A long time ago, when my twins were only days old and I was still wrapping my head around life in the NICU, a wise woman said to me…
“Now is the time to do whatever you need to get by. Don’t think about anyone else but yourself, that is the best thing you can do for your babies.
Now is the time to be selfish.”
Back then I took those words to heart. I tried to focus solely on what I needed to do to get through the next hour, next day, next week.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t easy to be selfish.
I am not sure if I struggled because I am hard wired to try and please others. Or is it so difficult to put our own needs first because our culture and society drums into us that it is not ok to be selfish?
Being selfish seems like a nasty, dirty, thing to do, or be.
To put yourself first, above all others, to think of only yourself, that is not what ‘good’ people do. No one will like you if you are selfish.
‘Good’ people, ‘nice’ people, the kind of people others like, they are kind, considerate and helpful. They think of others before themselves.
This seems especially true for parents.
Do you give your child a choccy biscuit even if that means you don’t get one?
Do you put yourself out, or go without so your children can have or do?
I can’t help it. It seems to be a biological urge to put my children first, because I love them. It seems natural… right.
But is there ever a time when it is ok to put your own needs above those of others?
Was that wise woman right? Did I need to be totally, utterly selfish when my babies where in NICU? Was that the best thing I could do for myself, and for them?
As a parent, is putting our own needs first, sometimes the right thing to do for our children?
As a person, a member of society, is it ever ok to be selfish?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
i am a strong believe that if you are feeling good as a person you will parent 10000000x better. Therefore you do need to look after yourself because at the end of the day who else is going to. Your kids?? your husband?? you know your needs better than anyone else so you have to make the moves to have them met and when you are happy your kids will be happy.
Anna Spargo-Ryan says
“Selfish” has such unfortunate negative connotations. The truth is, if we don’t take the time to treat ourselves kindly, we won’t be good at anything. Being selfish doesn’t need to be thoughtless, often it’s just a necessary part of regrouping and reenergising. If anything, I think we’re not selfish often enough.
Obviously this kind of ‘selfish’ is vastly different from the kind that is ‘never give to charity or help others’. That is ignorance and meanness. Selfishness is part of being a functional human being, imo.
Man I suck at being selfish, or maybe I just suck at admitting to it? But I am starting to realise that it is something I do need to master and stand up and be proud of so I can be that functional human being you speak of!
agree this is a great post :)
I think a conscious choice to be selfish is only necessary when the other “selves” can’t or won’t take turns for priority. Babies can’t prioritise someone else cause they’ll die, toddlers probably also can’t but their needs are not quite as constant and immediate, they can start experience their wants getting a little less priority, and kids learn it more and more as time goes on although I do think a child’s needs should trump an adults – wants is another thing, got to be some balance.
So as a mum we might need to lean on others to fill the kids needs so we can prioritise ourselves, but I don’t think that’s selfish. Now as for other adults … LOL As a NICU mum without other kids, there should have been no one expecting anything of you and everyone should have been prioritising you, so if you had to choose to do something “selfish” – well poo to them!
When there isn’t a crisis, I think in ideal situations there is give and take and so no one has to feel selfish about when they get put first. And if there isn’t the ebb and flow happening naturally, we definitely shouldn’t feel guilty when we take our turn ourselves.
That said, some people are just selfish and they have no trouble with it, it’s all justifiable … they pay the price in other ways, there’s less chance of them getting that priority from others as relationships degrade.
I think you’ve hit it with the difference between needs and wants. Needs have to be filled, wants can take their turn. Sometimes we have to decide who exactly is responsible for the need and other people can fill it too.
Toushka Lee says
I think it’s the wording. There is a difference between “selfish” and looking after yourself. If you look after yourself then you are a better mum, wife, friend etc. Selfish is different. And no one would begrudge a mum for looking after herself and her babies, especially in the NICU.
I think you are so right… it’s all in the wording. ‘Selfish’ has such negative connotations… giving to yourself or looking after yourself is different to ‘selfish’.
Amen to all of the above comments. Selfish would be taking more “me-time” than we actually need, and neglecting spending time with our kids, just because we “want it.” There are times when an inner voice asks, “are you being self-ish?” And I say “yes, yes I am, and I don’t care right now.” In those moments, I’m usually taking a very much needed break, but the enemy tries to steal my joy, and make me think I’m being self-ish. Anyways, life is all about balance.