In the midst of the hustle and bustle of raising a family, I sometimes pause and ask myself, "Do I like French Impressionism? What are my political beliefs? Do I enjoy travelling? Do I really, really like the burnt piece of toast?"

It is so easy for women to fall into the rut (in an attempt to please everyone) of forgetting who exactly we are. This propensity grows exponentially if we are married to, or raising, strong individuals who thrive on making their own wishes known and stop at nothing to bring them to fruition.

You might be a burnt toast martyr if you've ever said

  • "Oh, no, that's OK, you take that last piece of cake. I was full anyway."

  • "Sure, I'd love to spend Christmas with your parents. Let's pack up all of the kids' gifts, and every last thing we might need while we're there, and haul it through Buffalo and Niagara Falls at the end of December!"

  • "I don't need that new pair of shoes. These still fit me from high school. You go ahead and get that new socket set you want."

  • "I'd love to make all the costumes for your school play. It's a good thing I learned to sew."

  • "Oh, no. Writing this great American novel can wait. I'd much rather schlep you and your friends to the mall, the theater, the skating rink, Taco Bell, and then drop each one of them off at their doorstep."

You might be a burnt toast martyr if you've

  • Never made that eggplant parmesan you love so much because there was an overwhelming possibility that someone might not like eggplant.

  • Missed the finale of "Dancing With the Stars" so that your whiny toddler can watch Barney and Friends' Christmas ... for the 794th time ... this week.

  • Ever slept on the couch because the kids fell asleep on your own bed and you preferred to sleep without being battered by restless arms and legs.

  • Forgotten what is like to have discretionary money, time or thoughts.

We all know that it is good to be selfless. We just can't allow ourselves to become so selfless that we lose who we are and, in the process, foster a sense of selfishness in those we love. Dr. Phil tells us that we teach people how to treat us. If we are always first to deny ourselves, we might hear his voice in our head say, "How's that working out for you?"

Here is a little bit of rope for those finding themselves victims in the deep, dark pit of self-denial. "No." Say it with me now. No one is watching. "No." Once more with feeling. "NO!" Alright, you don't have to shout. I get it.

Stop being a burnt toast martyr. Say

  • "No, I won't make you something else for dinner. I like eggplant parmesan. You know where to find the peanut butter and jelly."

  • "No, it is important to me to celebrate Christmas with our family in our home. I'm sure your parents will understand."

  • "No, you watched Barney plenty this week. Go find a good book. Or better yet, go pick up your room."

  • "No, I'm sorry. I'm busy writing for the next few hours. You can all find something else to do or maybe ask Mrs. Johnson to drive you."

  • "No, I'm sorry. I know you'd like that socket set, but I really need some new shoes."

  • When you've baby-stepped your way into this sort of mindset and feel a little more comfortable, try this. It is for the advanced student:

  • "No, I don't care to discuss it any further."

We lead and teach by example.

By taking time for ourselves to do the things that we enjoy, (to sometimes be the one to make the choice) we are teaching others that we count. They will learn that others count and that they need to consider the feelings and wishes of others and not only of themselves.

Conversely, if we constantly put ourselves in the back seat, we teach them that they are the most important and they will grow up (yes, even our husbands) with a bloated sense of self that will carry into other relationships.

So make opportunities to be selfless and teach your children to give, but also teach them that others count by showing them that you do!

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