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« The Everyday | Main | Managing a Big Move with Baby on Board »

Motherhood: Sacrifice and Self

I've been thinking a lot recently about the ways in which motherhood changes the way we view ourselves. I wrote about being more than a mother. I wrote about clinging to remnants of my life before I was a mother. And I've been encouraged to hear from so many of you struggling with the same issues. 

Becoming a mother involves a large amount of sacrifice and rightly so in my opinion. I subscribe to the Jacqueline Onasis school of parenting. She once famoulsy said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much." I completely agree. Parenting is not easy. In fact, if you are doing it well, it's probably stinking hard most of the time. But I feel pretty strongly that my children did not ask to be born. If there are sacrifices that need to be made in order for them to thrive, then I am willilng to make them.

But wait!

What about putting yourself on the list? I've watched hours and hours of Oprah that beat once central lesson into my head—you cannot take care of others, if you are not taking care of yourself. I have no desire to give up everything for my children. First of all, my mother was not that type of parent and I think I turned out pretty well. Second of all, it's way too much pressure for a two year old (much less a nine month old) to be my reason for living. 

Ok, so I should sacrifice for my children, while putting my needs first. 


No wonder motherhood is such rich blog fodder! I have no idea how to make peace with these (seemingly) diametrically opposed concepts. Can I possibly do both at the same time? I know sometimes putting myself first lines up perfectly with doing what is best for my children. Making them happy, seeing them thrive is one of my greatest joys. But almost three years into this gig I also know that isn't always the case.

I recently went to a blogging conference in Nashville. It was incredibly energizing and enlightening and I enjoyed every second. However, I came home to a timid, doubtful toddler who did not trust me when I said I wasn't leaving again. It broke my heart. 

How can I continue to grow as an individual when I'm responsible for the growth of two others? How do all of you handle the inevitable moments when what is best for you and what is best for your children may not be the same thing?

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Reader Comments (4)

Very thought-provoking piece! I think they other thing to keep in mind is a happy mom is a happy family (or something like that!)...balance, balance...it's so hard!

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Simon

Self-righteousness much? Just because you have children doesn't mean you have to stop everything you did before motherhood. Millions of mothers balance life, work, children, home and everything else just fine and with no regret and no issues with doubtful children. The only possible regret would be that they wished they could spend more time with their children then having to work.

Be happy you had the choice or option of staying home. If you want to go back to work then go for it. Your children will be fine and will survive.

Your not a martyr, your a mother.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTess Anderson

Hmmm...Tess. Maybe I didn't quite get across what I was trying to say. First of all, I do work although I am lucky enough to have several part-time jobs that offer me a lot of flexibility. I guess I was just trying to say that it's hard when you feel pulled in to different directions, which I think a lot of moms (both working and stay at home) do. As far as mothers with "no regrets and no issues" I would LOVE to meet them because most of the moms I know are just like me always a little bit worried about how they are doing as parents.

Thanks for the thoughts though. Always good to get some push back :)

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Have you read the book "Bringing up Bebe"? It came out recently and got a big publicity push about two months ago. It is about an American mother raising kids in Paris and realizing that the French style of mothering is totally different. So she sets about trying to figure out what they are doing and why. I've been reading it and finding it fascinating. The section I read last night was about this idea of balance. She wrote that to American moms, the idea of balance is like juggling too many balls, trying to keep everything going without breaking something. But to a French mom, the idea of balance is more like a balanced meal - everything complements everything else. Kind of subtle, but important, I think. It is also far less common for French moms (at least the upper-middle-class and college-educated ones) to stay home for more than 3 months with their young kids. Of course, the government subsidizes or completely covers day care and preschool for generous hours each week day, which is a total game-changer. Fascinating book. I recommend it, while you are musing on these topics!

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDona B

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