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Why A Mom Needs to Put Herself First Sometimes

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a-moms-advice-take-care-of-yourself-passportMoms seem to take care of everyone else first, which seems like her job, right?

Yesterday I missed my flight to Thailand. I often think of the oxygen mask on the plane and how we are instructed in an emergency to put on our mask first, and then secure the mask around our children. Put mine on first. Is that even possible? Isn’t that like asking someone who is in in a wheelchair to get up and walk?

In the life of a mom, everything comes at once. Surprise birthday parties, vacation planning, end of the year graduation festivities, and of course Easter. Each day, I close my eyes and wish for ten more minutes, afraid of falling short. Some days I wonder if the pressure is self inflicted or is it real? Do my children talk to their friends about their Easter baskets and size them up accordingly or was it just in my mind?

As mothers, we are only as happy as our least happy child. My least happy child was kicked out of his friend group, one week before his birthday. Yes - over a girl and now they are forever friends again. Of course I will throw him a surprise party to ease his pain, even if it means that I am cooking chicken parmesan for a group of 30 the night before Easter dinner for 16. No big, right?

My daughter is sad because she hadn’t gotten into the colleges that she so hoped to go to. Her dream was to attend college with her sister. Of course I am going to help her appeal, one college, one essay at a time.

Two days after Easter, I was to leave for a vacation, which was part business and part pleasure. Preparing, getting homework, and organizing the trip left me wondering if going away was worth it. On the other hand, envisioning myself on the beach with a book would be a welcome respite.

Despite the activity level, I was confident and I had it under control until we began to talk about school activities during Easter Sunday dessert.

“Don’t forget Wendy - submit your poster collage for Maxine’s graduation before you leave” my girlfriend shared.

“What poster collage?”

“In California, we have a tradition. We look through all the kids pictures, pick the best of them growing up, create a scrapbooking collage, bring it to Kinkos for them to copy, laminate the collage, and submit them to the high school for a surprise.”

Could this be a cruel joke? Look through 18 years of pictures overnight? Besides I didn’t even know where Kinkos was. Immediately, I flashed back to elementary school and all the school projects that were missed. There was no way I would allow this to happen. I wasn’t 28, I was 48, and 48-year-olds have graduated from the Mom 101 class and were now teaching it.

Sleep was overrated. I could do it. I was SUPER MOM.

So Supermom showed up at the airport one day later after sleeping 4 hours. Pillow in hand, I was looking forward to getting onto the plane and enjoying a deep snooze. Eagerly, I handed the passports over to the girl behind the ticket counter.

“I am sorry Mrs. McGee we cannot allow you to board your flight. Your passport expired last month.”

My family looked at me. I looked at the girl, then at my family, and then back to the girl. My face went from "yay" to "ooh great" in an instant!

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She wasn’t kidding. Normally I would have been angry with myself. This time I was numb. At 1 A.M., I was heading back home, on a solo mission. Being a woman who usually had all the answers, this time I had none. The only thing I knew was that I needed sleep. 

The next day it all worked out like it usually does. I secured an emergency passport renewal and made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. As I boarded my flight, I pondered on where my lesson was in all of this. Was it that I had no control despite my over controlling actions? I would fall short. We all do. Maybe my lesson was to teach my children that it was OK to fall short, that we had to pick and choose where to put our efforts.

Maybe what I really needed to realize was that imperfection was the only road to peace. Growth comes from learning even if it means falling short. Passport or no passport, the destination is the same. The only thing that changes is how we get there and the lessons we learn along the way.

For more with Wendy visit her column at www.lifewithwendy.com.

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