My Mother's Selflessness
I think my mother put herself on hold as she was raising us. She put us first, always; and she was second. I remember one time when I was little, we were having dinner and there was one small succulent piece of chicken left, and we both reached for it, then she gave it to me without hesitation. I knew she wanted it, but genuinely wanted me to have it more. Her desire for it vanished the moment I expressed a desire for it. I don't want to minimize her devotion or sound ungrateful. That was always something that astounded me - that very authentic selflessness. There was no guilt in that chicken moment - it was one thing she truly felt - we should have more than she ever could have. This was a consistent theme throughout our childhood and eventually it became a source of guilt - we were ungrateful if we didn't appreciate all she sacrificed, but it was impossible to properly appreciate something so intangible and grand. And in the end it wasn't good for her. She was unhappy. She is still unhappy.
So now I'm raising my own children. Last night we made chocolate covered strawberries. The kids and I happily munched away. When there was one left, my daughter (mouth still stuffed) reached for it. My son said "Let's leave that one for Mommy." My mother's selflessness washed over me. I recognized that genuine desire to watch my child eat it, even if I wanted it. But doing that would have negated my son's kindness and encouraged my daughter's gluttony. So I thanked him and ate the last strawberry. There has to be a balance. Being a mother first does not have to mean putting yourself second.