4. Am I at peace with myself? You don't stop being a woman when you start being a mother. Motherhood doesn't define you. It is one of many roles that you assume. You have to bring all your own gifts, traits, and characteristics to the role. Your actions must be consistent with what you think, hope, believe, and value as a person. You cannot have peace in your mind and heart unless you are being authentic.
In any relationship, you either contribute or contaminate 24 hours a day. You contribute when you feel empowered and peaceful; you're toxic when your own journey is tortured and troubled. Maybe you're bitter in your life, and you think, "I won't be that way with my children." But if you don't have faith, compassion and empathy, you can't fake it for the children. And you certainly can't teach it to them. Your personal walk through this world is the most powerful determinant of what you will express and give away as a mother. A mother's lifestyle, personality, and principles often set the tone for the household. If the mother is stressed and chaotic, the family will be chaotic. If a mother feels peace and harmony, that becomes manifest in the family.
Getting to the place where you are a healthy and happy woman starts with putting yourself at the top of your own priority list. Women have been socialized for centuries to believe that they are here to serve and that self-focus is a hedonistic exercise tantamount to neglect for family. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are like bank accounts: If all you ever do is make withdrawals, you're going to wind up with a zero balance or worse. You simply cannot give away what you don't have.
If you truly love your children, and I know you do, then you will take care of their mother. This begins with a shift of attitude in which you say, "I must nurture my spirit and my body." To do that, you have to make appointments with yourself, really commit some time to filling yourself up. This means different things to different people. If for you it means meditation, then you need to set aside time for it. If what fills you up is exercise, expanding your mind through a book, enjoying music, or using your creative talents in the arts, then those are the areas where you need to make regular appointments with yourself.
I have had many mothers tell me that what fills them up is taking care of and nurturing their children. I get that; I understand. But there is no job, no mission that is fun, rewarding and gratifying all the time. If you don't feel the need to change some of what you're doing, then you may need to just change how you're doing it. The bottom line is that you have needs, and those needs cannot be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. It boils down to parenting without guilt, being a wife without guilt, and recognizing that the world has enough martyrs and needs more vibrant, alive, guilt-free women giving themselves permission to be more than just a mother. And I say "just a mother," fully acknowledging that the way you raise your children, the role that you occupy in their lives, is your highest and most noble calling.
Our December issue features Oprah's Favorite Things—as well as your chance to win them all! You'll also find our easy holiday declutter plan, Dr. Oz's guide to sleeping better (starting tonight) and the ultimate holiday menu.