It’s Not Selfish to Do What You Love

Mother and daughterA few weeks ago, I came across a tweet from @gaurav_sehdev that I liked enough to share:

Sometimes it is fine to focus on your own needs, even if it feels selfish.

Several people favorited that tweet. Women especially need to be reminded that it’s okay to put yourself first.

Caregiving is part of our identity as women, and that’s wonderful. We’re integral to the success of our families and the health of our communities. The trouble comes when we get into a mindset that our personal needs are secondary to those of others.

At certain times in our lives, caregiver is our most important role—when we have a new baby, or when a parent or spouse is seriously ill. But during our ordinary, day-to-day lives, we have to fight to make sure we don’t let other people’s needs overwhelm our own.

At the 2013 national conference of the Romance Writers of America, bestselling author Bella Andre was asked how she balances her family and career. Her answer (I’m paraphrasing) was both surprising and brilliant:

Balance is overrated. It’s just one more thing women are expected to do. Kids benefit from seeing mom do amazing things.

If your kids know at their core that you would lay down your life for them, then you’re a good mom. It doesn’t matter that laundry is piling up and you’ve ordered takeout every night this week because you’re on a deadline. Your kids still know you love them. Besides, you’re teaching them how to set priorities: Laundry becomes a priority when someone in the household has no clean underwear left. Up until that point, doing laundry is optional.

When your kids see you accomplish great things, they learn they can accomplish great things, too. When you become a slave to other people’s expectations, you teach your daughters to do the same.

If you’re an author, one way you care for your family is by writing and generating an income. If you’re not published yet, you’re undergoing an apprenticeship and creating a product so you can make money in the future.

Men don’t feel selfish when they’re providing for their families. Neither should you. Writing is an art, but it’s also a profession. Never feel guilty about the time and effort you put into your profession just because you happen to love what you do.

Do you ever fall into the trap of feeling guilty when you do something meaningful for yourself? How do you overcome it?

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About AndreaJWenger

Andrea J. Wenger is an award-winning writer and editor in Raleigh, North Carolina. She specializes in the fields of creative, technical, and freelance writing.

Posted on July 31, 2013, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Christy Hayes

    I was there when Bella said that and remember the collective sigh of relief from the room. I still remember when my stay at home mom went back to work when I was in 5th grade. It was the first time I realized she was something other than my mom–very eye opening!

    Finding balance changes as life changes. My kids are old enough now where I’m able to get lots of work done and they don’t need me hovering every second of every day. I also realize that my time with them at home is finite so I try not to take them for granted.

    Great post, Andrea. Welcome to WU!

  2. Welcome to WU, Andrea! When you said:

    “If you’re not published yet, you’re undergoing an apprenticeship and creating a product so you can make money in the future.
    Men don’t feel selfish when they’re providing for their families. Neither should you. Writing is an art, but it’s also a profession. Never feel guilty about the time and effort you put into your profession just because you happen to love what you do.”

    That is SO true, I just had to rewrite it here. I often feel guilty when I’m sitting on my arse on the couch writing and loving every minute of it and I know my husband’s at work and the kids are at school and I’m home doing what I love to do. I’m also not making any money. But if I look at it as an apprenticeship it makes sense. Thank you for saying this.

  3. Welcome, Andrea and thanks for the timely post. I’ve been feeling guilty all week as copy edits demand my time and the crap piles in the house around me. My college son is home for one week only this summer and this is it. Fortunately, he’s always willing to pitch in–although he says he’s kidnapping me and taking me to Falcons training camp tomorrow. 🙂

    Taking time for ourselves is always difficult, but as I’ve progressed in my career, I realize just how necessary it is to do so. I just have to put it on my calendar! I wouldn’t trade my life, though. As you said, I’m setting an example for both my kids to aim high and not sweat the small stuff.

  4. Love this post. I need to re-read it every day!

  5. Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone! Christy, I think part of the reason Bella Andre is so successful is that she makes her own rules. She doesn’t let anyone else tell her what she can’t do.

    If we can’t have balance, we can at least have intention – deciding when family must come first, when work must come first, and when those household chores can’t wait any longer.

  6. Patty, my situation is similar to yours. I haven’t made any money from my fiction writing yet, but I’m very serious about it. I think I’m close to publication, even if that means self-publishing. The great thing about being an author right now is that we have so many options for making our voices heard.

    Tracy, hang in there! You can always sleep next week, right?

    Elaine, thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. Welcome, Andrea, and what a wonderful lesson you’ve shared with us all. My mom is a very independent woman, so when I was growing up, I had a great teacher. This is something I wanted to pass on to my boys … that whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s not only important for you to follow your heart, but to give space to those around you so they can reach their dreams too. 🙂

  8. Sheila, having a supportive spouse is such a great help for whatever dreams you’re following. I think you just gave me an idea for another blog post…

  9. Welcome, Andrea!

    I do fall into the guilt trap, especially because I’m a single mom who works full time, which doesn’t leave much time for “doing for me” AND taking care of my kids’ needs. But success is about perspective and balance (even if only an attempt at balance), and I really appreciate your post. 🙂

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