The lesson I learnt from the family shoes, how wellies can radicalise your self care and why your children need a mom who puts herself first.
A few weeks ago I posted a story to Instagram featuring the family wellie tray.
As a family we’re lucky enough to spend a lot of time outside, we’ve a big garden, five chickens and two giant dogs, every one of these things demand lots of care and attention; regardless of the weather!
Alfie has wellies, Daddy has a chunky pair of water proof work books and Mummy has…a pair of mismatched flip-flops!
When I noticed this difference between how well I was making sure my family were cared for and how I was caring for myself I laughed it off with an eye roll! My natural tendency is towards chaos as opposed to organisation so this was just another way my worst trait was manifested.
When Alfie was born I tried hard to protect him from this side of myself as it was a habit I picked up in childhood that I’ve had to fight against all my life. I’ve rarely found any joy in trait, in fact quite the opposite- I was the kid who was late for school or couldn’t find my homework and no one wants to be that kid. My predisposition towards a lack of organisation and preparation is partially what led us to Montessori in the first place, I needed a barrier method between my messiness and how I raised my son.
However something happened that changed how I perceived our shoe tray.
Alfie walked into the garage and picked up his wellie boots, he brought them to his chair and said “Alfa”, delighted I said “Yes Alfie those are your boots!” Then he pointed to Daddy’s boots and said “Dada”, thrilled once more I said “Yes Alfie, they’re Daddy’s for when he’s out gardening!” Next he pointed at my flip-flops, which by this stage had been chewed by one of the dogs “Mama” he said.
In that instant I saw how I was presenting myself to Alfie; as the person in the family who mattered least, the one who could have freezing cold feet and no one would care, the person who didn’t deserve a matching pair of shoes. (I should hasten to point out that this is NOT how I am treated by any member of my immediate or extended family!)
That moment was sobering. I was disturbed not just by how I was presenting myself to Alfie but also by how I was teaching him to treat himself.
From my utter disregard for myself he was learning that it was ok to put others first, it was ok to prioritise the needs the others, that it was ok if everyone else was safe and cosy while you shivered in half-eaten beach shoes in the snow, it was ok if you always came last.
Children learn everything from us their role models including how to have and maintain relationships. From my example Alfie was learning that if you love someone you put them WAY above yourself and let yourself come last.
I read so many eye-roll posts about motherhood and self care (most involve taking a bath and improvising a facial from the kitchen cupboard) but what matters most in our self-care ritual is it’s longevity and it’s visibility. As mother’s our self care is important not just because it keeps us mentally healthy but because it communicates to two things to our children
- Mummy Matters – we must show our kids that Mum is important in the family and should be treated with the same respect and care as anyone else
- You Matter – It’s important that our kids understand how to love someone without putting themselves last, how to balance love of others with love of self.
So I bought some wellies.
I wrote before about teaching Alfie that I priorities during the day apart from his whims and that some of them are for myself (read more here Being a Present Parent) and I think both of these lessons will stand to him as he establishes his own relationships in later years.