04/17/2012 04:07 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2012

Motherhood, Ann Romney and the Rest of Us

"This whole Ann Romney thing is annoying the hell out of me," says my best friend Michelle, referring to the comment by Hilary Rosen ("Ann Romney never worked a day in her life"), which threatened to ignite a Mom vs Moms war. "Motherhood is a wonderful experience, but the Romney side is making it sound as if that is the only noble, best 'job' for women. Truthfully, if Ann Romney has never worked outside the home she doesn't understand the women who have to or want to do so. Personally, I simply don't want to sacrifice my own needs and goals all the time. I love going out to work every day and don't want to give it up to be a stay-at-home mom. Am I wrong?"

No, Michelle, you're not.

There is a fantastic scene in the movie Mildred Pierce. Joan Crawford, as the title character, won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of the loving mother who has worked and sacrificed all her life for her self-centered daughter, Vida. Finally, the daughter asks her mother to make the ultimate sacrifice. Vida has just committed murder and begs mommy Mildred to take the blame for it!

In this poignant scene, which more than likely clinched the gold statuette for Ms. Crawford, her character, Mildred, goes to the police station to confess "her" crime and make one more "loving maternal sacrifice" for her selfish, conniving daughter. It is high drama indeed.

I first saw this movie on TV one rainy summer day with my cousin. We were both thirteen years old. During the movie, my cousin turned to me and said, "Wow, what a great mom! She'll do anything for her kid!"

I, on the other hand, thought she did way too much for that brat, Vida!

The word "Mom" shouldn't be synonymous with the word sacrifice, yet that is a common modern connection. If you think of terms such as sports mom, class mom, stay-at-home-mom -- all exalt motherhood, but all extol some type of sacrifice. You're Brittany's mom, Brandon's mother, the twins' mommy. Your name gets lost in the shuffle.

Motherhood should never be a case of "self-identity" theft. You need to make the right choices that will ensure a normal and respectful relationship between you and your children. Learn how to enhance your children's lives without neglecting your own. There are ways to be a good parent without neglecting your own needs, wants, and goals.

Your life, Their Lives: Successfully Combining Parenthood with a Personal Life

In the same way you need a balanced diet to be physically healthy, you need balance in your life to remain emotionally healthy. Being totally committed to any one thing or person is draining. Your life should be made up of different sections. Understand that family and relationships, though very important, are just one part of your life. Life changes, children grow up, people come and go. You are the one constant in your world.

Respect your own talents and gifts

Reserve an area of your life that is just for your personal growth as a person. Whether that includes a career choice, a career change or a passionate hobby is up to you. Growth as an individual is a necessary ingredient in being a whole person. Care for yourself and respect what is important to you. This is not a selfish act. There is great value in respecting yourself and seeing your life as important.

Don't bask in reflected glory; be your own brilliant sun.

Wanting your happiness to come through your children and their achievements is selfish and a waste of your own talents and gifts. Applaud what your family members achieve but don't forget to be just as appreciative when you excel at something. Don't diminish what you can do.

Teach your children that you matter.

Children learn much from their parents. Having them see you as a person other than Mom is good for them. Allow them to see you as a talented, interesting person with a life separate from theirs. With this type of role model, your children will become adults with a strong sense of self.

You have a responsibility to yourself as well as your child.

If you do decide to become a parent, you do have a responsibility to provide your child with a healthy, safe, loving and protected life. But that parental responsibility does not mean that you cease to exist as a person. You owe it to yourself to plan for the day when your children will be on their own. The empty-nest syndrome felt by past generations needn't be the traumatic experience it once was thought to be. Women in their forties, fifties and older are still vital and productive when their children leave the nest. The new chapter of their lives should be exciting and fulfilling. A whole new world awaits.

Reclaim Your Identity

You had a life before you became a mother; you need to refer to yourself, and more importantly see yourself, as more than someone's mom. Living your own life is the best gift you can give to others. Does that advice sound strange? It isn't. Being the sacrificial lamb in the hope that others will love, appreciate, and be eternally grateful to you doesn't work. They won't.

If you dedicate your life to providing solely for the wants of others, you will do yourself a great disservice. You will never have this minute, this hour, this day, this week, this month, this year of your life again. You deserve to have a fulfilling life, too.

Never live through the achievements of others. Have your own dreams and your own chances for success. Be your own example of actually living well. Explore your own talents. Become an accomplished person others can admire. The truth is that by taking care of yourself and doing what gives you pleasure, you lead a more satisfying life. You then have more to give to another person.

Don't just let your life slip by while you talk about and praise other people's accomplishments. Be the one others talk about and praise!

© 2012 copyright Kristen Houghton

Excerpt from:
"And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First" ranked in the top 100 books by Tower
new by Kristen Houghton

Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious new book, No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon available now on Kindle, Nook, and all e-book venues.

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