I would say that I never truly understood “love” until I became a mother. I loved my husband more than anything/anyone I had ever loved before in my life, but this was something bigger, magical even. The idea that I would sacrifice so much of myself for the existence of these beautiful beings was incomprehensible prior to living it.
As my children have aged and I have parented through a few things, I have learned that I had not truly been loving myself. It was heartbreaking to watch my oldest get frustrated with herself and feel “not good enough” when she did not perform her best at something. It was heartbreaking to watch my middle child manage her fears and anxiety, but we are doing it together and with great compassion. It’s heartbreaking to watch my youngest feel left out when he so badly wants to be included and feel like he belongs with his sisters and their friends, but together we find ways to help him get involved and feel good without necessarily being right in the mix. I realized that I experience all of these things and mostly meet myself without empathy. I would get frustrated with my anxiety and angry at myself that I couldn’t get it together. Before parenting my way through it, I never understood that if I “failed” at something, but had tried my best, then it wasn’t a failure at all. Thanks to the aforementioned, I always felt different and not good enough and therefore not worthy of being included.
Not until I loved my babies so unconditionally and completely, could I see that I deserved the same. I know the age-old adage that “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself” might argue, but I know that I learned about how true love, looks, feels and acts through parenting. My self-love is a work in progress, but my children are great teachers. With every act of compassion I can offer them, I am able to give the same to me. This is true in my yoga practice as well. In the past, I had been rigid. I had made a plan and regardless of my energy level on a given day, I would expect myself to deliver. Often my practices were demanding and intense. I literally could not relax enough to begin to contemplate a restorative practice. For me to sit in one position and let go was extremely anxiety producing. Now I show up on my mat and ask my body what it needs. If I listen closely it will tell me. This act of self-care, acceptance, and love is what I wish for every person. It is true that when I give myself the love that I deserve, I feel more loved by others; but I am not sure I personally would have found this capacity for self-love if my heart hadn’t been broken open through motherhood. For me loving others is the pathway to loving myself.
Photo: Sophie Jacobson of Love Bucket Photo