I love my mother-in-law. When it came to mothers-in-law, I definitely lucked out. She is a caring, beautiful, and selfless woman. Probably a little too selfless.
You see, she raised three kids. Incredible kids, all of whom have successfully pursued their passions in life, held down stable jobs and relationships, and some even gone on to produce amazing children of their own.
However, all three of them, my husband included, are some of the most self-centered people I have ever met. They think they are the smartest, most important people in the room, all have the right answers, and are not afraid to share them. They are the kind of children that will forget to call my MIL on her birthday, or follow up on her requests for pictures of the grandkids. One Mother’s Day, one of them told her he would rather spend the day celebrating his wife’s motherhood over hers, while another called to say her car had broken down and to ask for a ride home. From 1,000 miles away.
And she encourages this behavior. Or at least condones it.
Of course she was pissed about that Mother’s Day, but she obliged both her kids’ requests. Yes, she drove 2,000 miles, round-trip, on Mother’s Day, to go pick up her child. She has repeatedly sacrificed herself and her needs for her children’s, as we women are taught to do as good mothers. She loves cake, but always made pie, always, even on her own birthday, because her kids liked pie more. She will babysit even when it’s inconvenient for her. She “loans” money she doesn’t have and usually forgives the loan after a few months. She pays for counseling. She gives them anything out of her fridge she thinks they could use that she won’t be eating in the next week, even if her husband was planning to. She has demonstrated to her children over and over that they are the most important things in the world. And they believe it, hook, line, and sinker. Even my beloved husband.
Yes, she is a very extreme example, and may have co-dependency issues. Yes, this is entirely anecdotal. Her children are all very strong personalities, and genetics control the majority of our personalities anyway, so who knows how they would have turned out even if they had been raised by nuns. Yes, I am probably being too harsh on her and all mothers everywhere, and who am I to judge her unconditional love for her children when I don’t have children of my own?
I’m just saying, there’s something to be said for being a selfish mother. Perhaps I shouldn’t say selfish. Self-centered; yes, definitely self-centered. Focusing on yourself and your needs. Making time for yourself, for your hobbies, and putting space between you and your other obligations, including your children. Not only does it give you more energy to take care of your children, but it teaches them that they are not the center of the universe all the time. Which is something that everybody needs to learn. I have seen my friends, my own mother, struggle with this balance. Trying to meet the needs of their families with the needs of themselves as individuals. All I can say is the women who do make time for themselves, and do not apologize for their need to be grown-ups and have “me” time or “me” activities, appear much happier and more at peace with themselves and their lives. It seems to give them a distance from their role of “mother” that helps them cope better.
My only hope for myself when I have children is to teach them to be independent, thoughtful individuals. If that means I need to be self-centered sometimes, then so be it.