• Wed, Mar 12 - 11:00 am ET

I Am Not Sorry That I Love Myself More Than My Kids

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I am kind of new to this self-love thing. I’m a child of divorce and have struggled with self-esteem and anxiety my entire life. I’m sure many people can relate.

I’ve heard it said before that having a kid won’t solve your problems, it will only magnify them. Meaning, if you were a jerk before kids, then you’ll still be a jerk after kids—and maybe you’ll become an even bigger jerk as you hover over your special snowflake at recess. If you were unhappy before kids, then you’ll still be unhappy after kids when you realize that they don’t actually make your life complete as all of your Facebook friends claim.

But there is a brighter side to this depressing picture, a new reality that I’m just figuring out for myself. When I became a mother, all of my issues got even bigger. I was even more anxious. I was even more insecure. I felt even guiltier about every little thing that I did or didn’t do for my new baby. I was even more terrified about screwing up this blank slate of a kid that had been given to me.

I have spent the past two years as a mother thinking about what I want to rub off on my kid. As a baby grows into a toddler and starts to mimic everything you do, it becomes evident that they are going to be influenced by your morals, your beliefs, and your attitude. Sure, your toddler will one day grow into adult and have to make decisions for himself, but until that day, you will be his number one example.

All of these ideas are nothing new in the parenting community: Teach by your actions and not by your words. But it’s not until you find yourself in the situation of watching a little person look up to you and scrutinize every move that you make that you realize—SHIT, I really am his role model.

I have to qualify this by saying that I don’t have daughters; I have two sons. But I don’t think that matters one bit when it comes to instilling self-confidence and self-worth in a kid. Men suffer from low self-esteem just as much as women, in my humble opinion. Women may make their issues more obvious in the way that they dress and personal struggles with body image. I know this firsthand because I have dealt with an eating disorder myself.

As I look at my son and see that he is looking up to me, I realize that my self-love is the most important thing. This sounds incredibly cheesy, but it must be said. It all goes back to the old example of putting on your own oxygen mask first during a plane crash before you attempt to help those around you—even small children.

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  • Kendra

    I can see where you’re trying to go with this, but from my personal experience, I have to slightly disagree. I have struggled with low self-esteem for most of my life. I certainly wasn’t any closer to loving myself before my daughter was born. However, having her has taught me so much about appreciating and loving myself. I see her and think to myself “Would I want her to think she is ugly? To hate her face that I think is so perfect?” The answer is obviously NO. So, why have I been doing that to my mom all these years? Why have I been wishing to look more like Jessica Alba, when I have a face that is only mine (well, and my mothers). There is only one of YOU, and I do agree that we need to love and appreciate our unique characteristics as more than “flaws”. I am not totally there yet. So, where I disagree is that you can’t give your full love to your children before you love yourself. I love my daughter more than I ever even knew was possible, and I would give my life for hers in a heartbeat. I am working on loving myself, and making strides every day, but it has never diminished my ability to love her.

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety since my late teens and my son is what I wish I could be. I am moody, anxious, introverted and yes, depressed at times and seeing how happy he is, how friendly he is and how hopeful he is makes me more aware of my own behavior and personality and work to make positive changes.

    • Kendra

      Hahaha, are you me?? Moody, anxious, and introverted are my top 3 traits ;) But you’re right. Even just dealing with the post-partum belly sagging issues. I don’t want my daughter growing up like I did and thinking that once you have a baby, your stomach just returns to rock-solid abs (let’s just pretend that it was previously rock-solid abs). I want her to see my body and see me embracing it, and I hope she will feel the same about her own. Every step toward being more positive is a step in the right direction!

  • Guest

    I like this post a lot. I think you’re definitely not setting the example you want for your kids if you’re having self esteem issues. To be the best example possible you want to be yourself what you would want for your kids- be it happy, healthy, good relationship with self-image or food or whatever. I think that has been the biggest eye-opener for me is that I expect more of my children than I have of myself so I really need to step up my game set the expectations with my own actions.

  • Tinyfaeri

    Between my child, my husband and myself (or my parents, our nieces and nephews, my in-laws, etc), I don’t really see a point in trying to figure out who I love more or why. It’s important to make time for yourself and take care of yourself, but I don’t really get the current trend of declaring that “I love my husband more than my kids!” or “I love myself more than my kids!” It’s usually said in the same defensive tone used in the title of this post, and just seems weird to feel the need to say or even think about enough to make a decision about.

    It’s all about balance, I guess. I’ve been making the time to exercise because it’s good for me and I need to do it, I went a few states away to see my best friend a few weeks ago, my husband and I go on dates about once a month or so, and we try to make time for just each other each day. That said, in a house fire, I’m going for my daughter first.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I don’t see it as defensive If it’s something that rings true for me or anyone else. I think that this point of view brings balance, especially since I have had the impression that a mother is supposed to be selfless to the point of self-neglect. Maybe other mothers have a better grasp on this balance, but I don’t. I’m still trying to figure it out.

    • Kendra

      I think this is coming from one of those constant “mom issues” where if you love your kids more than yourself, you’re a mommy martyr and/or sanctimommy. And if you love yourself more than your kids, then you must be selfish and egotistical. Any position on this topic is probably going to come off sounding defensive because there is so much judgment coming from both sides.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thanks for clarifying. :) This was just an important self discovery for me.

    • WriterLady

      The idea of loving yourself more than your child is more of a euphemism than a literal expression of how one would prefer to parent. It is in the same vein of the adage “if mom or dad is not happy or content, then it’s hard for the children to be.” This concept has nothing to do with selfishness. I know fewer than a handful of women who I would consider to be selfish moms, and they are the types who often spend every possible moment going out partying and such. I do know more significantly more who are the martyr types, however. By martyr, I don’t at all mean stay-at-home mom or doting parent who attends every athletic event. I am talking about women who devote every living, breathing moment to their children. And, frankly, I have a hard time believing these women are truly happy.

      In the 1950s, when women were expected to do everything for their kids and husband (with no time for themselves), the perception of the perfectly harmonious, happy home life ala the “Ozzie and Harriet show” turned out to be a fraud. The Rolling Stones song “Mother’s Little Helper” talks about when moms running for shelter–with the ‘shelter’ being the doctor, and the ‘helper’ being Valium. So, there are real dangers to not striving for self-love and time for oneself.

    • WriterLady

      What on Earth?! This was my own post, and I accidentally messaged it to the wrong person. I tried to delete it, and it came up saying deleted. Now, it’s showing up as a duplicate, with this one signed on as “Guest.” Sorry! I have no idea how that was even possible, and I can’t delete this because I don’t know who “Guest” is. Haha!!!

    • Tinyfaeri

      The preemptive “I’m not sorry” bit comes across as defensive to me. Life is all a balancing act for anyone, kids or no kids, and I don’t know anyone who has it all figured out. Like I said, I just don’t get the idea of trying to figure out who you love more… But if it works for you, then rock on with your BAMF self!

    • WriterLady

      The idea of loving yourself more than your child is more of a euphemism than a literal expression of how one would prefer to parent or should parent. It is in the same vein of the adage “if mom or dad is not happy or content, then it’s hard for the children to be.” This concept has nothing to do with selfishness. I know fewer than a handful of women who I would consider to be selfish moms, and they are the types who often spend every possible moment going out partying and such. I do know more significantly more who are the martyr types, however. By martyr, I don’t at all mean stay-at-home mom or doting parent who attends every athletic event. I am talking about women who devote every living, breathing moment to their children. And, frankly, I have a hard time believing these women are truly happy.

      In the 1950s, when women were expected to do everything for their kids and husband (with no time for themselves), the perception of the perfectly harmonious, happy home life ala the “Ozzie and Harriet show” turned out to be a fraud. The Rolling Stones song “Mother’s Little Helper” talks about when moms running for shelter–with the ‘shelter’ being the doctor, and the ‘helper’ being Valium. So, there are real dangers to not striving for self-love and time for oneself.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Right. Who said otherwise? All I was saying is that I find the “I love X more” talk useless for me, not that taking care of yourself or being kind to yourself was bad (I said the opposite above), or that you should give up yourself for your kid (never said anything of the sort). If it works for you to sort it out in your own head that you love yourself or your marriage or your pet rock more than your kids, more power to you. And usually, when someone starts off saying they feel a certain way and they’re not sorry for it before they’re actually criticized for having that opinion in a certain environment (like in the title), that comes across as defensive to me.

    • WriterLady

      “If it works for you to sort it out in your own head that you love yourself or your marriage or your pet rock more than your kids, more power to you.”

      You can read my own post on my personal position and experience with this issue, and you will see that your comment does not to apply to me—or anyone else on this board, for that matter (at least from what I’ve observed thus far). It’s quotes like the one you provided above that initiate a certain level of defensiveness, because people will always be judged for having non-mainstream opinions. And they know that going into the trenches. I think the titles or headlines of these articles sometimes cause people to miss the point of the actual content within the articles, as they are often strongly worded. Nobody has said anything substantive (including the author) about the need to love oneself more than her child. What is important, though, is recognizing that allowing the status quo notion of moms needing to do everything for the family, all the time, often leads to serious consequences, like depression and anxiety.

    • Tinyfaeri

      What is judgy about “if it works for you, more power to you”? That’s the opposite of judgmental. I really don’t understand where you’re reading that I think we should go back to the ’50s and have women be totally self-sacrificing while popping pills to stave off depression and anxiety. I’m going to leave it at: I hope you have a nice day/afternoon/evening.

    • WriterLady

      I thought that particular statement seemed a little judgmental (again, not for me specifically), because it negates the principle previously stated: That this “love thyself more than the children” notion is really an analogy or euphemism, rather than a literal concept, and that some people will run with the title of the article and not see the point in the analogy. You seem to grasp that notion, based on your other ideas (i.e., the need for balance), but that one quote set the discussion back a bit. I won’t dwell on it, but I can see where others might see it as a little counterintuitive to the rest of your statements. Trust me, I’ve said sarcastic things that I didn’t mean to be taken a certain way, but it happens. It’s hard to communicate the tone of certain ideas over the Internet.

      Also, my main goal in replying to you was just to have a debate about my opinions on the matter and what I believe is the author’s rationale (as I believe she and I share similar sentiments and experiences). When I engage someone in a debate, I’m not necessarily insinuating that the other person either disagrees with me or has invalid viewpoints. In fact, I often respond to people who I feel have things of the most substance to say or are the most interesting, even if I don’t share the same beliefs or thoughts. I’m rambling a bit (a lot, actually!), but the examples I provided—the TV show and Rolling Stones’ song—weren’t just for your benefit. I replied to you for a few reasons and just so happened to add other thoughts on the topic in general, seeing as other people will likely read through the comments. In neither of the examples did I insinuate that you were opposed to them. It’s just a debate. Have a nice evening yourself.

    • Kendra

      I’m glad you said that, because when I used to hang out on the pregnancy chat boards, there was always a constant discussion of who do you love more, or if you had to choose someone to die, would you pick yourself or your unborn child? Or would you pick your child or your husband? I always have wondered why people are thinking about these horrible things for entertainment.

    • Tinyfaeri

      I’m going to save everyone with my magical powers! ;-)

    • Kendra

      If you’ve got magical powers, you can just stop all the bad things from happening all together, right?? Save the entire world!!!!!

    • Tinyfaeri

      I’m gonna need more coffee.

    • Megan Zander

      When I was young, like 6, my mom asked me this same question only using my teddy bear and my baby sister as the potential victims. I told her I would throw Teddy out the window, then the baby, so she’d have something soft to land on. She was not impressed with my level of sibling devotion.

    • Kendra

      OMG! Why would you ask a 6 year old that question?? That’s so crazy to me! I’ll be sure to write that down on my list of things not to ask my kids :)

    • Megan Zander

      Eh, in her defense, I REALLY love that bear. I still have him!

    • Kendra

      Hahaha, that’s okay, I still have one of my bears too. I almost passed him down to my daughter, but I couldn’t. #pathetic.

    • Jell

      Right on!
      When I was a kid I would have totally saved the family dog in preference to any potential human victim. I loved that damn dog.

    • K.

      I share your opinion on this and it’s because (as Bethany points out), I don’t really have a mommy-martyr complex.

  • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

    Beth, you’re absolutely right. One cannot love others if you don’t love yourself.

    Ultimately, your children just.wanna know what love is, and they want you to show them. They also wanna feel what love is, and they know you can show them.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I know what you’re doing… and I like it.

    • Valerie

      Foreigner. Nice.

    • LiteBrite

      Unless they’re cold as ice.

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      It Feels Like the First Time I said it, but without love, you’re just Long, Long Way from Home

    • LiteBrite

      Even dirty white boys need urgent love.

      (Btw, I have all these Foreigner songs in my head now. And I hate Foreigner.)

  • C

    You lost me after “child of divorce”. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Using that as an excuse…you might as well be saying “as a child that grew up under a blue sky”.

    • Megan Zander

      Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact. Divorce, disordered eating, anxiety- there are a lot of really common things that can greatly effect who we are.

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      And not all divorces are created equal. My parents split when I was 5, no custody battle and stable visitation. My mom was not in depression, we stayed in the marital home and I have few recollections of life before.
      It was an excellent divorce.
      Throw in custody disputes, financial collapse, moving, fluctuating new romantic partners or disagreeable stepfamilies, and any of types of common divorce nonsense and you got yourself a legit gripe.

    • Bethany Ramos

      So then even more people should relate to this? Let’s not start the Suffering Olympics. Everyone’s experience is valid.

    • Kendra

      Actually….the Suffering Olympics sounds kind of fun. I mean, it’s a chance for those of us who are terribly uncoordinated to participate!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Ha! Yes, let’s. Who has it worse…

    • Kendra

      I’ll start off with my classic gem:
      A dog bit me in the face when I was 1 1/2 and I had to have 7 stitches!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH THE AGONY!!!!!!!!! #traumatized4lyfe

    • Megan Zander

      Mine turn! My dad gave me boiling soup when I was four, which I spilled on myself and got third degree burns.I still can’t feel anything on my left ankle, but I got to do whirlpool therapy for months, which to a five year old was AWESOME! #chickennoodlemakesmetremble

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      I had a kidney stone when I was 14! I’m told the principal carried me to my mom’s car.
      #firstexperiencewithdemerol #actuallynowaitthatwasawesome

    • Kendra

      Because you said principal, I’m throwing this one out there! In high school, I fainted in class and when doing soon, I peed my pants. My sister had to drive me home so that I could change and come back.

    • Kendra

      Oops, when doing so** I don’t know why I can’t type.

    • Megan Zander

      YOU WENT BACK TO SCHOOL?!

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      Passing out sucks, peeing your pants is terrible, doing it at school is horrifying, but the fact you had to go back to school after you got changed is what gets me. You win!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Kendra is crowned the winner of the Suffering Olympics!

    • Kendra

      Yes, I totally did go back to school and I played it off like nothing happened. My mom, on the other hand, was bawling about how terrible it must be for me and how all the kids were going to pick on me. She’s a HUGE help obvs. I could share with you folks at least 10 good “I passed out” stories, but this one is the only one that involves peeing, therefore, it’s the best.
      I’M SO GLAD I WON!!!!!!!!!!! I knew I could compete in SOMETHING!

    • Bethany Ramos

      My pillow is really lumpy, and I’m too lazy to buy a new one on Amazon!! Also, see #poopcruise post. ;)

      ETA: These are my current problems that trigger my childhood issues.

    • Megan Zander

      And with that horrible tale of woe and survival in the face of extreme adversity, I forfeit. No contest.

    • Bethany Ramos

      LOL!

    • Kendra

      My pillows are flat. The hubs and I fight over them every night. (I win).

    • Valerie

      I giggle every time you type poop cruise.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Lol – that stupid poop cruise post from yesterday had me laughing all day!

    • Valerie

      Totes. I kept picturing an actual cruise ship with like, poop people. Like they were just walking around wearing clothes and enjoying the scenary. Like Mr. Potato Head people. Only poop.

    • Véronique Houde

      You mean Mr. Hanky then ;)

    • Tinyfaeri

      At least you don’t have cancer AND a gunshot wound AND a broken leg AND a tumor the size of a basketball growing on your face AND are a child of divorce!

      :/

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      Troll Fail

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I think ultimately when someone who genuinely values themselves gives their love it means a lot more to the recipient, and feels better.
    Children are no different, I think. While they’ll always love their parents and want to be loved back, it’s not a good feeling to be loved by someone who doesn’t like themselves. You can feel too much of their self worth riding on you (You achieving, you always liking them, you always being around, you looking good to others, you representing their good parenting). It’s uncomfortable or can create anxiety, and while a kid may not be able to articulate it, they can sense it.
    It’s not just about setting a good example. Having decent self-worth improves not the amount, but the quality of the love you can give because then your love is not coming out of a void that needs to be filled.
    And like so much else in life, self love falls on a spectrum. It’s not a you have-it-or-you-don’t quality, and it’s possible to have too much too. A little self doubt is normal and healthy, I think. No one should think they’re 100% awesome because no one is.

  • Valerie

    Oh, my Bethany. I hate that you ever struggle with feelings of low self-esteem because I think you are all shades of awesome. And I do agree with what you are saying. Loving myself and taking care of myself makes me happy and my being happy is so critical to loving my children the way they deserve. Hit the nail on the head.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Awww thank you, and I love you! You really made my day. :)

    • Valerie

      *kisses*

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      Go on…

    • Valerie

      We were discussing waxing my b-hole yesterday. Things could go in an intimate direction any minute now, stay tuned.

    • Bethany Ramos

      HAHHAHA #groupondildo (now it has gone too far)

    • Valerie

      Nah. We’re all family here.

    • Taxes Make Kittens Cry

      Continue…

    • Valerie

      Your move, Ramos.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Throw in some vagina spraying…

    • Valerie

      Add in the crochet penis holder and I’m game. Although I don’t know how we would work that in. But I want it to happen.

  • jane

    I like this article, and I agree with the sentiment, but I do feel like the title is “click-baity” (as a lot of titles have become lately.) I think it’s a totally valid viewpoint that you have to love yourself before you can truly love others (although I’m not sure that I agree with it). But “I love me MORE than I love my kids” just leads to clicking because people expect an article about someone who feels entitled to spend her last $15 on a pedicure instead of a winter coat because “Damnit, I’m important.”

    Honestly, even the navigation bar says “moms, love yourself before you…” It doesn’t have to be a competition, and it doesn’t have to be a fight between the “love self more” and “love kids more.” I promise, I like mommyish – I’ll stick around and read the articles even if they don’t have aggressive titles.

  • Angela

    Meh, kids should not always come first and neither should grown ups. I’ve seen the pendulum swing to both extremes and neither one is pretty. Moms can and should have lives outside of their children and kids do need to learn that not everything revolves around them. Being a martyr mommy isn’t going to help anyone. On the other hand I once worked with a single mom who went out 3-4 nights every single week because she “needed a life of her own.” She would complain when her son’s teacher would ask her to spend more (or any) time helping him with his homework. Then she’d whine when her daughter was upset with her for blowing off every single one of her soft ball games so that she could go out with guys she’d just met online. Her excuse was always that she needed to take care of herself first and that no one understands how hard it is to be a single mom.

    I’ve probably known about as many martyr moms as selfish moms. Most moms I know take turns at both at least to some degree. I know I have. Balance is the key but finding it can be pretty damn complicated.

  • K.

    Said it once; saying it again:

    No child wants to feel responsible for Mom & Dad’s happiness.

    You want to encourage your children to grow up and NOT need you. If your identity and purpose is based on being their parent, then you run the risk of making them feel like their growing need for independence is responsible for your own unhappiness/lack of self-definition. I’m not saying that you need iron-clad self-esteem or that you can’t be a SAHM whose daily duties are usually about childcare and house management; I’m simply saying that you should at least model for your child being a whole person who believes their own desires and aspirations are worth nurturing.

    Loving and cherishing your child IS synonymous with loving and cherishing yourself as an independent person and individual.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Very well said.

    • K.

      Thank you! I loved the post :)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Double thank you!! That means a lot. :)

  • WriterLady

    I feel like I could have written this post myself. After giving birth to my son in 2010, I struggled a little with post-partum anxiety. I tried a few medications, and nothing really helped. During my 8 weeks of maternity leave, I felt paralyzed at times. As a slightly older mother (I was 30 when I gave birth), my whole life previously had been devoted to working, partying, running/jogging, and a few other hobbies. Suddenly, I was not only tasked with raising a child (having almost zero prior experience at all with watching children), but I was also afraid that I was losing my identity. I didn’t recognize this at the time, of course, but it is quite evident now—4 years later. This may sound horrible, but I did not particularly enjoy parts of my maternity leave. When you have a newborn, and you’re all by yourself in the middle of the winter for 9 hours straight, you have little to do but sit and worry and think and over-analyze and wonder what the future holds. Which is exactly what I did—to my own detriment, as well as my family’s.

    The day I returned to work, I cried a little when I dropped my son off at daycare, but I also felt some relief. It wasn’t so much reconnecting with my coworkers, but it was the fact that I needed to find myself again, as corny and cliche as that sounds. Although my son was a very easy baby (slept well, wasn’t colicky, etc.), there was a strange mixture of monotony and fear that went along with being at home with him all day long during my leave from work. At the age that he is now, I think things would be somewhat different had I done the stay-at-home mom route (because he’s old enough to play and engage with me, even if the disciplinary aspects make things tough at times). Bottom line: I was the type of mom that followed the adage that “if mom’s not happy, nobody is.” I believe the same to be true for dads. Personally, I needed a balance in my life in order to not go completely crazy. Other friends have said the opposite: that going back to work would terrify them. And that’s fine. We are all so different. I dropped the partying altogether (which I do not miss) and no longer have time for many of my hobbies, but I’m hoping to reintroduce aspects of some of these things back into my life. For example, I’ve had a week off after an eight-month-long project, and I’ve enjoyed reading all of the posts on Mommyish and commenting quite a bit. I also want to start running again and meeting friends for dinner on occasion. None of that will get in the way of my parenting, though, because my son will always have my utmost attention and love. I just don’t need to be chained to his side all day, every day. Thanks for posting…it’s a breath if fresh air to hear others who have similar sentiments!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you so much for sharing! We are also glad you are here. :) I definitely understand where you are coming from, ESPECIALLY the “monotony and fear.” Been there.

    • WriterLady

      Thank you! :)

  • MamaLlama

    This needs to be handed to anyone thinking about reproducing! And PS, I think you read my mind some days. I just decided i needed to go to therapy again this weekend. Its been a few years, but I’ve slowly been heading down the slippery slope of self-hate. That self-hate that makes me hate my body, ignore my husband, and be short with my children. Now I just need to get the courage to call and make an appointment.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you! I really recommend therapy – I am doing Skype therapy with a local office, which may be an option you want to check out? It just seems a little less threatening to me. Best of luck!! :)

  • JLH1986

    Just as in a romantic relationship, if you aren’t happy, how can you expect a partner to make you happy? The same applies for kids. If you love yourself, your kids will see this and will know to love themselves (warts, love handles and all). It won’t be perfect and there will slips and falls. But knowing that you have value and worth all on your own, not just because you have kids will make life much happier, especially when your toddler is a teenager and now ones sole identity is no longer “mom”.