They discover an ordinary goose, but alas, a dead one. Now their supply of golden eggs is gone.
The main moral of the story is clear: be grateful for the good you receive, and don’t demand so much that it destroys the source of that goodness. But perhaps there is another lesson from this fable, if looked at from the goose’s perspective. Imagine if the goose had been an overly generous goose. Seeing that people needed her eggs, she might have driven herself to produce more and more—to the point of sickness or death. She may have even offered herself as a martyr, thinking that her family would benefit from whatever it was inside her producing those eggs. But alas—it was her life and her health that produced the eggs. The noblest thing she could have done would have been to stay healthy and to thrive so that she could continue to give her precious gifts of golden eggs.
The good we do for the people around us springs from the life inside us. To nourish that life is to maintain the ability to give our best.
Many women hold a deep (perhaps subconscious) belief that self-care is selfish. They conclude that it’s okay to take care of themselves if—and only if—everyone else’s needs are met. This belief is illogical. A woman spiraling in this direction is in danger of being depleted. And a depleted soul has little to give anyone. This type of unbalanced martyrdom ends up actually hurting the people we love because we destroy our own capacity to serve them. I know this from experience.
I remember locking myself in my bedroom one day to escape from the children and be alone to think for a few minutes. Not more than two minutes went by before my eight-year-old was pounding on the door asking why it was locked. “Nick, I just need to be alone for a few minutes.”
“OK,” he said, “but do you think I could still ask you something while you’re in there?”
“Well, I’m just wondering, Mom, what are we going to do about all these trees being cut down in the rainforest?”
“Not now, Nick. We’ll talk about this later.”
Frazzled, I lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling in the darkening room. Does anyone in this family see that I can’t keep going like this? I love being a mom. I know I’m needed and loved, but somehow, the real me seems to be invisible to everyone. The kids don’t seem to see that I have needs, too. I continued to stare, praying for the grace to get up and face the next shift: the dinner hour.
When does a mother rest? A family’s needs are constant.
“Mom, I’m so hungry. Is supper ready yet?” one child would ask minutes after we returned home from an all-day sporting event. Frustrated, I wondered why he couldn’t see that he and I had gotten home at the same time. How could dinner be ready?
There is no margin for moms. Sighing, I wondered how I could keep pace with the constant demands.
Not long after that, when I was driving to my son John’s cross country meet, I stopped at a coffee shop and ordered a large latte. In the coffee shop, I stared at the wall. If I don’t get going, I’m going to miss John’s meet. I realized this but continued to sit. I continued to stare. I didn’t get up. I missed the meet. What was wrong with me?
A couple of weeks later, I told my friend Elisabetta about this incident. What she said would bring about a revolutionary change in my understanding of motherhood. “Do you think that being a mom is all about running to everything you kids are in? Take care of your heart! That’s how you mother!” Her words struck like a knife. They hurt, but I intuited that they were true. She was saying something directly to me, and I needed to pay attention. Her words were new. I had never heard this before. What did it mean to take care of my heart?
“Taking care of your heart, that’s how you mother.” What a strange correction. Elisabetta’s words stung, but they continued to echo. She is my friend. She doesn’t just commiserate; she tells me what she sees. Having moved to America from Italy, she saw my life through a different cultural lens.
“Look, if your kids want to run, let them run. If they want to play tennis, let them play tennis. But to mother, take care of your heart.”
When life becomes a kind of doing that lacks a sense of the mystery of being, we are not able to be present to our children in as true a way. Taking care of my heart, I was beginning to see, had something to do with taking the inner journey seriously, and this had something to do with not leaving my own person behind.
Everyone needs to flourish in the family. A mother is part of the family and needs to flourish too. It seems obvious, but in practice, many women neglect their own legitimate needs. We are givers. We are born to give. This is good and beautiful if we maintain access to the continual Source that fills us. Giving and receiving is a beautiful way to live, and seeking out the balance of the two allows us an avenue to grow as we mother.
Did you enjoy reading this excerpt from Marcie’s book, The Well-Read Mom: Read More. Read Well? Copies are available for purchase in our Well-Read Mom online store!
Marcie Stokman, M.A., is the founder and president of Well-Read Mom. She writes and speaks to encourage women and share the power of reading. She is the author of The Well-Read Mom: Read More. Read Well. which is an inspiring book on how, why, and what to read.
About Well-Read Mom
In Well-Read Mom, women read more and read well. Our hope is to deepen the awareness of meaning hidden in each woman’s daily life, elevate the cultural conversation, and revitalize reading literature from books. If you would like to have us help you select worthy reading material, we invite you to join and read along with us. We are better together! For information on how to start or join a Well-Read Mom group visit our website wellreadmom.com