I attended a wedding a couple of months ago, and at some point it was time for the toasts. This is when there would be a speech about the bride, groom and each of their parents. As I was listening to the speech about the mother of the groom, it struck me how often women are praised for making themselves invisible. Things like “she always puts others first” “she sacrificed everything for her children” “she never thinks about herself” were said. Now, I realize that all of this sounds like noble traits, and although it probably is, I cannot help to think about the psychological consequences.
What all those statements say to me is that mothers/women are often applauded because they deny their own needs, they make themselves less important than others, they make themselves smaller. In the process of taking care, nurturing, keeping everyone happy, they tend to forget about themselves as persons and what it is that they need.
This, I believe has a domino effect into other areas of a woman’s life. Which is why I see so many women in my practice having difficulty expressing their needs in their relationships (needs are often expressed in a blaming or prescriptive manner or by complete silence followed by a resentful outburst later) and asserting themselves in the work place. It is also why I come across so many women who are so attuned to their roles as mothers/wives/care givers that they have forgotten about their sexual needs and desires. In fact, sex is just another thing they have to do to please – an act to take care of their partner. Tuning in to their sexuality becomes foreign territory.
Look, I am not suggesting that as a mother, for instance, your children’s needs should not be a high priority. What I am advocating for is that there are alternatives to sacrifices. There are things called compromises, things like asking for help or something else you need, like parents taking turns, like hiring a nanny, or simpler things like making yourself a cup of tea before you do anything for anyone else, as a reminder not to forget yourself. To own your space and make yourself more visible as a person, to yourself and to others. What I am suggesting is that we should cultivate a society where a woman is praised for knowing what she wants, for having confidence, for caring as much for herself as for others, for expressing her needs effectively. Now, that, is a speech that I would enjoy listening to.