When Selfless Love Becomes Self Abuse

When you become a parent, your priorities change. It’s no longer about looking after yourself, it’s about taking care of your little ones and doing what’s best for them.

During pregnancy, I dreaded the thought of this, but the minute I held my gorgeous little baby in my arms, I knew I would give up the world for her. She gave me the desire to be utterly selfless. I wanted to put her first. My goals became entwined in her future and what I wanted her to have.

The problem is, it has become such a way of life, that I don’t care for myself anymore.

Selfless love

As a stay at home mum, my job is to take care of my family. No matter how tired I am, I have to get up when the baby cries. No matter how worn down I am, I have to flash that smile and play hide and seek. No matter how sick or full of cold I am, I have to make food for everyone.

You see, my life evolves around them.

I know this is how it’s supposed to be. It was my choice to become a mum, and I want to do my absolute best for them. It’s maternal instinct. I love being a stay at home mum and I love caring for my family. But, after 6 years of putting everyone else’s needs before mine, an unexpected poison has seeped into my mind:

I don’t matter.

What if…

What sort of mother would I be if I bought each of my children a little present, except one? If I turned to that little child and said, “I’ve already spent lots of money on everyone else so I didn’t get you anything” – what would you think of me?

What if everybody else had time to relax and to play, but I kept saying to that one child of mine, “You can’t play. You’ve got work to do. I don’t care if everyone else is having fun this morning. Can’t you see that big pile of washing that needs sorting out?!”

And what if I let each of my children choose an after school club to puruse their hobbies. But I said to that one child, “There isn’t time for you to have a hobby too. We’re too busy ferrying the other children around and making sure they have the best start in life.”

And what if it was that same child that I singled out time and time and time again? What if I kept saying to that child, “You’re not as important as the others.”

You would think me a monster.

And yet that’s what I do to myself every. single. day.

This isn’t selfless love anymore. This is self abuse.

Selfless love self abuse choice mum

The chain

I deprive myself. I sacrifice my wants and needs so that they can have. Yes, that’s part of being a mummy, but somehow I’ve taken it to the extreme.

It’s not a choice anymore – it’s a chain; a self-inflicted rule that I have to abide by.

I can’t give myself permission to have a break. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to switch off. I don’t know how to relax without feeling guiltyThere are so many other things I should be doing right now. This isn’t a priority. I’ll just have 5 minutes and then I’ll get on.

You are a priority too

Mums – it shouldn’t be like this. We DO matter.

Our kids need us, but they need us to be rested and relaxed. We parent better when we’re happy and chilled out. We need to value ourselves because that is how our children will learn to value themselves.

Yes it’s important to look after them. Yes they often need to be the priority. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feature in the priority list at all. We are still important. We are still deserving. We are still valuable and special. Mums (and dads) need looking after too. Becoming a parent doesn’t make us invincible.

There is still a little child inside you that needs caring for, and needs to be reassured. That child needs to hear that they are worthy

…And yet I can’t help fearing that this self-depreciating, negative thought pattern is too firmly ingrained in me. Will I ever find the balance between selfless love and self-abuse?

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  1. 4
    Paula from Her Life Is Love

    Hi Lucy, I hated feeling underappreciated for all the sacrifices I was making for my family. I actually started blogging again as a way to do stuff for me. There are some aspects that are hard habits to break, but if I change my way of thinking and choose those as ways of expressing my love, it gets a lot better. All in all I think I’ve managed to find a fair balance where I can take care of myself too since no one else will. And let those dishes or cleaning slide. Don’t need that perfect house everyday

  2. 8
    Nicole - Tales from Mamaville

    Very awakening post. I guess it’s something all we mums do/feel but refuse to acknowledge/ do anything about it. But you are so right – we need to care for ourselves too else we’re too drained to care for our family. As a SAHM, I needed to find my individuality again – not as a mother but as a person – and blogging has helped me do that. Even though there’s other stuff to do and even though I could do with more sleep, I blog. Because it makes me happy. It gives me a sense of being me again (even though I blog about motherhood!). Fab post.

    • 9
      Lucy At Home

      Oh yes I’m the same – blogging has given me an identity of my own again, where I can be “Lucy” instead of “Jenny’s mum”. It’s also gives me a space on the internet that it just mine and where I can be boss. Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful comment

  3. 11
    pam lorimer

    I loed reading this as it really strucka nerve. Since having my second and going bacj to work full time I am constanatly run down because I put everyine else first. This year I have planned a lot of things that are jut for me-hen do’s, days out atuff like tht where im going to tey my hardest not to feel guilty for going away ir think of how much il have to do when i get home! Its tough and im not sure we will ever get it right! But good luck and well done on such a hought provoking piece #BlogCrush

    • 12
      Lucy At Home

      Ah thank you for such a lovely comment, Pam. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to put some plans in place to have time for your own hobbies and fun. I think I definitely need to do this too

  4. 13
    Charlene | High Heels And Fairy Tales

    I think we all fall into this crazy, self depriving routine, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. But I love that paragraph you wrote under You are a priority too – “Our kids need us, but they need us to be rested and relaxed. We parent better when we’re happy and chilled out. We need to value ourselves because that is how our children will learn to value themselves.” This is so true! We’re of no good to our kids if we’re worn out and high strung all the time, and this is a great reminder. Thanks for sharing. x #BlogCrush

    • 14
      Lucy At Home

      I’m so glad that the post resonated with you, Charlene. As you say, it’s such an easy trap to fall into. But the more we talk about it and expose it for the unhelpful behaviour that it is, the easier it will be to climb out of that trap… I hope!

  5. 15
    Mackenzie Glanville

    Brilliant post and one many of us mothers need to hear. I kind of touched on a similar issue in my own post this week. Many days I feel like my own worst enemy. I also think it is so important that we show our kids we matter to. Really well written post!!!! Well done xx #blogcrush

    • 16
      Lucy At Home

      Thank you, Mackenzie. Your compliments have put a big smile on your face. I’m sorry to hear that you are battling this issue too. Let’s hope that talking about it helps us to identify the problem and tackle it head-on!

  6. 19
    Daydreams of a mum

    Aaaww it’s so hard when they’re little and it is tricky to break that mental connection where you feel guilty just for sitting down. It’s probably little consolation right now but it does get easier as they get older. My four are all occupying themselves currently, one of them made everyone lunch. . . I’m sat in my room reading blogs, before cleaning and shopping and cooking begins again. You’re worthy of some peace. #BlogCrush

    • 20
      Lucy At Home

      Thank you for the encouragement, Kelly. It’s good to know that it will get easier to have a moment’s peace once the kids are a bit bigger… But I suspect there are all kinds of other problems that appear once they’re older too! Eeek!

  7. 23
    Selena, The Rambler

    THIS was a great read! I had never looked at it in the way you described it as leaving one of the children out. I have the occasional meltdown and my family realizes I’m needing the mommy reset time. #blogcrush

  8. 24
    Angela Watling (Life, Motherhood and Everything)

    It is so, so, so hard to remind yourself that you are important. This post made me feel really sad both for you, myself and all other mums. I have tried so hard over the last 12 – 18 months to remind myself I matter. Yet I still spend most of the evening dashing around. Recently we’ve just had drama after illness after problem. I realised that a side-effect for me was such tense shoulders that I was getting pains in my arm and my hand. So I took a long, hot bath. Then the other day during my lunch break working at home I went for a massage. I’ve felt so much better since. But it’s been such a reality check.

    Perhaps take a set evening a week as ‘your time’?


    • 25
      Lucy At Home

      Oh I’m sorry to hear that your family has been going through such a rough time of it. Like you, I can definitely tell when things are getting on top of me because I tense my shoulders and my back. A long, hot soak in the bath is one of my favourite ways to unwind. Aaah bliss!

  9. 26

    Lucy this such an honest and beautifully written post. I think all us Mums are guilty of this to some extent but we really need to do things for ourselves more often. I am a firm believer of happy mum = happy kids. I hope you start to feel better soon and find a way to start making more time for yourself xx #BlogCrush

  10. 28
    Squirmy Popple

    You’re right – too often we ignore our own needs because we’re too busy putting our children’s needs first. And while they’re our top priority, we can’t be good parents if we’re not fulfilled and relaxed ourselves. It’s important to find time to do something that’s just for you, even something small like taking a hot bath or watching a show that you like. #blogcrush

  11. 29

    What a brill post! I can relate to this so much! Every week I say I need some mummy time. Just a couple of hours alone to paint my nails or write my blog, I’m not asking for much! Yet every week mummy time gets pushed aside and replaced with ironing daddy’s shirts or cleaning the bathroom!! I don’t know why I let it happen but I’ll be putting my foot down in future! #blogcrush

    • 30
      Lucy At Home

      Yes! I hope you’ve been able to put your foot down more with this. It’s such a shame that mummy time gets pushed to one side, but there always seem to be “bigger” priorities. Let’s stop that and make ourselves a priority when we need it!

  12. 32
    Abi - Something About Baby

    This is such a good post and a really important topic. I think to be able to look after everyone else, we need to look after ourselves first. I love your comparison to leaving out a child – it is so right because you are just as important as anyone else in your family. I bet you also give lots of advice to friends about looking after themselves but struggle to take that advice yourself. I hope you are now taking some time for yourself and not feeling guilty about it! #BlogCrush

    • 33
      Lucy At Home

      Yes you’re so right – it’s so easy to tell friends (and write blog posts!) about taking a break and looking after yourself. But putting it into practise is soooo much harder!

  13. 34
    Nat - Awaybies

    You’re so right Lucy. I think many of us feel exactly the same, unable to switch off! This definitely needs to change. One thing I think is that we need to encourage each other to take a break. Not to act surprised when someone says they took some time off to relax and go for a massage, or learn a new language, or organise a girls day out. Some of us mums have sunk too far into unintentionally peer pressuring each other into spending all our time appearing to be perfect, self-sacrificing domestic goddesses with all our ducks in a row! This isn’t sustainable, as nobody has that perfect life and in the end we would all be better off just being ourselves and admitting that we have needs. As you say we all have a child within!

    • 35
      Lucy At Home

      This is a really good point, Nat. It’s become part of the mummy culture, and it’s not great really. We definitely need to encourage each other to rest. Thanks for adding this important point

    • 37
      Lucy At Home

      I think that’s one of the problems – the to-do list is never-ending so it’s really hard to have a break because we never feel totally on top of things. I know this is something I struggle with a lot

  14. 39

    I have fallen into this trap too, now I’ve become a full time stay at home mum (and carer) – very late, when my youngest was 12. But now I no longer work outside the home, I can’t seem to find the ‘off’ switch or be able to justify spending time or money just on myself. Hope you manage it though!

  15. 42
    Lisa Pomerantz

    Oh, you matter, you are the glue. But in reality, the SAHM is the one that feels just like air. We must have it, you supply it, carry on. Tired, hungry, sleepy, poorly — well spit-spot and channel mary poppins, will ya! This is the very hardest job in the world, and the very most rewarding. No wonder it’s left mostly up to us mums. xoxo #blogCrush

  16. 44
    Laura - Autumn's Mummy

    This is so important, of course you matter too! I too am guilty of the same, as with at least the two generations of mums before me. I also don’t know how to switch off. Although we’re mothers, we’re still human and have wants and needs too. We matter and it’s important that we take the time to remember that. Thank you for this reminder. #BlogCrush

  17. 45
    Accepting the Liebster Award - Her Life is Love

    […] she takes with some of her posts, like in When Discrimination Strikes: The Curse of Being Tall and When Selfless Love Becomes Self Abuse.  Aside from writing posts that are honest and familiar, she is active in interacting with the […]

  18. 46
    Rainbows are too beautiful

    So easy to be the bottom of the pile as a mum. I run around all over the place, and my kids loads of special needs appointments and I’m often frazzled at the end of the day (you know when you fall into bed). I try and do little things to pick me up and it makes a tiny difference that makes me less bottom of the pile. Because the truth is, I ‘m the one who puts me there. #ablogginggoodtime

    • 47
      Lucy At Home

      It’s so tricky to find the right balance. When we have kids who need us (and who we want to care for as well), it can be so easy to just keep pushing ourselves to do more. I really understand this

  19. 48
    An Imperfect Mum

    What a really thought provoking and interesting post. I know that I was guilty of doing this in the past but I think I have got better at caring for me too. And you are right we do matter and it is important that at mums we are mentally healthy too and we need me time to be mentally healthy. I think taking up blogging helped me too! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime

  20. 50

    We have to look after ourselves otherwise we can’t look after others. That means occasionally saying no or giving yourself the treat! But the parent who always puts themselves first isn’t great either. We need a balance. That demonstrates to everyone in the family that we all matter and everyone gets a turn. Great post 🙂

  21. 51
    Hayley@ Mission: Mindfulness

    Spot on – as is said above – we have to look after ourselves to be able to look after others. However, it is so easy to think I’ll do that tomorrow and never quite get round to looking after ourselves – even when it comes to making medical appts!!!! Thanks for the reminder. #ablogginggoodtime

  22. 52
    Hayley McLean

    Excellent post, this is a fantastic way of looking at it. Based on these things I definitely self abuse and find it hard to prioritise myself but you are absolutely right, I need to change it. #ablogginggoodtime

    • 53
      Lucy At Home

      I think a lot of us mums don’t really see it. But it was a revelation to me when I thought about how I would view my behaviour if I was treating one of my children that way. I’m glad it helped you to see it too

  23. 57

    Oh my goodness, Mummys do matter. In fact we should be number one. If we don’t look after ourselves then there will be no one to look after our children.
    In many ways it is easier for me as a single mum (there are not many times you’ll read that sentence!). Every weekend I get one day to myself when Cygnet is with his Dad. I get my nails done, read my book and drink coffee and eat cake in a coffee shop. As it is my only free time without Cygnet, I have designated it as my time and I have come to think it is really important.
    We all need to make sure that we get a little time off once in a while. This must be incredibly difficult to achieve as a stay at home mum with 3 kids. I take my hat off to you. Pen x #brillblogposts

  24. 58
    Honest Mum

    Oh darling, this is such an honest, moving and powerful post. It’s vital you look after yourself so you can be strong for others. Your brain is plastic and malleable so the more you practise small acts of defiance to your usual behaviour (not looking after yourself) and the more you tell yourself you matter, the quicker you will feel it x

    • 59
      Lucy At Home

      This is great advice. I am a strong believer in neuroplasticity and I know I think putting these thoughts into words has really helped me to see that I need to change my thinking patterns. And seeing it is the first step, right?! Now to do something about it… 🙂

  25. 61

    I love the way you explain this. It must be so hard to maintain that level of activity and not have any rest or relaxation. It doesn’t show the little ones a balanced life either. I hope that we can find the right balance because I know I’ll be riding that slippery slope with you. But I also can’t afford to do this as I know it leads to a dark place. Fingers crossed and I must remember to speak out about my feelings if I start sliding. Thank you for this beautifully written blog post.

  26. 62
    Alice | Letters to my Daughter

    You’re very right. I keep trying to assess how I’m feeling from moment to moment. If something is making me feel unhappy then it’s time to reevaluate what and why I’m doing it. This was what made be cut out daytime nursing, I’d done it for over 2 years but was beginning to dread being with my daughter in the day because she’d just want milk all the time. It’s hard to find the balance, but like everything in parenting I suppose it’s trial and error x

  27. 63
    Fi Anderson

    I couldn’t of read this post on a more appropriate day! Today I got my eyebrows threaded for the first time in 6 years…. 6 YEARS! I can’t bring myself to spend any money on me, when the littles could use some more this or that. Doesn’t matter my leggings have holes and I’m wearing my partners t-shirts as pjs as I’ve put weight on. Purely through neglecting myself. I eat once a day, when the kids are in bed. Sometimes I can’t fully relax until 9-10pm. But then I’m pausing Hollyoaks (the only show I give myself time for) every 2 mins incase I miss them calling out. I rush my food to try and fit in as many other things that I’d rather do while they’re asleep. Sleep, what’s that? I’m up until 3-5am getting things done I couldn’t do in the day, feeling accomplished but then when my eldest comes in my room at 6am I’m shattered from the 2hrs sleep I allow myself at night. Because other things take priority over me. Its a vicious cycle and I need off before I self destruct.

    Believe it or not before mummyhood, I was the girl that did 5 skincare product regimes first thing in the morning, faffed about with tooth whitening products, did my make up and straightened my hair every. Single. Day. I’m a shadow of my former self. And I hate it. But I love motherhood. It’s so hard to admit you badly want time to get back to yourself.

    • 64
      Lucy At Home

      Oh Fi, thank you for leaving such a heartfelt comment and I’m so sorry to hear that you have struggled so much with this. I think it just happens so gradually and then suddenly we realise how far deep in we really are. But you are important and worthy too, and you deserve a treat for yourself every so often. Maybe you could make the eyebrow threading a regular thing? I hope you can work something out. L

  28. 65
    Emma McCarthy

    I love this post. You are so, so right. I feel enormously guilty when I sit and do nothing. I feel guilty leaving things for my husband to do, I can’t sit still and always on high alert. I know this is part of motherhood but I never realised how much of yourself you sacrifice. What I find hard is being a full time mum, trying to earn a full time wage, while also doing all the cooking, cleaning, food shopping, planning. Then I feel guilty for going and getting a haircut so I’ve cancelled the last three appiontments! Your line about teaching your children to value themselves is so true and important!

  29. 66
    Old Mumma

    Hugs Lucy, i think any good mum feels exactly the same. Blogging is so good for us in many ways, to share these thoughts, to learn we are not alone in these thoughts and to give us something that is 100% just ours and for ourselves. Love this blog Lucy #BlogCrush

  30. 67
    Joan Senio

    Many of us experience these feelings throughout our lives. And not just as mothers! As daughters, too – once our parents begin to age, we find ourselves in the same behavior pattern, times too. It can become insurmountable. I think what you mentioned about treating yourself fairly (like another child) is so important. Also , we always want to be setting a good example for our children by showing them self-care is important, and that we are all worthy of it.

  31. 68
    Maria | passion fruit, paws and peonies

    I can completely relate to this. In fact it is reaching 50 (soon anyway) that has empowered me to think I am entitled to rest, indulge and nurture myself. Also realising what a poor example I am to my own daughter – showing her as a mother/wife you are the least important. As a young married woman now I want to show here another way – albeit a little late. Please don’t be so hard on yourself Lucy, you are doing the very best you can. Learn to be a little kinder to yourself – I bet you would give a friend some wonderful advise – maybe be your own best friend for a while xx

  32. 71
    Alice v

    I feel into the same situation after having my kids. I cared more about them and less about me. I was letting myself go until a coworker told me that I should always have some time for myself. I had 2 items of makeup in my bag: concealer and a single eyeshadow. I missed wearing makeup so I made it my “self care” want and slowest bought myself things. Now I have a nice little collection and sometimes I let the girls put on my lipstick to play dress up at home.

  33. 73

    try not to be so hard on yourself. i’ve finished with parenting no0w some 4 years ago and have all the time in the world to be me now, have my time and space and be selfish. My kids now all adults with wives and partners often say to me they now realise how hard it was to parent 5 children and understand why i made some of the decisions i did along the way. I have a good relationship with each and everyone of them and even though they are no longer children I will continue to put them first above my needs, even if it means I go without #blogcrush

  34. 74
    Rebecca - Glutarama

    A difficult read, I’ve just closed my eyes for 10mins whilst waiting for the shopping to arrive … and felt guilty, last week there were two medical emergencies with my daughter, 1 psychology appt and my ASD son was intense to say the least…I went out for coffee with a friend…and felt guilty. This weekend I was supposed to be going to Glasgow for the Allergy Free From Show, I’d be leaving my daughter and son in the hands of my husband for some time out, a chance to network in my niche and socialise. I cancelled my hotel and flights…because I felt guilty.

  35. 75

    Exactly this! I’m a stay at home mum, although even using that term implies that I don’t do anything else so I am expected do all the night shifts etc without complaint because that’s my role in life, the path I’ve chosen. The fact that I also set up and run my own business seems to be forgotten. I wouldn’t change being a stay at home mum for the world but I’m also very aware that I’m at the bottom of my own priorities. Thank you for sharing #blogcrush

  36. 76
    Kids of the Wild

    Brilliantly written Lucy, I’m in a very similar situation myself which I find all the more demoralising given the person I was ‘before children’, as well as the stuff I write on my own blog about parental wellbeing – I call it Oxygen Time. I know we’ll get there in the end, and as I said on Twitter, it’s inspiring to hear you’re prioritising personal well-being and mental health by letting this linky go, hard as that may be . Tiny steps, deep breaths and fresh air (I sound like my Mum…) Take care of you xx #Blogcrush

  37. 77

    Could have written this myself so many times. You have a right to a life and a full one too and that is more than housework, nursing, refereeing and educating. I know without the outlet of blogging I would have gone insane or actually more insane than I did. You know what is going on. You know it is not good. You should also know you can change this – do it for the older women like me who didn’t. When you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of others properly. If they love you they need you to be the best version of you not a Stepford Mother. If you think you are struggling mentally as you do, get help whether talking therapies or medication or just telling it like it is and more often. If you struggle to ask for support verbally, write down exactly what you need from specific people and send in a letter or email. Your children need to see a mum with her own passions, skills, qualities and interests. I have found that when Il stop doing so much here, my husband steps up more than the times or decades when I have aimed for perfection and failed miserably and then beaten myself up emotionally for that too. Read up books on happiness or rather contentment and know you deserve it as much as any human big or little #BlogCrush

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