Motherhood is often described as the ultimate selfless job. We give of ourselves constantly, prioritizing our children and our children's needs over ours, and, often, taking care of yourself isn't an option.
As the past few weeks have flown by, there has been an idea that has been nagging at me, challenging me and forcing me to almost re-evaluate what I'm doing.
That idea revolves around a mother doing something for herself.
I love softball and even played professionally. However, I took a break from playing and didn't pick up or throw a ball in eight years. Just recently I was asked to rejoin Softball Canada for the 2016 World Championships. This meant weeks away from my husband and my children for training and games.
I have been overwhelmed with all kinds of support. To the people who know me: thank you. To the people I don't know who have blindsided me with outstanding support, emailing me and messaging me kind words: thank you.
But there are also the others. They are the people who cannot understand why I'm leaving my family for a summer and taking time away from them to train.
Those people have given me pause. They have had me thinking for a (long) minute.
To those people: Thank you. No really. Thank you.
You have tested my heart and stirred my mind. You have given me reason to reflect on what it means to balance being a mother and still being myself. You've also tested my mettle as a competitive athlete and mother. Of course, I get defensive and maybe even a bit angry. I'm a mama bear not a mama kitten.
You are the reason I have come to these conclusions:
1. Taking care of yourself isn't selfish
If we take care of ourselves, we are better able to serve our children, our families and others around us. Read that again. (I'll wait.)
One of our favorite sayings is, "You can't pour from an empty cup." It's so true. I'm at my best when I get a good sweat and take some time for myself. I have found that I'm more patient, more present and, overall, happier.
2. Short-term pain, long-term gain
Will taking a few weeks away from my kids be difficult? You bet. Will taking another few weeks away from them again be hard? Absolutely. But once it's over, I know that we will have learned immeasurable lessons.
My kids will hopefully see what hard work, sacrifice and determination can do. This is a hands-on lesson and a teachable moment that encourages my children to follow their dreams.
3. Monkey see, monkey do
It's so easy to tell my kids to work hard for what they want. It's quite another to show them.
I want to show my kids what we believe in. I can show my daughter, Grace, what "strong is beautiful" really means. I have the opportunity to show my boys that girls can play in the dirt, too, and anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
I am stoked that I can show my children what passion means. I am a real, live example of what it means to live authentically. After all, as a parent, nothing would make me happier than seeing my children grow up to live the lives that they want.
4. Selfishness is all relative
What one person perceives to be selfish, another person won't. Selfishness is really an attitude that can take meaning anywhere, or it can be checked at the door. I don't think what I'm doing is selfish because I simply don't have that mindset.
I'm looking at the big picture. This is a door that has been opened to teach not only my family but others as well, that it's OK to be your own person. I'm not just "Grace's mom" or "Jack's mom" or "Will's mom" (sorry, guys, I did the mom-thing where I couldn't leave any kid out on that one).
I am Lauren. And you know what? I have A LOT of things that fill my heart that don't involve Play-Doh or Ninja Turtles. Will I still get down on the floor and make Play-Doh snakes and stage Ninja Turtle fights? Of course! But I still need to do "me."
When the opportunity arises, whether you want to exercise, journal, take a night out with friends, go on a date with your spouse or, in my case, play softball again, it's OK to jump at the chance. Again, taking care of yourself IS NOT selfish.
Right now in my life, I do have the opportunity and the support that allows me to run with my dreams. And, if I do say so myself, right along with that comes some pretty awesome life lessons for my children.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on TrAkAthletics. It has been modified and republished here with permission.