I would like to thank all who have taken the time to send a comment, particularly in private, in response to my last post about meeting one's own needs. Writing this makes me feel a bit exposed, but I'm still taking the time and effort to do it because I feel it's really important, and to be frank, right now I cannot afford the time or energy to do, write or research what isn't truly important.
What I'm about to write now is basically a response to the comments, public and private, that have been directed to me. I beg your apology if this post appears incoherent or rambling to some or many of you.
So, here goes: if you are a mother, you are probably fine-tuned to meeting the needs of others, which is good and right. However, you must also be alert to your own basic needs, and make sure they aren't neglected, because on your well-being depends the welfare of small and helpless beings who have been entrusted to your care.
I'm deliberating on the correct wording now, because I really do not wish to be misunderstood. Our culture often embraces the focusing on "self", at the expense of all else, and this is the last thing I'm advocating. But if I am a mother and primary caretaker of a family, and I feel I am about to crack (for any reason), yet I'm pushing myself forward and making myself pretend all is good and well, it's not going to work. It might be a necessity during a brief period of critical circumstances that parents put themselves aside wholly and completely, but I believe it is highly inadvisable to let the father and mother go along, for an indefinite period of time, with their needs entirely suppressed.
I'm not saying we are entitled to anything that will "make us happy". That can often slide into imbalanced self-indulgence. Yet no one's life is supposed to feel like a prison, and if it does, it means something has gone badly wrong. We all deserve laughter, pleasant companionship, peace, joy, basic respect and the presence of our Almighty Father in our lives - on a daily basis. Under basic respect I list, among other things, orderly meals, daily showers and clean dignified clothes for Mama - and sadly, I have seen instances when women chose to forgo this basic dignity, and look unkempt, constantly exhausted, and on the brink of breakdown. I do not believe it is good for children to grow up with a role model who does not induce respect.
It is also good and right to pursue and develop one's unique talents, within the scope of realistic possibilities available to us at the moment. For someone like me, whose main creative outlet is writing, it means (at this stage of my life) that I cannot shut myself in the office for hours and work on the many projects I have drafted throughout the years - but I can do some work bit by bit, using a spare 15 minutes here and there, and I can still run a blog (although at times, not as regularly as I would like to). Sure, it takes a lower priority than my basic duty of caring for my family, but there's a place in my life for this as well. It is, after all, part of who I am, as a person as well as a mother - as I certainly pour a lot of my personality into motherhood. I am hoping that someday, my children will read all I ever wrote, and thus will spring a new level of knowledge and understanding between us.
Sometimes there will be days when not all of our basic needs are met. However, the important thing is keeping in mind what we need, so that we can make sure we'll attend to these need as soon as we are able. If we suppress our needs, if we disqualify our feelings, if we try to act as though we can live without proper food, rest, love, faith, hope and joy, eventually it will backfire - on us as well as those we are supposed to care for.
In the eyes of our Father, we are all special, important, cherished and loved. Think of the treatment you believe your children rightfully deserve - the nurturing, the support, the understanding and care. Doesn't it logically follow that His children - ourselves included - deserve to be treated the same way? There is good reason why the Torah commands us to love others as we love ourselves. It makes perfect sense, spiritually as well as practically.
Our worth does not depend on our accomplishments. Sure, there are things we must do, and there are things which are nice to have, but we are loved regardless. We are loved unconditionally. There's the love of G-d, which is sometimes difficult to grasp, and there is the reflection of His love in the many people we come across, along our life's journey. I know, personally, that many times tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes, as I contemplated the friendship, support and generosity of others towards me, and told myself, "I do not deserve this." Yet apparently it is not so much about deserving, as it is about accepting, as a gift, what is sent our way - with humble gratitude when we can give nothing in return.
Gratitude, however, doesn't mean we must always feel bouncy-happy, with an unchanging smile plastered on to our face. As I have discovered, it is pointless to try and shame myself into cheerfulness, when I actually feel sad, weak and confused, by comparing myself to others. I am immeasurably grateful for many things I have been blessed with - a lovely family, a nice and spacious home, many comforts of life, the unlimited use of my five senses, the delights of nature, books and music, and much more. Yet the woes and worries, the challenges and troubles exist in every life, and serve to bring us closer to the one and only eternal source of our comfort. It is no use firmly telling oneself that "many would love to swap with me" or that "centuries ago, people were so focused on surviving they had no time for contemplation." Our feelings are valid. We are valid.
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to close this, except that I feel I really should round this post up while it can still be published in one reasonable piece. I thank you, again, for your friendship and kindness, your attention and kind wishes, your concern and your prayers, and remain, warmly,