This may sound counterintuitive: Becoming a mom taught me to care more for myself. We've all heard before from one parent or another that your whole world changes after children. Life changes in indescribable ways, and you'll never love a person as much as you love your kids. This is all very true. But throughout this process of figuring out how to be a good mother, I also ended up with this bonus of learning how important it is to pay attention to myself. While my life right now is mostly all about my kids, it's also very much all about me. And I'm not sure that I would have ever gotten to this point was it not for me becoming a mom. Let's go back to pre-kids Kristin for a second, just so we can all understand where I'm coming from here:
The year is 2010, and I'm in labor. Of course, I'm stubborn and doing this shit without an epidural or anything at all (I got one eventually), and it hurts like nothing else ever. It's like hour 16 of this and I'm thirsty and hungry, and in so so much pain... but yet... I don't want to move too much because I don't want the nurses to have come in to readjust the heart monitor on my belly; I don't want to ask for anything to drink, or even for some damn Jell-o because I don't want to put anyone out. Who does that?! I pride myself in being a nice and easy-to-deal-with person and all, but I couldn't even cut myself some slack in the moment where I should have absolutely cut myself some slack. Being in labor is most definitely a time where a woman can ask for a cup of ginger ale or Jell-o cubes and not feel bad about it because she is trying to work a human out of her uterus and down and out the birth canal and that hurts. It hurts a hell of a lot and I was too damn nervous to ask for a beverage.
Such was pre-kid me. Constantly worried about other people, even when I was in the absolute worst pain ever in my life. And that's how I lived my life. I put up with things I shouldn't have, and I rarely spoke up for myself. I took what was given to me, and I powered through unnecessarily difficult, and sometimes psychologically abusive, situations because I thought I had to just suck it up to show that I was tough and persistent - because those are noble qualities. Newsflash: those are not noble qualities if they are putting your mental well-being at risk! The old me hasn't completely gone away, nor do I think it ever will, but I have the ability to quiet those old voices now.
This new strength of mine came from the fact that I would never want my girls to be treated the way I was treated by certain people in my past. I want them to stay just the way they are, in the sense that they aren't afraid to speak their minds or to ask for what it is that they need. My girls are six and four. Young kids are honest, inquisitive, and bold. If something doesn't look or feel right to them, they'll tell you about it. They'll tell you about it until they're conditioned to not tell you about it. This is where I don't want to go wrong. I don't want to hear that they are struggling with an abusive boyfriend, or friend, or boss. I want them to know exactly how to navigate, and if possible, avoid those situations. I realized, shortly after I found out I was pregnant with my second child, that a great deal of that knowledge is going to come from me.
You learn a lot by watching how your kids learn. They pick up on things you're whispering in a room on the other side of the house with the door closed. It's not only the "Oh, shit!" you instinctively shout when you spill hot coffee on yourself. It's your mannerisms, your demeanor, the way you go about life in general. They observe that and they mimic your behavior. There's no way I was going to teach my kids how to succeed at being a pushover, and so, I made a very conscious decision to stop putting up with the garbage I was dealing with at that time, and I continued on that path. That path is rocky. There are some boulders on that path that need to be cleared sometimes. The path of complacency seems so smooth, but I've realized how important it is to listen to myself and to keep myself happy - even if it is difficult at times. None of this is easy, but my girls keep me grounded and sane, while simultaneously driving me insane. And for that, my two little weirdos, I thank you.