Sunday, December 16, 2007

Because she is a mother

Published December 16, 2007
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

There is a story attributed to Victor Hugo about a mother who, having a piece of bread to share between her two children and herself, broke it in half and gave it to her children. Soldiers observing this were divided as to why the mother took no bread for herself. The first assumed she was not hungry. The second made the more astute observation when he said, "It is because she is a mother."

You're hearing me here, sisters, aren't you?

Now, I've never been in a situation quite as dire as that, unless you count the time some well intentioned but misguided individual planned a Muffins for Moms event at my children's elementary school and then refused to allow any of the children to share in the muffins. Breaking my oversized muffin in half and giving it to my kids was done because I'm a mother. Storming into the principal's office and complaining and having the muffin nazi thrown out was done because I'm a hothead. (PTA, this is why I am still not a member.)

So, it's Christmas/Birthday time for me, and in seasons past, this time of year would lead me into my traditional Christmas Conundrum. Do I spend my gift money on myself or do I spend it on the kids? Do I choose a so-called high road and sacrifice to my own detriment, or do I accept my own worth and treat myself at the risk of feeling selfish? 11 years of motherhood mixed with a couple of years of pretty intense therapy have lead me out of conundrum and into compromise.

When it comes to shopping for myself, I get creative. There's some kind of pre-purchase penance I do in order to feel like an adequate nurturer before committing the "sin" of self indulgence. For me, that means justifying any purchase by conforming it to a set of rules. 1) The purchase must be naturally cheap or so reduced in price that it cannot NOT be purchased. 2) The purchase must serve the family in some way.

Why the need for compromise? After all, it's gift money intended for me. There really isn't a reason I should feel the need to justify spending gift money on myself. The only answer I can give you is, "Because I am a mother." Even if I'm taking this whole concept to an unhealthy level, if you're a mom, you know what I'm talking about. You give them your body for nine months (longer if you're nursing), and something inside of you changes until you want to give them everything. And how.

Last year, I spent my birthday money on a new wok to replace the broken one that had been sorely missed. The kids love my noodles with the homemade sauce. I spent my Christmas money on a stereo for the kitchen, the better to entertain my children with Weird Al and They Might Be Giants every day before dinner. This year, I've pooled my money and bought an outrageously low priced, used laptop computer from my neighbors. The kids now have free rein of the "big computer" for games and homework, and I can do my own schoolwork at the table with them during homework time.

Someday, I may get to the point at which I can spend a little something on myself without thinking of how it will benefit my kids...maybe after another two years of therapy. Maybe all I'll ever do is realize that taking good care of myself means taking better care of my kids, so any purchase for me benefits them too, and in the end, they'll thank me for my balanced example.

Well, that's just crazy talk. Here kids, have a muffin.