Defining healthy selfishness

Motherhood automatically requires you to sacrifice a lot of yourself. Another cliche, but let me unravel.

First, your body. The months spent growing a baby really are a beautiful metaphor for what’s to come. Your body and life is no longer your own. And everyone has an opinion on it. Every step you take is slightly more precious with your cargo onboard. Everything you eat and drink counts not just as calories but as building blocks for a new life. All control over the shape and size of your body is relinquished – there is no diet or exercise plan for this one. There are things you can’t do, things you shouldn’t, things people will definitely critique if you do. Slowly you become more and more of a vehicle for someone else’s journey.

Choices you make are no longer for your own sake, they are for someone else’s. Someone more valuable than you could ever be.

Then this bundle arrives and suddenly the vehicle is parked on the side of the road for a while as the passenger steps out. Like chauffeuring the leading role to the red carpet of their premier, no one glances back at the car. Suddenly you are seen straight through to the far cuter morsel of life you created. You’re heavily praised but somewhat forgotten… More about this and these early days to follow in future posts…

Slowly as you edge out of the sleepless haze and begin to find a steadier path, the sacrifice changes. Minutes, inches, units are slowly regained and a new normal begins to take shape. The balance between sacrifice and self begins to right somewhere very different to the life that came before.

At nearly eight months in, the notion of defining healthy selfishness came to me this morning. I watched my daughter stare wishfully at me in the bathroom and turned applying my make-up into a game of peekaboo, thinking how I should have got my face on before she woke this morning.

The idea of realising what you can give, what you can’t, the difference and the equal importance of both.

For me, and I know so many like me, every minute my daughter spends awake – which is a lot when she defies naps like the best of them – I feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to make it the best it can be.

Tummy time and toys never seem enough when there could be giggles and games. Am I doing everything I can so she can be everything she can?

The result is, when I’m with my husband I behave like an over caffeinated drill sergeant. When I’m alone I spend every minute not spent engaging justifying my behaviour to my often oblivious and fiercely independent eight month old.

“Mummy’s just having a wee because she doesn’t wear nappies like you.”

“Mummy has to put the washing on because you and Daddy go through so many clothes.”

“Mummy needs to eat, because she has to make milk for you.”

The start of each line, makes sense. Talk to your baby¬†they¬†say. Tell her what you’re doing. But the the end, not so much. Mummy doesn’t need to defend her bladder habits, household chores or eating. Mummy isn’t asking baby to wait while she finishes her cigarette or watches yet another episode on Netflix.

So now, the filters I apply to these moments are.

Is what I’m doing important? For me?

Have I done the best I can for you today?

Am I present?

And most of all, do I want my daughter to grow up hearing her Mummy say that? Do I want to hear my daughter say that one day?