The other day I was at a meeting for one of my son's teams and we had pizza all around. One of the other moms sat down next to me with a piece of sausage pizza (what did you think the title was referring to?). Her 15 year old daughter came up and started picking off the sausage from the slice like a seagull. The pizza was stripped down within seconds to just the cheese. So I said something along the lines of "If you don't like sausage there are other kinds up there..." and the mom looked at me and said "No. I love sausage pizza but I don't get it very often because the kids pick off all the good stuff so I always just end up with cheese anyhow".
Now, I'm an only child so this just naturally seemed nutters to me. I mean I don't mind sharing but when I purposely get something I like I make sure I get some of it too. They might get one piece of sausage from my slice but after that man, get your hands off! I mean if I taste something amazing I say "here, try this" and I share a bite. I DO NOT take a bite and then say "This is amazing - here, I want you to eat it all while I watch".
Because that's as good as saying "I don't deserve something this good. In fact, your happiness is so obviously worth more than mine." And then we say "seeing them happy is all the joy I need", which quite frankly is a lie because I know that deep down inside I really just wanted to enjoy my piece of sausage pizza.
Don't gasp and judge me here - I know being a mother is supposed to be all about sacrificing things for your kids. But if you give away ALL of your sausage (or time or energy or money or whatever) you are not being a better parent or a better person. You're not nourishing the child - I bet the child already has plenty without taking all of yours. You're not teaching respect - a respectful person doesn't take everything, they know to give and receive equally. Most importantly, you're not showing yourself respect - self respect means you know that you deserve as much happiness as those around you. What you are doing is depleting yourself unnecessarily. Now I know that sausage might not seem like a big deal but it's indicative of a bigger picture.
It's part of our fatal flaw as women - we're expected to give and nurture and then give some more, often to the expense of ourselves. Think for a minute - how many other places are you giving away pieces of your joy to an excess? I don't mean sharing your joy because that feels great and it makes everyone happy - I mean stripping it all down until you're left with just the bread? Do you do so much in the service of others that you forget yourself? You make lunches for the wee ones but forget to eat yourself. You help others fix their computers only to find your printer is out of toner and then run out to get more so that they can print. You take the seat facing into the sun. You do the dishes when your favorite show is on tv. You volunteer for positions because no one else is stepping up to take them. You let your kids pick off your favorite toppings from your pizza.
At the end of the day, you're depleted and stressed and over-extended. And all it takes to stop the madness is shifting just a little from 'give it all' to 'sharing an appropriate amount'. An appropriate amount is always moving and shifting - a fine balance between sharing, being generous and giving it all away.
So start with the small things. Start telling yourself that you're worth as much as those you love by letting the gulls take one piece of sausage then slapping their beaks away so you can enjoy your piece of pizza. Ask for the good chair from time to time. Serve yourself first. The little changes in your attitude will start spilling into the bigger areas so that at the end of the day you just may have some reserve energy left.