Two years ago when John and I were in the thick of marriage counseling, quite literally, fighting for what would or would no longer be — we were taught a phrase that has stuck with us ever since: “It’s not a priority.”
Much like the words “authenticity” and “community” that have been overused and misinterpreted, the word “busy” had permeated our vocabulary in a way that we began leaning on it as a default “get out of jail” catch-phrase in our life and conversations.
Preferably, these people are unpaid, but in our case, he was very much paid. In an instant, our counselors’ brief and simple exercise removed the gray area between our values and beliefs. Moving forward, every time we were tempted to say, “I’m busy,” we were to replace it with the words, “it’s not a priority.”
“Washing the dishes tonight is not a priority.” — Okay, I can get down with that!
“Dating my husband is not a priority.” — Woof. Is that what you really meant?
“Getting in shape and creating margin for myself is not a priority.” — Now we’re playing with fire.
Too often I meet women, especially mothers, who have confused self-care as a choice. Instead, more and more I’m finding that the same women who could use margin the most are proudly sporting a badge of self-sacrificial (though well-intended) false-piety that somehow puts them at the bottom of every list. I’m going to get on my soapbox here for a moment, ladies.
Marriage, motherhood, business, your health and well-being — it all has built-in imbalance and conflict. The point is not to choose one over the other so much as it is to figure out which way your imbalance leans and tweaking as you go for the better of the whole.
There have been instances in my life that have marked me for a lifetime. The confessions of poorly chosen priorities from my father after a terminal cancer diagnosis. Witnessing the loneliness of my grieving mother, having built a life only around her spouse and children, finding herself in an unexpected outcome without friends or community. A marriage I became estranged from when we allowed work, parenting and pride to get in the way of our well-being as a couple.
Days at the spa and shopping sprees sound lovely, but none of those things are what I’m talking about when I think about choosing myself.
What I’m talking about are the non-negotiable things that keep me whole. The things that fill me up from the inside-out and help me put my best foot forward each day in gratitude. These are things that, once you decide on, I encourage you to own without the additional price tag of guilt.
Choosing YOU doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be doing less. It means you’ll be doing more of the stuff that makes a difference in your world.
If I’m honest with myself, so often my decisions are made out of fear instead of faith. It’s something I’m aware of, that I struggle with, and continue to walk out. Ironically, the longer I “mama”, I see that more is caught than taught by my littles.
I’m choosing an allegiance to myself with unquestioned conviction — because 20 years from now, I want these little boys to remember a strong mama who never lost herself while somehow being exactly the mother they needed.
Rock on, mamas!
MotherHustle panelist Kathy Dixon is the founder and creative director of Oh Yes Communications. She’s an Air Force wife and mama to Daniel and Zane. Kathy helps business owners share their stories bravely and boldly through branding and marketing services to highlight and heart and people behind their brands. Find her and Oh Yes on Instagram.
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