Mother May I?

The weather is FINALLY breaking here in the Midwest, which brings all of us out of our hibernation. Adults are seen working in their yards while kids play nearby. During one of the sunny days, I overheard neighbor children playing “Mr. Fox” and “Mother May I?”. It was fun to hear them laughing and enjoying the outdoors. It brought back childhood memories of days when my sisters, friends, and I played the same games. It’s no surprise that I LOVED being “the Mother” and getting to control the other players actions in the game. “Yes, you may take 2 giant steps forward.” Or “No, you cannot.”  It also made me chuckle to myself as I thought, “if only motherhood were that easy”.

May is the time of year that we celebrate moms. The way they nurture, love, care, and sacrifice for us is like no other. There is no one on earth like moms. They want the best for us and regularly put our needs above their own. They motivate and push us to try again or attempt something new. They give us permission to be ourselves and believe in us when it seems no one else does, including ourselves. They are often our greatest source of support and biggest cheerleader. The truth is we would not be here without them.

Think of all the blessings you’ve received from your mother. And then, if you are a parent, think of all the ways you’ve given to your children. It is easy to care for and protect those we love, especially our offspring. Why is it then so difficult to do that for ourselves? (Maybe because we’ve expended all of our energy ON our children?!) Wouldn’t it be great if we could love ourselves the way we love our children and or other loved ones? It can be so natural to take care of other people. Often, it’s even our default mode. We automatically respond without even thinking. Being like that can be a wonderful attribute. Thinking of others and their needs is a blessing. However, if we aren’t careful, it can become all consuming and we end up inadvertently neglecting ourselves. Learning to find that balance is key. There will definitely be occasions that we have to take care of others, especially our dependent children (or as we get older sometimes a dependent parent). But my word of caution is that we also find ways to insert our own wellness efforts.

I was with a group of educators recently conducting a workshop on self-care. As usual, we were talking about prioritizing ourselves. We discussed how it can feel selfish to put our needs over others. As the dialogue continued, I gave them permission to love themselves first (the “L” in S.L.O.W.). It doesn’t come easy and absolutely requires practice. During the break one of the participants came up to me and shared how reassuring and helpful it was for her to get permission to take care of her own needs. We talked about the freedom we have to make choices for ourselves. AND that if or when those choices don’t necessarily pan out the way we would need them to we also have permission to make another choice for ourselves, until we are satisfied. We are allowed to change our minds or to adjust a previous decision. It is ok to fine-tune and revise until we connect with what will work best for us. Be patient with yourself as you evolve and learn to identify and meet your own needs (or communicate effectively with others who can help meet your needs too). Think of all the times your mother was patient with you, while you learned to tie your shoes or clean your room or make a sandwich or do your homework (the list is endless, isn’t it?).

As we head into the final stretch of this school year, think about choices you can make about ways to take care of you. Are there new boundaries you can establish? Are there things you can do to nurture your mind, body, spirit, soul? Can you say no to something? Can you say yes to something else? Can you be more gracious with yourself? It’s ok to start small, take those baby steps towards a healthier, happier you. One your mother would be proud of. Can you take 2 steps forward? Mother, May I? Yes, you can!

(And Happy Mother’s Day, mom! Thanks for being you and helping me to be me. Love you!)