I'm a hungry human; one of those slightly crazed individuals who needs to eat first thing in the morning just so that they can function as a person. And so, each morning I consciously put on my oxygen mask before helping others.
I whip my eggs, I take the minute or two to scramble them, I wilt my spinach, grab a glass of water and then I sit down for approximately three glorious minutes to eat them. Sometimes I read a book as I do so feeling happy as a lark.
All up this process takes no longer than 6 or 7 minutes.
During this time I often ignore my children. I might put some toast on for someone if I have time while the eggs are in the pan, but once my brekkie is on the table I pretend I'm single for those three beautiful minutes.
On occasion, I've interacted with those who think this behaviour is slightly appalling. People that believe that any self-respecting, loving mother should, or rather would, feed her children first. That service to the needs of one's children is the essence of the role of mothering.
That may be true, but what I've learnt over the long years of motherhood is that motherhood is long.* And, that in order to do it with any type of grace, I need to have my needs met.
My most basic need is my need to be fed. Without food, I am an emotionally-unbalanced human with a tendency to snap. There is no zen mother in that space.
I (clearly) need more than eggs to make me feel like a healthy human. I need to be getting time to do something joyful with some kind of regularity.
Sometimes I will get time a few times a week, whereas at other times weeks may go by without me really getting a hour or three where I can breathe.
Without space and time and joyous freedom, my work as a human, not just as a mother, is substandard.
To do our best work, to be our best humans, to feel good about our place in the world, we need to be in our best shape. And that means taking time to fill ourselves up - and seeing that as a valid use of our time.
As an accepted cultural norm, we have been taught to put ourselves last. Last behind our roles as workers, siblings, mothers, fathers, community members, children of elderly parents, volunteer sports teachers. That being productive is how we live a worthwhile life. We are taught to exist on the scraps that is left over at the end of the day. We are taught that to prioritise ourselves, to take time is indulgent, selfish, vain almost. It's unattractive to be selfish.
To prioritise one's own needs and desires (by eating our eggs) is seen to be a deficit of character. Who do you think you are? Why do you deserve time when everyone else is so stretched? How dare you?
But what would we be capable of if we weren't running on empty? If we came to our jobs with eggs and spinach filling our bellies. If we'd had a couple of hours in our sewing rooms working on a project that swelled our hearts and made us feel like the sparkly, creative, joyous humans that we are.
I know that life doesn't always provide this time or this space. I don't always eat my eggs first. Sometimes life is hard and there is no time for anyone. But I also know that sometimes, when life does give us space, we feel guilty for taking it and feel we should be doing something else. We should be doing something productive, something for the family, for the community, for others.
I used to feel crippling guilt that meant I didn't craft even when I wanted to as I felt I should be being more productive. Doing housework or some such nonsense.
But over time I've tried to consciously practice a different way of thinking. A way of thinking that sometimes prioritises joy not even for wellbeing but simply for joy.
Just the other day, my friend Jenn and I played hooky for a whole Friday afternoon - when we both had work that needed doing - to make Wiksten Kimono's. It felt joyous and fun and two weeks later I'm still feeling the smug satisfaction of a jacket made when one should have been doing something else.
Life involves so many shoulds, and sometimes the only way to get this time is to take it. To sit with the discomfort of eating our eggs in front of someone who believes that you should be feeding our children first. To choose to not take on someone else's disapproval, or value system, about taking time for joy and wellbeing.
Instead practicing choosing to consciously grow strong in the knowledge that this time is critical to our wellbeing, to the wellbeing of the people we love, and to a joyous life. And that is enough.
(UPDATED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO ADD - And why do we only feel it's valid if it's wellbeing oriented. Where does joy fit into this? Surely some part of life has to involve joy for joy's sake. Not simply for wellbeing or so we can be our best humans for others. But simply because making makes us joyful. And eggs make me joyful!)
Love to hear your thoughts. Do you struggle with this or do you have this sorted? If so, did it come naturally or did you have to practice?
*Other blog posts you might enjoy that are along these lines are;