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The Big Answer


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The Motherhood Survival Manual

a book by Sanford J. Matthews and Maryann Bucknum Brinley

(our site's book review)

The authors present a clear guide to avoiding the win-lose parenting methods that define motherhood as a sacrifice of self and peace of mind. If a woman overdoes the mothering role and lets it consume her: “She throws almost all of her person resources into that one gamble: her child. And by her overdoing in such a way, all hell can break loose, as you will soon see in the case histories and stories cited in this book. In this setting, your child’s inconsistencies, temper tantrums and personality flaws will become yours. You may lose all sense of adult proportions when you are living for and through your children. You can’t be rational or objective when you are pouring all of your life into them. And eventually your own identity will ebb away so easily while no one—not you or your children—benefits from your self-sacrifice.”

When you are living for and through your children, their temper tantrums and personality flaws will become yours—you may lose all sense of adult proportions
When you are living for and through your children, their temper tantrums and personality flaws will become yours—you may lose all sense of adult proportions

In other words, motherhood is not place to initiate a zero-sum game. “Either he has/keeps an identity or you do,” “Either I take care of him or myself,” “I must lose so that he may win,” and “Either he gets to have a life or I do” all sound like noble and unselfish motives. But they harm all and help no one. It is a fact that a happy woman who takes time for herself, is loved by self and others, utilizes her social support system, lets others care for her kid(s) when needed, and lets her joy and satisfaction rub off on her kid(s) when she’s around him/them is giving the kid(s) the best start possible (short of an MC, which of course is the most likely place where a woman would be feeling that way; see Why Register for an MC?).

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

But the self-sacrificing, overwhelming, anxious, overprotective mother with no life and no time for other relationships but only time for her kid is doing no one a favor, and will end up blowing it big-time. The authors often hear from mothers that the most important person in their lives is their child. Their response:

“In this book, all the judgments, premises and bits of advice are based on this ultimate question and its answer. In the context of your responsibilities to your husband and your children, the most important person in your life is, and must be, you. . . . Self-love allows an individual to love others. Your own life must burn brightly before you can illuminate anything or anyone: your two-week-old infant, you family of five, your whole community or the world at large.”

You cannot love a kid if you do not first learn to love yourself
You cannot love a kid if you do not first learn to love yourself

Without saying it in so many words, the authors are calling for people to be as self-actualized as possible before engaging in the difficult task of parenting. A strong sense of self is a must, and most of the problems arise when this isn’t present in mothers. For more insights on win-win parenting, see P.E.T. in Action and P.E.T..