Think about this for a moment: Is it really possible to love your children without loving yourself, or to love yourself without loving your children?
The answer is no.
If you are ignoring yourself to take care of your children, this is not loving to your children or to yourself. While being there for your children is very important, it is equally important to role model for them what it is like to take responsibility for your own well-being. If you take care of your children but do not take care of your own feelings and needs, they will not learn how to take responsibility for their feelings and needs. They will grow up either expecting someone else to take care of them, or they will care-take others while ignoring themselves – just as you do.
On the other hand, if you are narcissistic and just attend to what you want, ignoring your children’s feelings and needs, you are not being loving to yourself or your children. You cannot possibly end up feeling worthy and valuable within yourself when you are self-centered and ignore your children’s needs.
If you are approving of your children but judgmental toward yourself, your children will likely learn to be judgmental toward themselves. You are their role model, and they will likely learn to do what you do. If you treat them well but treat yourself badly, there is a good possibility that they will learn to treat themselves badly, no matter how loving you are with them.
If you want to be a loving parent with your children, it is essential that you also learn to be a loving parent with yourself. This does not mean that you ignore your children’s needs in favor or your own, or vise versa. What it does mean is that you learn to create a balance between taking care of them and taking care of yourself. While this is not always possible, especially with infants, it is certainly a goal to aim for.
This may mean that they don’t always get what they want just when they want it – once they are old enough to play by themselves. It means that sometimes you say to them things like:
“I need some time alone for myself now and you need to play by yourself for awhile.”
“We (you and your spouse) need some time alone together right now so you need to find something to do.”
“I’m on the phone and this is important to me. What you want will have to wait.”
“Daddy and I (or Mommy and I) are talking about something that is important to us. Please don’t interrupt us right now.”
“I need to go to sleep early tonight because I have to get up early for an important appointment, so please do not make noise and wake me up.”
As a parent, you need to learn to respect your own feelings and needs as well as theirs. By honoring your feelings and needs as well as theirs, they will learn to take responsibility for their own feelings and needs while also respecting and honoring others’ feelings and needs.
Many people have been taught that taking care of their own feelings and needs is selfish – that they should just be there for others. This is a false definition of selfish. We are being selfish when we expect others to give themselves up for us. We are being self-responsible when lovingly take care of ourselves while also caring about others.
You serve your children well when you learn to stay tuned into to their feelings and needs as well as your own. You have a good chance of raising caring and personally responsible children when you learn to care about yourself while taking loving care of them.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or email her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone Sessions Available.