The other morning at my Weight Watchers meeting, this mom of 2-year old twins burst out crying because she felt like she couldn't find the time to work the Weight Watchers program.
She had been successful before kids, but now that she had kids and "she was her last priority" she couldn't find time to make the program work for her. How could she exercise/track/eat healthy meals while still being the best mom she could be?
My heart broke for her and I went to speak to her after the meeting. I left her with these questions: What would happen if you put yourself and your health first? What kind of mom are you being if you're unhappy and unhealthy?
I wanted to tell her the story of my mom. It feels very vulnerable to share this, but I'm going to share it here because it's the reason that I'm so passionate about helping moms find time for themselves.
This story didn't start out too happily, if I have to be honest.
When I was very little we lived in Ivory Coast. My family moved to the United States when I was 5.
My mom got a pretty good job at the World Bank as an administrative assistant, but for a long time my dad could not find work. My mother was the only breadwinner for a family of 5 (soon it became 6 when my little sister was born one year after we moved).
At that time, my mom's habit was to put herself last. She did not take time to deal with her health or her happiness, and she was miserable.
My memories of her at that time were of a raging banshee - furious and frustrated at everything. My dad did eventually get a job, but he was definitely underemployed for his level of education. My mom remained miserable and very ill-tempered.
I understand now it must have been incredibly stressful for her, but as a young girl all I understood was that this screaming, angry, stressed out woman scared me. I turned to my dad for nurturing and support. With my mom, I just tried to stay out of her way and her temper.
When I was 12, my parents separated. My brothers lived with my dad, and my sister and I lived with my mom.
Something miraculous happened during that separation...
My mother went to therapy and she learned something. She learned to prioritize herself.
She started to get her hair and nails done regularly. She joined Weight Watchers (funny how things come full circle) and started working out. She lost 50 lbs and looked great, but more importantly she became happy.
The wonderful woman she was underneath all that frustration and anger (because other people weren't doing what she wanted them to do to make her happy) came out when she realized that other people couldn't make her happy. That was her job.
When she became more selfish about ensuring her needs were met first, she became a way better mom. She was more loving, patient, and better able to meet our needs.
After a year and a half my parents reconciled. They were and still are happier than ever.
Their separation was almost 30 years ago and they'll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this November. They're more in love now than ever, and all four of us kids are incredibly close with our mom.
I know my mom is not an aberration. So many moms put themselves dead last on their priority list.
They barely take the time to shower, let alone get exercise, have time with their girlfriends, eat well, etc. They're burned out, depressed, angry, and/or depleted, and everyone suffers for it.
From my experience observing my mom's transformation, I learned the truth of "Happy Mom, Happy Family."
I think it's CRITICAL that moms take time to ensure their needs are met - they need to be healthy, happy, and fulfilled to pass that on to their kids. Sometimes the most selfless thing you can do is be selfish enough to ensure your needs are met.