I am a mom. I am also a person, and I matter.
I cannot believe that I have to write those words, but I do—and to myself. Yes, you read that right: I have to remind myself that I am an actual person who has her own needs and wants. And those needs and wants are separate from my children’s and my husband’s, and they are perfectly OK to have.
I only realized the ridiculousness of this about two weeks ago. It was a Friday night, and I’d realized that we hadn’t had a family dinner all week. It had been just me and the kids, and I was pretty much picking at their leftover food like a half-starved squirrel.
So, Friday was the night, and not just because I was feeling an intense amount of mom guilt over that. I had bought ingredients for a few yummy new recipes, including a vegetarian stew that my kids wouldn’t eat even if I promised them 15 uninterrupted hours of iPad time. Because I’m apparently also a short-order cook, I figured I’d make them something a little more kid-friendly but still have them try a few bites of the stew.
I was in the middle of chopping vegetables when there was a knock at my kitchen door and a face smiling at me and waving at me from behind the glass. I nearly jumped out of my skin.
It was an old friend of my husband’s, just popping by. (Yep, just popping by without a text or phone call.) Of course, since it was Friday at 5:15, my house looked like a tornado had ripped through it, and my unfed children were watching Power Rangers. I’m sure that I was looking like Mother of the Year right about then, but hey, at least I still had my bra on, so I’ll count it as a win.
Anyway…he was there to say hi and to whisk my husband off for drinks with another friend.
Sigh. There went our family dinner.
I looked down at the carrots on the chopping board. I could pack them up and make this tomorrow. I didn’t want to waste the time making it, since we all know how precious “free” time is, or waste the recipe since no one would be eating it except me. It’s a variation of that old riddle: If you make a nice dinner and no one eats it but you, did you really make it at all? It just didn’t seem worth it. I could make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or just an apple with peanut butter.
Wait. What, now?
Yep, that was it. The moment of revelation. I didn’t want to take the time or expend the energy to do something nice for myself. Actually, scratch that: This wasn’t even doing something nice for myself. This was taking care of myself. And eating. You know that thing that people need to do to be healthy and stay alive and all that? Yeah, that.
I’m basically saying that I don’t count, that I don’t matter enough to do something basic like cook myself a decent meal. I would do it in a heartbeat for my husband or a friend or my kids, mind you, but for myself? Why bother.
I’ve thought in this warped way for a while now, and who knows—maybe I’ve always thought this way. Maybe it’s one of those weird woman things that’s socially ingrained in us at a disturbingly early age. But here’s how it goes: If I don’t have someone else to cook for, why should I go out of the way for myself? I’m tired, yes, but it’s more than that. I’m basically saying that I don’t count, that I don’t matter enough to do something basic like cook myself a decent meal.
I would do it in a heartbeat for my husband or a friend or my kids, mind you, but for myself? Why bother.
Well, because I matter.
You matter, too.
We are moms, and we’re responsible for making this whole crazy merry-go-round spin, but there’s more to it than that. We are also people in our own right, and we are worth so much more than allow ourselves.
We are worth more than our kids’ scraps.
We are worth more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
We are worth more than a quick, necessary shower way too infrequently.
We are worth more than a lukewarm cup of tea.
We are worth more than the solo trip to the grocery store that we count as a break.
We are worth more than the few hours of shut-eye crammed in after bedtime routines, dishes, laundry, after-work work, prep for tomorrow and God knows what else.
We are worth more. Period.
So, what did I do on that fateful Friday night? Once I finished being thoroughly disgusted with myself, I made the damn stew and I ate it. Like a real person.