Sacrificing For Your Children Does Nothing

When many parents think of sacrificing for their children, they think of giving up their date nights, mancave evenings, their friends and their social lives… all in an effort to spend more time with their children. They think about the cups of coffee they will no longer be able to coast during and the evenings of passion they will sacrifice in order to make sure their children’s exact nighttime routine has been adhered to and the mindless afternoons spent deep-cleaning their things while they nap.

They think of lost vacations and less spontaneity and no more afternoon naps when they feel like it.

But the truth is, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Take notes, parents: sacrifice and self-sacrifice are two very different things, and self-sacrifice does no one a bit of good.

Sacrifice is when you put a career on hold to raise a surprise child. Sacrifice is when you make the ultimate decision to step out of the workforce and become a stay-at-home mother. Sacrifice can range from giving up your body to willingly to have a child all the way to giving away your dessert just so your child will crawl into your lap and eat it with you.

Sacrifice is not forgoing showers in order to spend extra time with them. Sacrifice is not giving up your nighttime glass of wine just in case your child might wake up. Sacrifice is not annihilating intimacy with your partner because you have to clean your child’s room.

There are the sacrifices that come with being a parent, and there are the sacrifices that come with making our children scapegoats.

After I had my son, my grooming habits sank to the bowels of hell. I was lucky if I washed my hair twice a week, I would go months without shaving, and I forewent purchasing clothes even though the ones I had were beginning to rip and tear. I made myself so paranoid over my child’s safety that I would push showers off until the evening, only to collapse in bed after an exhausting hour-long routine with my son. The showers I did take were a mere 7 minutes — and yes, I counted every second in my head — because I had convinced myself that if I took too much time, I would somehow drop on the virtual worldwide ranking of parents that was being broadcast somewhere for the waiting world to watch.

I convinced myself that not showering and not shaving and not buying clothes for myself freed up money to use on my son. I convinced myself that not taking the time to do and get what I needed gave me more time to focus on my son.

And that this somehow made me a better mother.

But, here is what really happened: I sank into a depression I had no hope of getting out of. I stopped looking in the mirror in the mornings because I didn’t want to face what 6 days of hair grease looked like. I stopped wanting to be intimate with the man I was married to at the time because I didn’t want him to see the hairy shell that surrounded this empty and rundown soul.

In the process of defining what “sacrifice” meant, I ended up compromising my basic necessities as a human.

For some, shaving and showering are not big deals, and that is fine. Self-sacrificing comes in many different forms. Sometimes, it looks like slow isolation from the world, where friends fall to the wayside and conversations with family become rambling games of phone tag. Sometimes, it looks like malnutrition — simply eating what your child won’t instead of fixing yourself a proper meal. Sometimes, it looks like the neglect of your marriage — casting aside the one person who is supposed to help you with this job instead of implementing their help because, in your mind, asking for help to raise your own child somehow makes you an incompetent parent.

All your self-neglect does is build up frustration, anger, and sadness… and while those emotions can be held in for a while, they can’t be held in forever.

Many people, like myself, are masters at emotional compartmentalization. Things roll off their backs and they seem to bounce back from disasters quicker than rubber itself. But eventually, everyone succumbs to the inward stress of pent-up emotions, and they come barreling out in the form of slapstick arguments, short fuses with family members, and fights with your friends.

And yes, “family members” includes your children.

The only thing self-sacrificing does is hurt your family.

By taking care of yourself, you prime your mental, emotional, and physical capacities to withstand the brutality of parenting. By taking care of yourself, you show your children how important self-care is. By taking care of yourself, you teach your little girl how capable she is of providing for herself one day. By taking care of yourself, you teach your little boy the power women are capable of possessing. By taking care of yourself, you give your partner less and less to worry about.

Because trust me, they do notice.

And trust me, they do worry.

By taking care of yourself, you take care of your family, and by sacrificing yourself, you damage your family.

It’s as simple as that.

Sacrificing for your children does nothing except show them that everyone is more important than you, and if they think that is how they are supposed to live their lives, then you can’t get angry when people begin to take advantage of them. Why?

Because they watched you neglect yourself for years.

Children learn more by what they see than from what they hear. It’s a scientific fact.

Show them what it means to take care of themselves by taking care of you.

It will be the best parenting tactic you employ.

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