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Challenge: WHO Are You?

I Am Not Meant to Be an Empty Cup

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Since I was young, I have been a giver.

I give of my time, my energy, my talent, my resources, often until it hurts. If I see a need, I am compelled to figure out a way I can meet that need, and often feel terribly guilty if I cannot.

In most healthy relationships, there is some semblance of balance, where nobody is the primary giver. My husband and I give to each other, and we keep an eye on each other. We watch for signs of fatigue, of pain points where we could use some additional support, and we bolster each other.

Parenting doesn’t work like that!

Our kids give back, sure, in sweet smiles and rewarding new milestones, but (especially in my kids’ current toddler stage) they are not meant to be balanced partners, they are meant to receive abundantly from their parents.

And I love giving to my children, pouring into their hearts, their minds, their bodies. But I’m tired.

It’s so easy for parents to fall into the trap of giving until they’re empty. There’s a popular saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It reminds parents that they need to take the time to deliberately refill their cup so that they can continue pouring into their children (and their marriages, and their jobs, and their communities…).

But I’ve come to see the dysfunction in this saying. It implies that as long as a cup isn’t bone dry, it is fit to be poured from. Any splash of metaphorical liquid in the bottom is fair game to be given to others, which would inevitably empty the cup. That’s okay, just add another splash of self-care so you can pour that back out as well.

I have seen myself resolving to eat better, to take my antidepressants faithfully, just so that I can continue my current level of giving. I have to have the strength to do [x, y, z]! But what about the strength to feel peaceful, content?

I am a person, who deserves to feel fulfilled for my own sake. Not only so I can continue to give, but so I can continue to BE.

I am not meant to be tipped on my side, so that anything that could fulfill me pours back out as soon as it is poured in.

If what I pour into others is so crucial that I must always be doing so, then it is equally important that I am filled as well. Not for the sake of my children. Not for the sake of my husband. But for my own sake.

Am I not a person as valuable as any other?

This does not mean I need to be selfish or stop pouring out. It just means that my motivation for taking care of myself – or letting others take care of me – needs to start from a place of self-love, not of martyrdom. I am more than a chute that diverts blessings to other.

And so are you!

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