“When you become a parent you forfeit the right to self-destruct.”
~ Dr. Robin on Oprah
Confession: I don’t actually know who Dr. Robin is, other than one of those Oprah doctor people. (Cool name, though.) But I read a recent post of Heather’s on The Extraordinary Ordinary and those words stuck with me.
Heather’s post wasn’t really about that — self-destructing, that is — though I’ll bet she would have some really eloquent thoughts on the subject. I do have thoughts, though probably not eloquent, and I’m interested in hearing what you think, so that’s what this post is about.
One of the reasons I haven’t decided what I think about this is that I struggle with the definition of “self-destruct.” I almost did, I thought. Or did I?
Is struggling with something like postpartum depression to the point where you’re off work, medicated, and not really taking on any of the familial responsibilities self-destructing? It felt like that to me, although I suppose one could argue that PPD is an illness and not something I brought on myself.
But then what is self-destruction? Addiction? That can be considered an illness too. If you jump out of an airplane and your parachute fails, is that self-destruction? What about being a workaholic? A smoker? A self-centred narcissist, maybe?
Clearly I don’t know.
My first, from-the-gut instinct is that yes, you do give up the right to self-destruct when you become a parent. But we’re only human. Things happen, we make bad choices, we’re not always as healthy as we can be.
So what obligation do we have to our children?
I know that after my experience I pay attention to my own mental health more. I know I need time to myself and I need to better balance responsibilities with my husband, so I make sure to do that, with his support.
I pay attention to my reactions, and when I get too close to that line where patience is thin and my voice is sharp, I take a deep breath.
I ask for help more.
I try to get enough sleep, because I know that makes a difference for me.
I used to think being a mother meant giving up everything for my child. Putting his needs first, always, and not acknowledging my own. But now I know that’s not it, because in doing that I did almost self-destruct. And as much as I want to avoid ever feeling like that again, my main motivation now is my son. I need to be well, and I do feel that with him in my life I gave up the right to be anything but.