My mom loves liver and onions.
I realize this is a random way to begin, but when I sat down and thought about her as I prepared to write this, a vivid memory of my mom cooking herself liver and onions popped into my head. As a kid (ok fine, even now), I thought liver and onions were gross. My brother, sister and I would giggle and gag and probably make fun of her as she ate them. So why did she do it? Did she think we would try it and maybe LOVE IT, so she could then brag to her friends that her kids were the best eaters in Eagan, Minnesota? Heck nooooo (insert thick Midwest accent). She probably fed us tuna casserole (our favorite) and then as we did our homework (orrrrr watched America's Funniest Home Videos), she sipped her wine and made herself a meal. She made it because she wanted it.
You see, my mom was a single parent to three kids: myself, and my younger brother and sister (twins). When I think of the sacrifices she made for us, it's almost unfathomable. I didn't see it then, of course, because I was a kid and she was my mom. That was her job, to be our rock. All we did was need, and all she did was give. Now, on my worst days as a mom, with an incredible support system surrounding me, I think, my god, if she could do it, then SUCK IT UP SIRI, you can too.
So when I started thinking about my mom, and this memory of her eating like Hannibal Lecter emerged, it made me realize that even though she exhausted almost every ounce of her time and energy on us, she still made it a priority to do things for herself. She took bubble baths, and read books (like, real books, without pictures). At restaurants, she would order herself a glass of wine and eat her meal sloooowly, while us kids put sugar packets in our water to pass the time. She played tennis, and even dated a little (um, her tennis instructor, but that's a story for another challenge).
She had a life of her own, however small it might have been.
I've discovered how important this is for our sanity, but this realization came to me slowly. Because... Mom Guilt.
Mom Guilt is a real thing. It should be in the dictionary, next to a giant photo of a bottle of wine. You name it, we've felt guilty about it. Everyone has their own version of Mom Guilt, of course, and for me it's always been about doing things for myself. Whether it's spending time with my girlfriends, wishing to escape with Carson alone, or even buying myself a new outfit, I've struggled with feeling like I shouldn't be doing these things. Because they are not things that have to do with my kids... and shouldn't my kids be my everything? Well yes. And no. Us moms (and dads) need to spend even a few moments every day focusing on ourselves, and it's okay for our children to witness this. In my opinion, it's good for them to understand we all need ME time! And when I feel the Mom Guilt sneak up on me I think about liver and onions and I chant to myself, my god if she could do it, then COME ON SIRI, go shave your legs in the bathtub! (Just kidding I don't chant, that's weird.)
Now my mom is a grandma, and she spends most of her time visiting her children and grandchildren who are scattered across the country. But not ALL of her time. She travels with her friends. She still plays tennis. She sees live theater. She participates in bridge club, book club and gourmet groups. She probably still cooks herself intestines (I'm sorry, I just can't get on board with this). Her life didn't end when we moved away because she always maintained a (little) life of her own. And I'm so glad that she taught me that it's okay to do so. I hope I can teach my own children the same self-respect...