Here are five reasons you should think before you say, "my kids are my whole life."
1. It reinforces "mommy martyrdom"
Webster's defines a martyr as "a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle." "Mommy Martyrs No More" is my tagline, and it's something I feel very strongly about. Motherhood is, by its very nature, a "giving" job. We give physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to our children, and this is as it should be. The nurturing of a mother is one of the wonders of the world.
But far too often I meet mothers who don't have any sense of proportion or limits when it comes to "giving" to their children. They forego everything for themselves (sleep, time alone, clothing, friendships, their spouse) and pour all of that energy into their children, much to their own detriment. These are "mommy martyrs" and they take "nurturing" to an extreme where it is neither helpful nor healthy. If your kids are really your whole life, you're too extreme.
2. It puts too much pressure on your kids
Being a kid is hard. Do you remember? The rigors of school, negotiating relationships, tons of homework, after school activities and a bunch of grown-ups treating you like you don't know anything. (OK, as it's probably now quite obvious, I hated being a kid. Turning 40 was the best thing that ever happened to me.) It's not the easiest world to live in. Now imagine also being responsible for being "everything" to your mother. Ick! Good relationships with your parents are very important. Heck, I'm even old school enough to consider obedience a virtue (in most cases). But your kids don't need the added pressure of being your "world," or "project" or (shudder) "friend." As they may have already told you: Get a life, Mom.
3. It puts too much pressure on you
When you say "My kids are my whole life," is it an aspiration? Are you saying it because it feels like the right thing to say? Does it somehow feel like a way to show how much you love your children? I once saw a Facebook meme that said:
"PROMISE to my child: I will stalk you, freak out on you, lecture you, drive you crazy, be your worst nightmare, embarrass you in front of your friends, hunt you down like a bloodhound until the day you understand why I do it. Then I will know you are a responsible adult. All because I LOVE YOU. You will never find someone who loves & cares about you more than me! Copy and paste if you're a mom."
I hope it goes without saying that I did not cut and paste. I hope to God I can convey my love and commitment to my children without posting (let alone doing) psychotic stuff like that. Being a mom is hard enough.
4. It's sneak bragging
C'mon, admit it. There's a part of you that wants credit for how much you give and give. Hey, you're human. But let's not try to pretend that the unspoken follow-up to "My kids are my whole life," isn't "That's just how awesome I am." It's the rare group of moms who don't occasionally engage in a "look how busy my calendar is," pissing match. It's said as a complaint: "Can you BELIEVE what they're asking the classroom moms to do this year?" but inherent in that statement is the fact that you're volunteering in your kids classroom. Sneak bragging is disguised bragging, and we're on to you.
5. It sets you up for a big fall
So, your kids are your whole life. OK. You give and give and give some more. Got it. Their thrills are your thrills and their pain is your pain. Ummm, ok. Fast forward eighteen or so years. Your "whole life" just got accepted to the college of their dreams... on the other side of the country. What happens now? If you're like a lot of moms, you fall the hell apart. Where is your identity? Don't leave me, my world! (I have been surprised and dismayed by the number of moms I have met who will not allow their child to go to the college of their dreams because they "couldn't stand to have them so far away.") Our children growing up and moving on are part of the bittersweet deal we sign up for with parenthood. It's hard, but not continuing to grow and pursue our own lives and dreams while we guide our children toward their own makes it even harder.
Instead of "My children are my whole life," try this phrase on for size: "My life is deeply enriched by my children." Feel the difference? You're still you. They're still them. And perhaps some pressure is lifted all around.
Leslie Irish Evans, Self-Care Genius, is the creator of "Peeling Mom Off the Ceiling". She encourages moms (and the people who love them) to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.