Your Valentine’s Gift to your kids: Love youself, splurge

The house is decorated for Valentine’s Day. I decorate when the kids are gone, so they return to see the house transformed. The looks on their faces and the conversations that begin are as much fun for me as they are for them.

Decorations: bits of paper, glitter, ceramic and wood; a waste of time and money for some. But for us, they are the traditions that create our family story. Each year, I open the Valentine’s decorations box to see the foam magnet frames filled with their little preschool faces, the heart-shaped hand prints made of dough from kindergarten,  the weaved hearts from first grade. The kids are growing older and bigger and so are the contents of my box.  We enjoy seeing the decorations and remembering the events surrounding them.

 This weekend, after getting our “mom required” exercise at the gym rock wall, we made Valentine-themed, chocolate covered Pretzels. Then, we set the table with the heart covered plates, red cups and heart shaped bowl filled with spaghetti and shared a meal with friends.

 Decorations, home-made treats and celebratory meals: snap shots in life that create little happy memories amidst the struggle to maintain life-life balance. It is often called work-life balance, but all of us feel it whether we earn a living AND parent, or do any of the other multitude of opportunities life offers AND parent.

Holidays – secular, religious or cultural –  can be another thing on the endless “to do” list. Or they can be a chance to slow down and go through the annual rituals that give our children a sense of foundation, and give us the fuel to go racing back out there as adults.

 Valentine’s Day always makes me think of flowers. I’m a girl, what can I say? There is just something about rounding the corner and seeing a bouquet of fresh flowers  on the table. You can’t help but smile. I enjoy giving them as gifts, but I used to avoid buying them for myself, feeling guilty about spending the money. Then one week I splurged and spent $4.99 for a bouquet. They lasted 2 weeks. Every time I entered the room for those 2 weeks and saw the flowers, I smiled.

 Kids learn to drink out of a cup by watching adults drink out of a cup, how to put on shoes and kick a ball, by first watching us. They also learn how to care for themselves by watching how we care for ourselves.

 So what’s the connection?

 As women, we tend to give of ourselves to everyone else until we are tapped out. We feel it is our job as women. We are the nurturers. We struggle daily with finding the happy place in the life-life balance tug-of-war. If we step back and look through the eyes of our children at the example we set, if we remember the example of drinking from a cup, perhaps we would be kinder to ourselves. Each day, we model for our kids by our own behavior. If they see us harried, sleep deprived, running through life only doing for others and never ourselves, what are we teaching them? The unspoken message is “you don’t deserve to take time for yourself, to do nice things for yourself.” Is that what we truly want for them?

 If on the other hand, we say “no” to them and to others sometimes in order to care for ourselves; if we spend money on flowers or our nails and time on our spouse or our friends. Then, they get a different message. They learn to nurture themselves, to bask in the sun, to bloom. They learn by our example that they also are deserving. So, when Valentine’s Day comes around each year and you see all the heart-shaped decorations. I hope you will take a moment to remember the best way to love your children, is to show them that you love yourself.

  Buy the flowers.

Kelly Ross, M.D. About Kelly Ross, M.D.

Kelly L. Ross, MD is an assistant professor in the Department of Newborn Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pediatric hospitalist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She also serves as Director of Pediatric Hospitalist Medicine at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. As mother of premature triplets, Dr. Ross’ clinical interests include multiple birth, neonatal prematurity especially the late preterm infant and post partum depression, especially as it relates to high risk pregnancies. She is the Medical Director of Mothers of Supertwins (MOST), an international organization that exists to support families who have triplets, quadruplets or more. Dr. Ross is also a member of the MOST professional advisory board. She has co-developed two educational videos about multiple birth families, has been featured in a TLC documentary about a family of quintuplets, interviewed by Newsweek, Pregnancy magazine and various other local news programs and is currently editing a book for couples expecting triplets or more. Dr. Ross is featured on a monthly email from Babycenter.com and along with her hospitalist group, runs a health information discussion group on momslikeme.com. Dr. Ross served as a consultant on a National Institute of Mental Health-funded grant to educate medical professionals about post partum depression.

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