Moms are notorious for putting everyone’s needs first, always too busy with the kids and always juggling too many balls to pause to think about themselves for even just a moment. As we started this brand new decade, Facebook and Instagram feeds filled up with hopes for a greater emphasis on kindness to others.
This just might be the right time for you to take a moment to also be kinder to yourself, to really think about your happiness and what makes you great.
As it turns out, it even helps the kids as three Chicago area moms discovered.
Joy and happiness (and some exhaustion)
When I was going through my divorce, I used to ask my friends: “Was your mom happy?” We would talk about how different childhood would’ve been had the answer been yes instead of no; no instead of yes.
I was lurching toward my own happiness again and I hoped my kids, then 2 and 6, would be better for it. Because a joyful parent, I believe, is a gift like no other. Happiness should be a priority, like exercise or friendship.
I have tried to carve out ample space in my kids’ lives for joy the way I do homework time and sleep. They’re 10 and 14 now. They’re really good at joy.
I also try to model it. They see me laugh. They see me love. They see me make time for pursuits I believe in and books I adore and people who light up my face.
I didn’t always. I modeled exhaustion and martyrdom because I thought that seemed noble. But I realized one beautiful day that I would never want my children to walk that path. I want them to live their lives with intention, to enter their relationships — with friends, with co-workers, with partners — set on giving their all, but also expecting respect and generosity and, yes, joy, in return. I want them to move on when those things aren’t possible.
So I modeled that. And I try to continue modeling that. And some days I model exhaustion and martyrdom, but not for long. Because my kids deserve better than that. And so do I.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Join her page, Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act, on Facebook and check out her podcast, “On Purpose: The Heidi Stevens and Dr. John Duffy podcast.
A cup always full
Self-love, self-care, self-awareness, what do they really mean? In this day and age, those terms are thrown around often without the full weight of their impact. I’m a huge proponent of self-love not being a one-size-fits-all monolith. As the saying goes, “to thine own self be true.”
Interestingly enough, becoming a mother brought me a greater awareness of what it means to love oneself. It can be hard to make time for and not “lose” yourself when you’re busy pouring into a new little life. I had to be intentional about being present for myself as a form of self-love.
Part of my morning routine has always been to read a devotional and scriptures that help center me; that alone time is the perfect start to my day. Additionally, I continue to pursue things that excite me! I started my blog when Kai was 7 months. It became an outlet to creatively express my passions including fashion, wellness and, of course, motherhood.
My life journey has led me to be very self-aware; I know what will and won’t leave me feeling my best. All of this allows me to parent in a way that I don’t feel guilty. I can replenish my cup and never have to pour from an empty one.
More importantly, Kai can see a mom who is creative, empowered and responsible for meaningfully impacting the lives of others; ideally this will lead to her continuing to be a well-rounded citizen of the world. If I could sum up what I desire for my life and parenting journey, it would be in a quote from one of my favorite series, “Call the Midwife,” it says “The longest paths lead into sunlight when they are paved with love.”
Dr. Kiarra King is a board certified obstetrician gynecologist who loves fashion, healthy living and motherhood. Follow her on social media @drkiarraking.
Bangles and blazers
There are two closets packed to the brim in my house with my clothes. It’s not because I have shopaholic tendencies and I do not hoard clothes. I have two separate closets for my clothes because I have multiple cultural identities.
One closet is filled with jeans and comfortable sweaters, bright leggings and blouses. What I wear to work and what I wear to social gatherings at cozy restaurants with friends belongs in this closet. The other closet contains colorful saris that I wear to Indian weddings, cotton salwar suits I wear during Sunday family brunches filled with endless cups of chai.
These two closets do not mix. I do not wear saris to the mall. I do not wear jeans to my Indian grandmother’s house. This separate system lasted me for years until my 9-year-old daughter challenged this system.
She asked if she could wear Nikes with her traditional Indian clothes. She wanted to wear Indian bangles at the mall because she loves the way the bangles jingle with a flicker of her hand. She doesn’t have two separate closets, she’s learning to adapt and mix her two cultures effortlessly, her Indian heritage and her American nationality. For her, beaded dresses and jeans belong together.
Her confidence gave me confidence. I began to wear salwar suits to museums and on summer walks. I wore bangles with my work blazer. My two identities didn’t have to be separate, but could be fused with love, care and confidence that will continue to bloom in my daughter.
Juveriya Mir is a high school teacher, mom of two and proud Indian American Muslim. Follow her on social media @mirteaching.
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This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s February 2020 issue. Read the rest of the issue here.