By Jillean Battle

Every time I leave the house, I consider purchasing some unnecessary gift for my children. A small knick-knack, an adorable t-shirt, or several Starbuck Cake Pops follow me home. The small token of love rarely is a reward for my children’s good behavior. Not at all. Just impulse buys from a mom consumed with the thoughts of her children.

My noble spending is an addiction. The more time and money I invest in my children’s sports activities, hobbies, birthday celebrations, education, the more accomplished I feel as a mom. For me, watching my children smile, hearing them laugh, or yelling, “this is the best trip ever!” illustrates that I am taking this motherhood gig seriously. In reality, I’ve become so focused on my babies that I hardly noticed how far, and few times I laughed, smiled, or yelled in complete excitement about my life – that is until I became overwhelmed with fatigue, anxiety, and feelings of frustration. My significant investments in my children were causing a severe decrease in my own capital. 

My struggle became abundantly clear after I traveled to the mall for new shoes. The Nike Air Max sneakers that I run in required resuscitation on my last morning jog. No harm in picking up a nice trendy pair, I thought. However, when I found some cool kicks that I liked, I flipped them over to search for a price—$200.00. The sales associate seemed surprised when I asked her if these particular shoes could levitate. She responded that I could not fly or leap over buildings if I wore them. For 200.00 dollars, I was hoping to glide on the treadmill. Disappointed, I found the exit still wearing my Air Max shoes, which are so worn that I now refer them to as “The Minimums.”   

“What is wrong with me?” I began to ponder when I found other areas I’d short-changed myself. For years, I’ve considered returning to school to build upon my finance and management expertise. The price tag of many graduate and certification programs set off my anxiety. Seriously. To outright avoid an asthma attack, I’ve limited my professional development to the education videos offered through my LinkedIn membership. Surprisingly, my asthma and anxiety are particular ailments. Neither are issues when I receive bank notifications that my monthly contribution to my children’s 529 college account was successful. I don’t bat an eyelash at the thought of SLOWLY paying off my student debt while helping my children avoid college expenses they haven’t even incurred. 

Does anyone give out Lifetime Achievement Awards for Motherhood because I’ve been acting out this selfless superhero character since I was a little girl? I would load dozens of baby dolls in my child sized-bed and snuggle them comfortably under the cozy blanket. And for the rest of the night, I clung to the edge, trying to stay warm with every inch of blanket left available. 

My ideas on motherhood were confirmed after I had my first child and enrolled in law school. The announcement to attend school was met with congratulatory remarks, followed by cautionary statements like, “It may not be wise to go to school with a baby to look after.” I began to question my priorities. These interactions solidified my mindset of limitation and self-sacrifice. 

My frequent burnouts, lack of self-awareness, and need to feel appreciated led me to connect with a life coach, who instructed me to imagine a life where I gave myself greater access to my time, consideration, and investment. I saw a version of myself who understood who I was, wanted and deserved. This woman gave herself permission to dream and chase her own goals. She found joy in exploring her aspirations and meeting her needs. She honored her personal and professional roles without totally identifying with those functions. This version of myself was running on a beautiful trail and wearing new Nike Air Max shoes.

“You are a better mother when you are a better woman” is my new affirmation. I remind myself daily that I can be that woman I imagined. I deserve to be that woman, and motherhood doesn’t preclude me from living a fulfilled life that considers my needs and wants as top priorities. Now when I leave my house, I do so after giving a few gifts to myself. Notably, I forgive myself for trying to meet other people’s standards of motherhood; I outline my goals, monitor my progress towards them, and promise to teach my children the value of creating space for your family while loving yourself wholeheartedly.

Jillean Battle is a licensed attorney and Chief Strategist at Jay Elle Battle Advocacy, LLC. She is a mother to teenagers, Saxton and Savannah, and fur babies, Berkeley and Sami. When she isn’t working out at the gym, she finds joy in reading and practicing Yoga. For questions or comments, email [email protected].