Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
Having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.
Are you a selfless mother or a selfish mother? On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you rate? A 1 is a fully selfless mother – one who never thinks of herself, only her children. A 10 is a fully selfish mother – only concerned about herself regardless of the impact on her family:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Ok, we’ll come back to your number at the end of the article.
Now, there is a vast gulf between selfish and selfless. As mothers, we would never want to be only concerned about ourselves, regardless of what is best for our children. We know we are responsible for the welfare of our babies and our kids. We absolutely want to do what is best for THEM.
And yet we know we should and deserve to take care of ourselves too. Intellectually, we get that. But, there is something deeply ingrained that has us believing that selfless is noble, selfless must make you a better mother. We are afraid of being too selfish.
I find that there is an inherent either/or with selfless and selfish. Most moms feel deep down inside that you can take care of yourself OR you can take care of your kids. In my experience of working with hundreds of mothers and moms-to-be across the country, being too selfish is not the issue. The issue usually is about moms who are too busy, moms who have angst about taking time for themselves, moms who beat themselves up for not doing a better job, and moms who forget who they are or haven’t bothered to think about it in way too long.
Yes, there are moms out there who are too selfish.
Just read the Nanny Diaries. But most moms are incredibly earnest, dedicated women struggling to figure out how to balance their responsibility for themselves with their responsibility for their children.
I would like to find some new term that captures a “both/and” spirit. One that embodies being devoted to and caring for oneself AND being devoted to and caring for your unborn child, the little bundle in your arms or those kids who are growing up faster than you can believe.
I tried finding a great word in the dictionary and I didn’t have much success. The closest I got was “self-centered.” One of the definitions was “centered in oneself or itself.” Now that’s what I’m getting at!
This is about putting yourself in the center, remembering who you are and what makes you shine, so that you can bring your best to your kids. It’s about self respect and respect for your children – it’s mutual respect. It’s also about balance, but the kind of balance that creates stability and a foundation for everyone.
Every mother is working a balance between selfless and selfish. Finding the perfect balance for your life brings enormous benefits for you and your family. So, we need to figure out the right balance for you.
Take a look at the number you selected above – where you fall on the selfless/selfish spectrum. Think about where you want to be. What’s the spot that will create a win/win for your family? Go ahead and pick a number that feels right for both your heart and your head. Write it down.
Now look at how that balance really could create a win/win for your family. It doesn’t matter what stage of motherhood you are in – this is as important for a mom-to-be as a mom with kids in high school! Write “Benefits” on your piece of paper and scribble down some thoughts. How can your family benefit if you are more rested? If you are healthy? If you are connected to friends? If you are laughing more? If you are fulfilling some vital piece of yourself that is crying out for attention?
And don’t forget the benefits of teaching and modeling for your children self responsibility, love of one’s self, and great self care. Think of what they can learn as you model what it looks like when everyone’s needs are met.
Now, if you fell on the selfish end of the spectrum and need to shift over towards selfless – just reverse it. What are the benefits YOU will receive by giving more to your baby or kids? It works both ways.
Finally, I want you to think of one action you are willing to take this week to shift the balance – to move towards that both/and place. What can you do that puts a stake in the ground for a beautiful balance? Write it down and commit to doing that one action.
I am asking you to be completely centered in yourself – who you really are and taking full responsibility for that. For the benefit of all.
I absolutely want to hear what action you have decided to take and support you in finding the right balance between selfless and selfish!
Amy Kovarick is a life coach, author and host of The Empowered Mother Internet radio show. For more from Amy, visit www.empoweredmotherhood.com and listen to the show. Got a question for Amy? Email her at