One of the biggest lessons I am learning as a parent is how to organize my priorities. A big, giant chunk of this involves learning to say no. Not just to other people, but most often to myself. I have realized that many things that were very important to me must become less important in favor of my children. A dear friend recently said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how selfish I was until I had children’.
I’ve never considered myself to be a selfish person, in fact I have often had to work on ever putting myself before others or tasks. In short, saying no has been very hard. And, until recently, this seemed in my mind to be a non-selfish personality trait. But having children has greatly changed my perspective on this. Who benefits from saying yes to every engagement to make myself look good? Who appreciates that the dishes only sat in the sink for five minutes? I’m the first to admit that I’m an obsessive clean freak. But. At the end of the day, the dishes don’t need me to be their hero. My pants will last to be washed another day. That makeup lesson can be taught just as well next week. Today, my children need me to be their hero. They need those five minutes of us staring into each other’s eyes.
It sounds so cliche, ‘I had to learn to leave the mess to spend time with my kids’. But I have. I’ve had to make the conscious decision to walk away from the messy bookshelf to read a story, to leave the pile of laundry to share a giggle. I want to be SuperMom. I want the laundry always clean and folded, the floors always sparkling, dinner always made. And some days, I do get it all done. I get up early, they sleep, and it all comes together. And then some days it doesn’t. I have to remind myself it’s ok if we eat nachos again, and the laundry will eventually get folded.
I chose to bring these beautiful little people into the world, and putting their needs first is not just a privilege I now have, but a responsibility. At the end of the day, my daughter and son need me to be all I can be for them. And if I have already given everything to other people, or tasks, and have nothing left of myself, how can I have enough left for them?
Learning to say no doesn’t mean living life in isolation, saying no to every coffee date and turning down every opportunity to help friends and family. I don’t need to live in a dirty hovel of a house and wear stinky clothes every day. But it does mean making the right choice when something has to be sacrificed, and making the choice that doesn’t compromise myself or my children. That spot on the floor will still be there tomorrow.