Why I Decided To Put Myself And My Man Before Our Children
For some reason, when I think about the idea of putting myself and my man before my children, I can’t help but remember a quote from Baby Boy. Jody is in his mother’s garden questioning her loyalty to him. His mother, Juanita, snaps back at Jody with one line that pretty much sums up my stance on parenting at the moment: “…mama gotta have a life too.” When I first saw that movie, I was a childless teenager, and I remember feeling like Juanita was being a deadbeat. A decade or so later, now that I’ve become a mother, I realize how wrong I was. Juanita had some wisdom on her that only firsthand experience could teach.
I struggled with writing this article because, I know exactly how it sounds. It sounds like I’m ready to trade in my yoga pants and food-stained mom attire for a little black dress and some time to myself. You wouldn’t be entirely incorrect to come to such a conclusion, but there is more to it than that. My current interpretation of the “mama gotta have a life too” quote is that even though we are mothers, we are human. We have the right to lead individual lives, on our terms–outside of raising children.
When I gave birth to my first child at 21, it’s possible that afterward, I was doing my damnedest to distance myself from the tainted “young mother” stereotype. But in doing so, I inadvertently began to sacrifice parts of my individuality. That includes my friendships, intimacy with my children’s father, and my social life. At the time, the problem for me had been my twisted view on what I thought would make me a “good mother.” Back then, in my mind, “bad” moms spend time with their kids while the “good” ones stay at home, disheveled and masking their misery like they ought to. But I now know that this is the furthest thing from the truth.
If you spend most, if not all of your time with your children, focusing on their every want and exceeding all of their needs, they aren’t receiving the best possible version of you. In my experience, neglecting myself and my relationship created an autopilot version of myself. A going through the motions, get me through the day version of a mother I tried very hard not to become. That version sometimes forgets that children require plenty of patience. She sometimes becomes overwhelmed with all that is required of her and can lose her cool. That’s not the type of mother I want to be.
Five years later, I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to put the needs of my partner and myself before my children. Because while the kids were busy enjoying family outings on the weekends and rooms stocked full of toys, mommy and daddy were in their bedroom fighting over mundane sh*t because the connection was beginning to fade. We didn’t start having connection issues until our relationship began to revolve wholly around our children. If all of the experiences we share together as a couple are only about our kids, what happens to the relationship when the kids are finally off leading their own lives? That is a scary thought, but a very real reality for many married couples when their kids are always involved and are always thought of first.
It’s become clear to me that for the sake of my children, I need to prioritize some time away from them. As of late, I am determined to have experiences on my own. I feel blessed to be a mother, and my sons are sources of great happiness. But when it’s feasible, I’m hitting the beach with the girls and getting my Netflix and chill on with my fiancé. The little bit of time that I’ve managed to carve out for myself so far has allowed me to come back to my family invigorated, full of life–chatty even. I’m excited to chase after my 2-year-old, and I’m down for endless rounds of their favorite games. But first, I need a few hours to take care of myself.
I urge all mothers to strive for that happy medium between responsible mom and pursuing personal interests. My previous logic would have you thinking that all good mothers are confined to the house, but the truth is, the best moms are the ones who take the time to take care of themselves. The really good moms are the kind of mothers who try to give 100 percent to their children but still know exactly when “mama gotta have a life too.”