It’s my turn now.
‘What do those words even mean? I know what each individual word means, but I’m having trouble processing what the phrase means to me.’ These are commonly heard responses when I ask women clients to say the words out loud to themselves.
Starting as young girls, we observe and absorb family, societal and generational expectations that we become nurturers. Take care of your little brother, help out around the house, be a helper to your mother, call your grandparents, go help the neighbor-most women today would recognize these phrases and doubtless more. "It's just what I do" they tell me. Tending to everyone's every need is a wonderful characteristic; being the Superhero Kool-aid Mom is an aspiration for many. And, for those who do not have children, by choice or by Gd, there is still a going-out of oneself. The Nurture Syndrome manifests in other ways-as the person at work who ‘has the time' and does it all, or the volunteer at church who never says no. But virtually most women feel they fall short.
Stay-at-home moms lose themselves. External career- path moms live with incessant guilt. Each thinks the other has it better: "I wish I could just make the cookies and bring them in for the classroom activity." "I wish I could dress up in a suit and go to a business luncheon with other adults."
Along the way, while nurturing others-doing more, giving more, tending more-you begin to forego the things you used to love. Playing softball, hiking or running, spending weekends baking, going out with friends shopping, even just long phone calls with your sister/friend talking about life. 'Self' gets hidden or buried while 'other' takes precedence in your mind and in your life. It's slow, insidious, and by the time a decade passes, you're lost in the rote behavior. You move this way on autopilot, further depleting the self for another decade or more.
Then, something happens that wakes you up. Perhaps it's empty-nesting, turning age 50, losing your best-friend mom, or an illness. Suddenly, you become aware of your lost self…I used to love to read for hours on end…I remember how praying for 20 minutes every morning grounded me…When was the last time I wrote a letter to my Aunt? I used to tell her everything.
What would happen if you said “It’s my turn now” and honored those words? Does it mean you are forsaking everyone else or your responsibilities? No, of course not. We’re women! It’s impossible to not care for and about others. But in honoring those words, we’ll take back our self-power. In so doing, we’ll be more impactful, more persuasive, more productive-the world will win when we take back our self-power. Putting the oxygen mask on yourself first shores you up to help others as you are meant to do.