Parent to Parent

Mothers First

mother's day 2007 Taking care of myself costs money, more than I’m used to spending on myself. Now I know how easy it is to become a dowdy old mother, by putting my family first all the time.

I think of my kids needing clothes before I buy anything for myself. Why, they grow out of theirs on a regular basis. As long as I stick to easy shapes and elastic waists, add in a few of my husband’s T-shirts, I may never grow out of mine. I may not look hot, but there’s not much room in the budget for hot.

Yet, it’s still a struggle to maintain size, even in a forgiving, if unattractive wardrobe. And being budget conscious makes me keenly aware of wastefulness. Waste not, want not, my grandmother always said. So, it’s often cheaper, and easier, to make my dinner out of the children’s leftovers – leftover hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fries, mac n cheese. My boys are fond of butter on their spaghetti, not spaghetti sauce. Not exactly the healthiest diet, and you can imagine what that does to my waistline. And what incentive is there to make a salad if I’m the only one eating it? I try cooking real food, only to see a bunch of wrinkled noses and a chorus of “can I have cereal?” And believe me, nobody’s requesting shredded wheat in this house. I have one converted to plain rice crispies, and I have to consider that a victory, if only a small one.
Shoes are another luxury in this mom’s budget. When I buy a pair of sneakers they have to last a loooong time. And they have to be on sale. Add in the widely unavailable shoe size, and you’ll see why they have to last so long. It took me three years to find the clogs I wanted that fit in all the above categories (and I also had the money at the same time). Sure I love the chase, but actually buying shoes is a thrill beyond compare.

I have many mom friends who don’t wear any make-up on a regular basis. I, myself, have lowered my own standards for when I can go out of the house without the full mask on. Babies are a big help in that department. My first taught me that I could sneak around in dark glasses and a baseball cap, as long as I put on the lipstick.
My younger friends don’t even bother with the lipstick or the glasses. Besides, all that make-up costs money. Add in the pressure to keep up with manicures, pedicures and hair coloring (hide that gray!), and even the do-it-yourself methods add up. Yes, I often fall into the “it’s a luxury I can do without” trap. And I look like a dowdy old mother.

But as I get older, and wiser, vanity and self-preservation are kicking in. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

First, there’s my health. Actually I am motivated to preserve the health of my family. Sure, family comes first, but now my strategies have changed. I’ve finally come to realize that my children will never be “healthy eaters” unless I model it for them … for a long time … maybe even years. So, while I attempt to wean them off white bread, I cook healthy meals for myself (well, most of the time) and beg and cajole my husband into sharing the good stuff.

And lesson 1: sometimes the good stuff costs more than the junk. Certainly organic vegetables cost more than the regular trucked-in chemically optimized stuff. And, yes, it often tastes better, too. But sometimes just putting something green and leafy on the table matters more than where it comes from. I have goals, I have a budget, I make compromises. The end result, I’m eating better, healthier.

I’ve spent the better part of the last few years trying to squeeze a healthy exercise routine into my schedule and, again, the almighty budget. Gym memberships can be pricey, classes, too, and it’s frustrating when I have to skip. Home exercise equipment is also expensive, takes up valuable space, and frustrating when it doesn’t live up to the infomercial claims. I’d rather be outside, anyway, but I managed to come up with a solution that’s right for me for now.

The Y nearby has a number of different pricing plans, it’s close and convenient (I can even walk in good weather), and my husband is accommodating, even encouraging. But the bottom line is, lose weight, get healthy, spend more money. In addition to the monthly membership, there’s the clothes. I can’t go to the gym in the same outfit I would wear to work out in the privacy of my own home, so I must purchase a few appropriate loose-fitting outfits, and more socks, and more laundry detergent to wash all those sweaty, yucky workout clothes (and a higher water bill with all that extra laundry). And when it finally pays off, I’ll have to go out and buy all new clothes in smaller sizes. No more elastic waistbands for me!

More money, more money and more money. But let’s think about all this as an investment. Nothing wrong with investing in myself, and in the long run, it’s best for the whole family. Because the healthier I am, the better I will feel while taking care of my family. And by modeling good nutrition and an active lifestyle, it’s bound to rub off one of these days, isn’t it? You’ve heard the saying, “If Mom ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,” haven’t you? Well it can also work in reverse. Working out and eating well gives me more energy, I sleep better, and I’m in an all-around better mood. That just makes everybody a little happier.

I’m also teaching my children lessons in self-respect. They are learning that they are not always the center of the earth. Sometimes it’s good for Mom to come first, and they just have to be patient, sometimes. There’s so much happiness flowing around that I feel like going out and buying myself another pair of shoes! Maybe some tennis rackets, for the whole family, so we can play together.

Patti Hermes

Patti Hermes, Parent to Parent, is living the dream with her high school sweetheart, raising their boys in the Midwest because it's a good starting point for epic road trips. While writing, reading and homeschooling take up most of her time, she still blogs at HermesParent to ParentParentingParent to Parent Mothers First by Patti Hermes Taking care of myself costs money, more than I'm used to spending on myself. Now I know how easy it is to become a dowdy old mother, by putting my family first all the time. I think of my kids needing clothes...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids