I used to always hate it that my Mama was such a damned martyr.
"No, no, I'll just eat the heel of the loaf of bread. That's good enough for me."
"No, no, I don't need a new winter coat. I can still get a few years out of this old one."
Grrr. Stand up for yourself Mama!
"Mother! I don't need three new sweaters. Why don't I just get two, and then you can get a new sweater too."
"No, no. No one's looking at me, you get the three new sweaters, I'll just wear what I have."
And of course I accepted the three new sweaters, because I was a selfish girl. And liked the idea that people were looking at me.
So the other day when I found myself deciding that Jude needed a new pair of sneakers, but I could make do with the old pair I've been running in for the past four years I suddenly thought, "oh dear God, have I become my mother?"
I do always eat that one sad, burnt pancake while everyone else gets the nicely browned ones. And the other night I did forgo my beloved choir rehearsal because I got stuck with Jude at his cross country meet. And when Jimmy and I split a dessert when we went out to dinner, I let him order the Devil's Food cake instead of the Brownie with the Vanilla Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce because he REALLY loves chocolate, and I'll eat pretty much everything. Oh no! I have become...a martyr like Mama!
But...but...but...I don't mind the burnt pancake and I hate to be wasteful. And I don't really need a new pair of running shoes (well okay, I guess need is a relative term). And Jimmy so very much loves his chocolate. I don't feel like a martyr. I feel like I just do what I've gotta do to make our world run smoothly. I feel that I just look beyond my personal needs at the bigger picture of our lives, and make sacrifices for the greater good. Could it be that Mama was never a martyr but was simply...a mother?
I remember my 41 years of childlessness when I put myself first pretty much always. I mean, I guess I was kind to people, and did loving things for Jimmy. But I spent a lot of time thinking about me, me, me. I clearly remember my horror whenever I was forced to do something as dreadful as miss out on my full 8 hours of sleep. God forbid! How dare they interupt my sleep? How was I to function with out my beauty rest?
Every year, I used to worry and fret about what to do for my birthday. Major energy was spent contemplating this subject. It was my very special day, after all. Should I have a party for myself? Perhaps my friends could all take me out to dinner? How was I to get home with all my gifts? Now, if Jimmy makes me breakfast and I get a bunch of birthday wishes on Facebook, I'm happy as a clam.
When you have a family, everything is suddenly thrown into perspective. The littler person really IS more important. Their needs really DO come first. The people in our worlds really do need us to be there for them. When I look at the big picture of my world, the burnt pancake is just not important.
I often think of a phenomenon that inside my brain I call the "Oprahfication" of America. At some point, and I think it was timely and important when it happened, women started demanding "What about me?!" And everybody wanted to find their bliss or whatever. But as empowering as it was meant to be, I think it's just gone too far.
I have friends who left their husband of many years, because they were bored. Not that their husbands were abusive, or crazy, or addicts or miserable fathers. They were simply bored, and thought they deserved happiness. Puleeze. So they broke up their families, screwing up their children beyond repair, only to eventually find out that happiness isn't something you find, it's what you make out of what you have. And who says we're all supposed to be happy all the time anyway? What does that even mean?
I do feel that I need to qualify this long diatribe by admitting that my life has not been like everyone's. There are many women out there who have never put themselves first, who have spent their entire lives catering to and kowtowing to the men in their lives. And probably for them, some serious "What about me"ing is a healthy thing.
And I also want to make clear that mom isn't the only person in the family who needs to be looking at the big picture. As my mother-in-law constantly reminds my father-in-law, "a happy wife is a happy life". So for the greater good, a certain amount of pampering and me-time for mom is important.
But I find that nowadays, though I almost never get my full eight hours of beauty rest, and I seldom if ever experience anything close to "bliss", I find happiness in places and ways that I never imagined. Like the look on my kid's face after he's done really well at a swim meet for which I got only 5 hours of sleep and drove an hour and sat in the sun on a metal bench for 4 hours. Or the sound of my husband nom-nom-noming on his Devil's Food Cake instead of the Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce which still sounds so damned good that I...but I digress.
When we mothers put others first, is that sacrifice or martyrdom or is it just TCB? Facilitating the world around us so that things run smoothly? And you know what? Serving the greater good makes me happy. There, I said it.
Oh, and Mama? I get it now. Thank you for the sweaters. Though I still wish you'd bought yourself a new winter coat.
Go visit Ginny Marie and the other Big Picture spinners!