Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mama matters too

When I was a kid, my brother and I used to trade off on setting the table for awhile. Whenever we were the one to set it, we would make sure to give the other one the nicest fork. In my mom's family, there was a misshapen spoon that the table-setter would give himself so that no one else would have to have it. That's called charity: giving the others the nicest things and keeping the worst for yourself.

But what about when you're a mom, and find yourself being the cook and the tablesetter every day? Day in, day out, you take the worst piece of chicken, the smallest piece of pie, the bruised apple. It's not a big deal; you love your family and you want to give them the best.

On the other hand, being a mother doesn't suddenly mean that you don't matter. I've realized lately that I always hesitate to take something that I would freely give to the others. For instance, meat. It's expensive. I try to scrape by with as little as possible to save money. But I always let my husband take seconds and bring the leftovers with him for lunch. Then I fill up on PBJ (which I love) and slices of cheese. When it comes to making my own lunch, it just doesn't seem worth the trouble to make something nice.

I don't think I'm being fair to myself. Just because I want to put others first doesn't mean I should act like I don't matter. PBJ's are delicious, but would I be happy with my son eating nothing but sandwiches? Not really. I make sure he gets eggs, bacon, foraged greens -- whatever is nicest. In fact, that's the only way I get myself to eat any real meals: I eat what he eats.

Technically, since I'm still nursing, and since I would like to prepare myself for another pregnancy in case that ever happens, I should be putting forth extra effort to make myself healthful things to eat. No one else in the family is likely to get pregnant any time soon.

This holds true for other things, too, though I have less of a problem there. I don't chastise my husband for relaxing on the couch on a weekend, though sometimes I feel guilty for doing it myself. (Not always, though -- relaxing is my superpower.) And I almost never leave the baby at home when I've got somewhere to go, even if my husband is available, and even though he doesn't take the baby on his errands. I tend not to ask for help, even though I need it, because I should be doing everything myself.

I'm not saying I should be lazy, or that I should leap on my husband the instant he gets home from work and demand he do all the housework I didn't do. But I am saying I should give myself permission to ask for the help I need, to go places on the weekend and leave the baby at home from time to time, or to relax on the couch for half an hour between chores. I suspect that the more kids I have, the harder it will be to do this, so I have to make it a habit now to examine my own needs and see how I can fulfill them along with everyone else's.

Today, I made lacto-fermented corn relish with lots of cilantro. John won't like it. I will. And when he asked if I wanted him to go to the store and bring the baby with him, I said YES. And pick me up some butter pecan ice cream while you're at it. :D


Sarah Faith said...

I know just what you mean. Very good idea to get into the habit now! I started doing that a lot when I was pregnant with #5 and I physically could NOT do it all myself. That is when my sweet man started learning to cook dinner. Now he regularly cooks (mostly grilling out) especially on Sundays when we entertain. He also is loading the dishwasher while I sit here typing on the laptop! :)

Sheila said...

What a man! :D

My husband is giving the baby a bath while I catch up on my internet stuff. What can I say, you and I have good guys.

Though I think many guys would be willing to do such things if we, you know, actually ASKED them. I don't know what it is that makes it so hard to admit I need help!

heather said...


Reepicheep said...

Amen sister friend! Colin is amazing about taking care of Finn and doing housework, but I have such a hard time asking. This whole Irish twin thing has forced me to start asking, though.

Salixbabylonica said...

Hmm. I'm surprised by how common this feeling of not wanting to ask for help is - my sister was just saying the same thing. I almost never feel like this, because when I ask C. to do something with the baby, in my mind I'm not "admitting my own inadequacy by asking for help," I'm just reminding him to do his job. :D My poor husband. I have no shame.

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