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Why Your Kids Shouldn’t Be Your #1 Priority

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According to a study published in the Daily Mail, the average mother gets just 17 minutes per day to herself.

When I read that stat I was somewhat horrified.

Are you horrified? Are you not surprised? Do you feel like you never get enough time to yourself?

Mothering has become synonymous with sacrifice. And we’ve come to assume that a mother who sacrifices her own well-being in the name of her children is inherently a good mother.

But what if making our children our #1 priority and constantly sacrificing our own needs for theirs isn’t actually doing them any good, let alone us?

What if the way we’ve been approaching motherhood is backwards?

As a still relatively new mom who was raised by a woman dedicated to her own dreams as well as to her children, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

And through my own trials and tribulations in mothering over the past 17 months, I’ve come to the perhaps heretical conclusion that making our children our #1 priority is perhaps not best for them or our families.

Are you appalled by that? Intrigued?

Watch the video I made for you about it to learn what I mean.

 

 

We all want to be good mothers. But it’s time to reimagine what being a good mother means.

Because the way of mothering that chips away at the mother’s inherent well-being perpetuates an unsustainable model where one person’s gain is another person’s loss.

What if we mothered from our overflow? What if we nurtured from a filled-up place? What would our partnerships be like? What would our relationships with our children be like?

How would our world change if we took care of mothers, starting with ourselves?

I’m seriously curious about what you have to say on this matter. Please leave me a comment below!

And if you know a woman who needs to be reminded that her needs matter, please forward this to her.

Remember: A well-nourished mama nourishes the world. twitter-logo

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Nourish yourself first, and everyone will have more than enough to eat.

  • Rene says:

    Loved this one Kate, especially your own ‘a-ha’ moment about taking care of yourself. Mine came when I was working on my Master’s in Women’s Studies. I came across a book called The Myths of Motherhood by Shari Thurer way back in 1994. The book talked about the role of mothers from the Stone Age on and it was an eye opener for me at that time. Our roles as moms has definitely changed over the years.

  • Kristi Conradie says:

    Kate, I agree with you 100%. I’ve in fact created my own business around this very fact called Meaningful Mom. It is about YOU creating a life you love as a mom AND teaching life skills and living skills that prepare your child (and you if you don’t have these skills either) for a future of their own calling. I believe we have our journey and our children have theirs and although they intersect and at times run parallel they also are separate. I’ve even created products to support my vision and classes to help moms nourish and nurture their own well-being and discover who they are in the process.

    I’d love to share more as I have done a lot of research into this for 10+ years and have been living it myself… I teach what I had to learn, and I’ve linked it to the current neuroscience about how to “be the change” not just do something different. We have to change at the “being” level and then what you do becomes MEANINGFUL. It is my message, my heart and soul vision, to return us to not only knowing who we are, but to “pedal with joy” as a mom and raise children who also can “pedal with joy” in their own life journey.

    I was not “pedaling with joy” as a mom so I asked to find another way… I was graced with two words “BE MEANINGFUL” and I set out to have all I do BE MEANINGFUL and I transformed my whole life and how I parent!

    Thanks for all you do to make our world a better place and help others!
    Kristi Conradie

  • Maryanne Paul says:

    I agree whole-heartedly! I loved raising my kids. I graduated college but didn’t do anything with my education and just worked part time so my husband could build his career and I could raise the kids. I was miserable inside, don’t get me wrong, I loved raising them and today we have an incredible relationship. They are now off following their dreams, my husband is seeing a woman with “more ambition” and I am in the starting years of my life at almost 50. I wish I had been the woman I truly am because my kids are just seeing her now for the first time. I have some catching up to do!

  • Barbara says:

    I’ve been inspired by your Mom for many years and now you! I learned about burnout over the years as a mother of 3 (born within 4 years, by choice) and as a postpartum RN I see women hit the wall, even before they go home from the hospital because they won’t sleep the whole time, “in case the baby needs them”. Yes, infants are pretty much dependent on you for everything, however, I still think it’s important to keep in mind, fairly early on, this Abraham Lincoln quote: “The worst thing you can do for those you love is the things they could and should do themselves.”

  • Ashli says:

    I absolutely LOVE this. And I think you are an incredible woman and mama!!! <3

  • Phyllis Rose says:

    HI,

    Good to see you again. My mom was also totally giving to others. She had to walk 2 miles to work summer and winter in loafers. She walked to town to work in the sardine factory, only place then. I did the same when I got old enough and was glad we could work together. We had many neighbors and she was nurse to everyone. I got really irritated when all the neighbors sought her for help. She was totally sacrificing herself for all of them. When I grew up I did all I could for her in every area I could. And mostly sought her companionship and knowledge. More like a care giver. I decided to put her in top place when I got big enough to know what to do. She was very knowledgeable, like a trained nurse. How I miss her and long to see her again. I have one member of my family alive, my older son who is 65. Very intelligent man. I will be 84 the end of this month and still at it. All the folks here in housing think I am lying.
    I went to see your mother as a doctor when I learned about her and adored her and then I went west, remarried and had a wonderful husband. But he died a horrible death from having worked in a place that built airplanes, gave him cancer. I loved him so much as he did me. I spent his last days with him in the home. He did not want to be away from me.
    I am in pretty good health, always took care of myself as I knew how. Glad to get out of my first marriage and the hatred and beating.
    Better let you go. Not sure if this does anything for my case.
    LOVE & BIG HUGS
    Phyllis Rose – Veazie. Maine

  • Kirsten says:

    Oh my goodness Kate. I have been following you for a couple of years now and absolutely love you and your work! Today’s vlog/article is speaking my language! After giving 100% of myself to my children and neglecting myself for years, I went back to school to get my masters in counseling. Guess what? While I practice play therapy and work a lot with children, my #1 passion is helping mothers reconnect with themselves. I created a resource and support community for mothers called “Lost in Motherhood” and just posted this article there. You are the BOMB girl – keep spreading the wisdom and love x

  • Maureen says:

    My daughters are 33 and 26 and yours is the message I have preached to them all their lives. I’ve told them never to feel guilty for taking care of themselves. As you said, Kate, when your baby needs food and you want a new purse, there’s no question where the money or time is spent. However, I know too many women who are always pronouncing their guilt for not being with their children 24/7 to solve all their problems. I have worked as a flight attendant all of their lives – now going on 39 years. I left and flew to Europe for days at a time knowing that their father was capable of making good choices, caring for them and navigating any problems that might occur. They worked through chicken pox, teenage dramas, school projects and hair styling disasters together and are all stronger for it. When the phone rings now, they don’t automatically ask for me – they have a close and comfortable relationship with their dad which is reflected in the wonderful men they have chosen to spend their lives with. Nurturing everyone’s independence and self love has made for a very happy family. xxoo

  • Merideth says:

    Yes, yes, YES! So much powerful wisdom here, Kate. It took me ten years of motherhood before I figured this one out. Because you’ve realized it sooner in your motherhood journey, your daughter will be even better off for it!
    The best lesson I can give my daughter is to show her, by acting as an example, not only that it’s OK to care for oneself first, but that it’s essential to one’s happiness, health, and well-being. Actually, NOT caring for oneself can be seen as irresponsible, because it deprives those around you from all the goodness you have to offer.
    Nurturing myself makes me a happier person, a more purposefully contributing member of society, AND a better mama. Thank you for so clearly making the case here, Kate, and for giving struggling mothers permission to nourish themselves first, in order to make their best contributions to their homes, their families, their work, and the world!

  • Courtney says:

    Hi Kate,
    I am about to give birth to my first child and I have been thinking a lot about the sacrifice of mothering as I have gone through a rather difficult pregnancy. My mother had my brothers and sisters and I at a young age and she often seemed extremely unhappy being a mom. I often suspected that a lot of that came from her thinking she couldn’t achieve her dreams or look after her own health while having kids. When she decided to pursue things for herself, she would often take the situation to another extreme and completely neglect us. I believe what you are saying makes a lot of sense because when you take care of yourself and nurture your own place in the world, it is a lot easier to look after other people. As I often had to be responsible for my siblings, I know a lot about caretaking and it isn’t easy. Being so sick through my own pregnancy forced me to slow down and focus on my health and sanity for the sake of me and the baby.
    I hope I can continue to take care of myself and my dreams, while being the best mother possible to my baby boy. Thanks for preaching balance in motherhood and not martyrdom.

  • Danielle says:

    Kate,

    I love this topic! As a mom for the last 15 years, I’ve been preaching this very sediment! I believe we can not give what we don’t have already inside us. Making ourselves and our spouses first over our children is a controversial topic but one I fervently believe in. It teaches children to be self sufficient, self soothers and builds their confidence in themselves! It also shows them they can not divide and conquer the parental unit and gives them a sense of safety, knowing their parents have a strong mutually respected foundation in their marriage. People used to be appalled at the fact that I didn’t get up and make breakfast for my kids (when they were old enough to do it for themselves) before they went to school. I instead instilled their responsibility to themselves and their bodies to nursish themselves properly before school. Now they are teenagers and soon to be budding adults and they know it’s on them to take care of themselves because if they don’t no one else will! Keep up the good work you do!

    Take care,
    Danielle
    South Berwick, ME

  • Jen Wende says:

    I am all for being a #nourishedmama . I have nothing to add to your beautiful words, because it is exactly how I live and teach. If you aren’t nourished and happy then who is going to show her how to put her nourishment first as she grows. Every time I took a moment for me it made me stronger so I can be her support system and make her my priority.

  • Tere says:

    Oh my gosh, dear Kate, this video was so spot on for me just now. I do really appreciate your words. Plus your own example. Soothing my soul today. Thank you and I love you (and your mom) a lot!
    Tere

  • Kiele says:

    ❤️❤️❤️
    Wonderful message! Applicable to other situations too! I’m not a mom yet but believe you are totally right!

  • Erin says:

    I respectfully disagree here. With kids ranging from baby to almost 18, I have parenting experience that’s shown the many benefits of priortizing children.
    Over time, you may realize that deciding not to make your children the #1 priority was not the best thing for your kids.
    There’s a big, unimaginable difference between babies and teens. What you experience with a 17 month old is drastically different than with school age children, tweens and teens. Older children have differen needs.
    I had my first very young (still in my 30s), and worked hard to always achieve my goals (doctorate degree, professor and business owner) but never put anything above my children. It wasn’t easy, but my oldest didn’t rebel the way her peers did and she has a very close bond with me. In fact, people constantly comment that my children seem to have so much affection for me. My friends ask me to teach them to make their kids as kind and happy; it simply comes from placing them first and being their patient and kind caregiver. Frankly, I see behavioral problems and moodiness with many kids who are not their parents’ top priority.

    For me, I have no regrets placing my children as my constant priority. Everything else is secondary to them; this policy has benefitted my children and myself greatly.
    I will never look back and wonder if I was a good enough mother. I know mothering is the most important thing I’ll ever do. No job, money or achievement compares.
    Everyone is different! We need to listen to our instincts here. My instincts scream clearly to me on this matter, but that doesn’t make it the right approach for everyone.
    No matter what, mothers should strive to have happy and fulfilling lives. This improves mothering energy, benefitting the whole family because energy is contagious-
    I enjoy your blog! Be well-

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Thanks for weighing in here Erin! I totally agree – we have to listen to our own instincts and a happy, healthy mama is critical to a child’s wellbeing- that I know for sure. For some of us that means needing to keep prioritizing our work alongside mothering and for some that’s not the case. I know one thing for sure: all of us mom’s are doing the best we know how to at a job that is not easy!

  • Hey Kate!

    Just wanted you to know that I’m not mom yet, and I’m not married either, but that you have and continue to be such a big sister-type role model to me over the years. I’m SO glad that I’ve learned the value of doing less to net a higher quality life, and to prioritize my self-care, before I ever enter into that phase of my life. It’s helped me relax into my business a LOT more already, and I can only imagine how much more I’ll need this firm foundation when my life changes dramatically!

    All love,

    Rachel

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Oh Rachel this is music to my ears! This totally applies no matter what stage of life you’re at, mother or not. If you get this down early motherhood will be less difficult for sure!

  • says:

    Wow. This is life! I am a new mother with a 3 week old little miracle. I’m also an artist and I feel so blessed to have listened to this.
    Thank you darling Kate!

  • Kim says:

    Kate, I love that you are sharing this message to the moms out there! I didn’t drop the guilt and start to take care of myself until my son was in grade school and my parents were gone. The years of constant overwhelm from taking care of everything eventually made me sick! I now take time for self care every day, and am trying to follow my dream of building a business which helps other women become healthier and happier. I would love to hear some advice about balancing work and raising kids when you are a single mom, or living with a husband who doesn’t help out. Or as I call it, “a married single parent.”

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Hey Kim – thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad you’re sharing this needed message with other moms. Since I’ve never been a single mom and I have a husband who shows up BIG time I don’t think I’m the best person to speak to your question. But I know women who are and I will happily share their wisdom. If you listened to The Myth of Balance event 2 out of those 5 women are single moms (though they prefer the term Indie mom). It’s at katenorthrup.com/Myth if you want to check it out!

  • Katie Clark says:

    Holy cow, yes yes yes yes yes. It’s like you have been reading my mind for the last few weeks. I’m starting to emerge from the cocoon of twin-care-all-the-time (that cocooning is so very important post-adoption…perhaps a topic for your mom-themed posts in the future!). It was important but it was such a sacrifice for me to go from full-time job to full-time twins-care in the blink of an eye. I’m realizing that if I’m not nurturing myself on all levels then I’m not their “best mom” and when I do take care of myself they’re better cared for. Seems simple, but getting there was complex. In short, please keep doing what you’re doing. Your content is desperately needed as a leading voice. Happy International Women’s Day!

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Oh Katie I’m so happy to hear this is resonating. Congrats on your emerging- and on the cocooning in the first place because I agree – so critical! I pretty much cocooned with P for the first 9 months and it was crazy hard but also awesome. Let me know any other topics you’d like to hear more on!

  • Hi Kate … thanks for this blog … this topic is near and dear to me. I wrote a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul – Reboot Your Life about this topic. My story is called Awakened by the Creator Within. I call it my “Paint or Drink Heavily” story. Basically, after I had my two little kiddies, I took some time off from teaching and heard this voice inside say, paint or drink. My guides are good lol. Around the same time I received this ultimatum, I saw Carl Jung’s quote – ” Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I personally think this is especially true with the mother. Needless to say I started painting immediately, something I hadn’t done since high school. Well, my kids are now 15 and almost 18. My daughter will be leaving for college this summer and I believe doing this was the best gift I could have given her as she goes out on her own. I took time for myself while modeling to my kids, how to tap into that amazing creator that is inside each and everyone of us. Not to mention I showed how doing this gives you a natural “high” and not a hangover. Thanks for your continued inspiration. And your daughter is soooo adorable.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Wow Christine! First of all – you’re guides are funny! And second of all thank you soooo much for sharing that Carl Jung quote. Major chills. So powerful. You’re awesome!

  • Dragana says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Thanks!

  • Mandy says:

    I completely agree, and it goes against what my son’s therapist keeps trying to beat into me. Raising an autistic teen and an young toddler, she says to suck it up and fill their buckets first and foremost. Under that guise I’m endlessly depleted. I’ll keep disagreeing. It’s not selfish to need moments to/for myself so I can happily give of myself and my time.
    Thank you for that echo.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I totally disagree with your therapist too! They will feed off your energy and if you’re depleted things will unravel! You’ve got this mama.

  • Cindy Rowley says:

    SO great, Kate! And it comes across so well the way you presented it!

  • Laura Baran says:

    Bless you Mama Kate this is pure gold and I just love the way you deliver the message. Cannot hear it enough. THANK YOU

  • Squee!! An an Intuitive Artist + Mama living with anxiety, this is completely wonderful to hear from another beautiful Mama. Motherhood in recent years has forced me to push past old martyr beliefs and step into my self-care like never before.
    You are doing our culture a great service by sharing this video.
    Thank You xx

  • Hi Kate,
    I am not sure to share your opinion Kate.
    Here is my story.
    My mother was pregnant with me , she was 24 years old. She left the home of her mother, with whom she did got a very bad relationship, with 18 . She was in 1952!
    When she was pregnant with me, she didn’t become any Cent of my grandmother or hope to fulfill her dreams for becoming a medical doctor.
    My mother didn’t had the choice!
    So she decided to do everything in the world to have a good relationship with her children (my sister and me) and that heir children, would have one day the choice!
    So she was doing everything to help fulfill my dreams, even with not much money, and finances my studies!!!
    Her dream is that her daughters are independent.

  • The motherhood you have described is the one I have always imagined for myself.

    I have been looking around me for years, and see no good role models around me who take care of themselves, work on their passion and raise a family. I have been told that is not the right way, that you have to sacrifice everything about yourself or go back to corporate.

    I refuse to settle.

    It is the most comforting feeling to know that when I have our baby(or babies), you and other incredible women who went before me will be waiting, with open arms and hearts on the other side.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Oh I’m so glad that this brought comfort to you Tiffany! Yes – we are becoming the new model we seek!

  • Alicia says:

    Kate! I’m so excited to find you! I feel like your words echoed everything that I desire to pour into mommas! I just recently started my blog, and am loving it. My mission is to help other moms find the joy in motherhood, because like you said, it is our responsibility to be full so we can fill others. I can’t love this enough and look forward to following you more! 🙂

  • Claire Croton says:

    Oh man, this is a topic I am SO passionate about because i have struggled so much with this in my life. In fact I, like a couple of your other followers, am keen to develop this into a purpose driven online business. Im currently a B- School student and hope to spread the self-care for mommas message ASAP. Thank you for your insights. Bless. Claire

  • How can I have my wyfe to understand this point of view?
    My marriage is about to end because her grown up children are her firs priority and not only her kids but her grand kids come first. To the point that we are separated because her idea is that a mother has to sacrifice everything for the seik of her kids.

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