Wednesday, July 16, 2008
by: Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach
I am married. I do not have children. We do not have ailing parents, family members or others living with us. We have freedoms that people in those situations do not have. Intellectually, I understand that.
But, there is something I do not understand. I am not sure if this is cultural specific or moms all over the world feel this. Maybe dads feel this too, but I am more familiar with women’s sentiments because I hear it more often.
Many mothers I know often say they have no time for themselves. That in giving time to their kids and husbands they are taking away from their own time, from themselves, from their own self-enjoyment and fulfillment.
Once I told a coworker about cooking dinner for me and my husband. I mentioned that he likes some dishes I don’t like. There are of course things I like he doesn’t like. That’s human nature; no two people are going to like the same things. But to balance things out and be fair to him because I am nourishing another person with my cooking I make what he likes and then also make what I like. So, in some meals I eat one dish and he eats the other. But we remain eating the meal together. My coworker commented that she’d never do that. This meant in my opinion she’d only cook food the both of them liked or that she likes, which again meant to me that if she likes it her husband (and family) must. It also meant, which she clarified, that if her family members liked something she did not, rather than cook it for them; she’d take them out to eat.
Her opinion was I was being too selfless and not taking care of myself by doing this.
I feel the exact opposite. I feel that by giving people we love something they like, even when we don’t like it, is caring for ourselves to. (Of course, I refer to giving things within reason that are not going to threaten anyone’s safety or well-being.) It makes that person happy. We want to be happy. It’s like praying to God. Sure we want our friend to get over her tonsillitis or a coworker to recover quickly from a bad accident, but really we know when they are better we feel better too, we are no longer sad for them (or in the case of a coworker, also no longer have to do their work when they come back).
The other day a woman said she really, really wanted to take care of her ailing mother. Later she thought of recanting this statement by saying that she felt she really was the one who wanted to be taken care of and if she took care of her mother, she’d be sacrificing taking care of herself. Maybe she was feeling overwhelmed by what was to come, which is natural. But the thought that then came to my mind was why do we plan to take care of others (spouses, children, parents, other near and dear ones) and then when they are there needing us, many of us feel as though caring for them suddenly takes place of caring for ourselves? I always believe that in taking care of others, we are really taking care of ourselves. What are your thoughts?
Author, Jennifer Kumar is a cross-cultural coach helping others work through their moments frozen in time to get to their next level and more comfortable place in cross-cultural relationships and moves abroad. Contact her through her Facebook page. Click here.
Copyright ©2008 Jennifer Jayanthi Kumar