Musings on Selflessness

“Selfless” is an adjective I’ve often used to describe my awesome husband who literally moved to the U.S. for me, leaving behind all his family, friends, and job to start a life with me. He grew up in a developing country and has learned to make do with very little materially, but lots of love. He’s the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off your back and take you in if you needed a place to stay; open his wallet and fridge to anyone in need. Selflessness one of his best attributes, the thing I admire most about him. And, not surprisingly, it’s an adjective I never would have used to describe myself … until recently. But first, some context.

Growing up, whenever we’d go to the mall, my siblings and I would come home lugging bags of back-to-school/vacation/etc. clothes, and my mom — a shopaholic who taught me everything I know 😉 — would come home empty-handed.

When, as a kid (with no concept of money) I’d ask why she wasn’t buying something for herself, too, she always used to tell us that nothing on earth made her happier than buying things for her children.

That baffled me then, and baffled me for a good portion of my life, until recently. I never understood how it was possible that she could get such joy out of buying things for us … and could never envision myself being selfless enough to put aside my own wants and needs for someone else! I guess you could say I was a little self-centered, particularly in my teen years.

I always worked — starting with babysitting at age 12 — and was a hustler (my dad’s words, not mine): earning money and spending it just as quickly. But (and I’m ashamed to admit this) I was always spending it on myself, unless it was a gift for a boyfriend … or for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/birthdays.

Now that I’m married, my spending habits have certainly changed for the better — as well they should. But even as a couple, though we’ve been very future-focused (saving for our future children, life insurance, 401Ks, IRAs, owning our home/car), we still manage to enjoy life and travel and meals out –i.e., shared experiences. And now that we’re going to have a baby, we are not just passively looking out for our future, but ACTIVELY looking out for it.

Today,  my mom sent me a huge box full of  adorable little baby girl sleepers and onesies and layettes galore–which, according to my dad, this is only the first of many packages to come. Apparently she’s been shopping like crazy for her first grand-child 🙂 And as my dad says, she can’t be stopped! 😉 (I pulled that image you see from the Carter’s Web site–I think it’s my fave!)

Anyway, we’ve been talking over the past few months about how becoming a mom is such a selfless experience (especially for someone like me, who admits to being pretty self-absorbed), and she expressed how she had a feeling I’d soon understand what she meant.

I’ve started to feel less and less selfish recently and, I’ve been enjoying it. And as my mom suspected, as I opened each item for my yet-to-be-born daughter, I was swelling with love and all kinds of gushy emotions and  I suddenly felt I had an idea of what she meant about finding such joy in getting something for your child vs. for yourself. In fact, immediately after opening all the adorable, teensy clothes, I went online to the Carter’s site and started looking, swooning over every little thing!

I’m holding off on buying too much just yet, but I have to admit I’m really stoked at the idea of looking for strollers and pack-n-plays and cribs and car-seats … the same way only six months ago I was shopping for new Joe’s jeans and going to Korea.

My, how things have changed!

Of course, it goes without saying that motherhood is much more than buying your child material things, but I have to say, it’s been wonderful for me to really be putting someone else above myself — both physically and materially … and she’s not even here yet!

I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know that I am sensing a very important shift already. And it feels damn good.

How about you? Have you experienced a shift from selfishness to selflessness? What changed and did it last?

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8 thoughts on “Musings on Selflessness

  1. I, too, have seen a big change in how the hubby and I spend money. But what we’re still working on is “me time.” We’re both still struggling with not having enough time to do the things we want – or even things we need, like go to the grocery store. That’s our big issue right now – making sure the baby gets everything he needs and the best of us without giving entirely ALL of ourselves (although I’m currently failing at that – he’s getting all of me, need to work on that).

    I love all the “stuff” we had for Nate before he was born. The night before my c-section, I stood in his room and cried, thinking about how the next day it wouldn’t just be “baby stuff” – it would be Nate’s stuff. It was too awesome of a thought to fully comprehend.

    1. I read your post, Candice–and I am not there yet but imagine I will eventually feel similarly, too. It’s hard not to lose your identity as a woman when you become a mom — everyone says it! It’s almost like, women, we’re either defined by our jobs or being moms. 😦

      Now that we have a name picked out, it makes it even more “real”! 🙂 Plus, my belly is finally growing 😉

  2. i think in a way yes. im less about stuff. i dont care about clothes so much, shopping is kindof boring. but i do love to shop for nice food. expensive produce and nuts and organic dairy…im totally selfish for that.

    one thing i can be selfish about is my time, but not in a negative way. my personal time is very important to me and allows me to serve others in a positive way, when i give myself the personal time i need. i can be a little too selfish though sometimes, regarding.

    1. I am with you, Clare, when it comes to time — time IS precious. In my early 20s I would go to bars and stuff b/c I felt I “should” — but now I only spend time doing things that genuinely make me happy. Sure sometimes we have to do something we don’t love — but usually there’s a logical reason behind it, not just “I don’t want to miss out/be lame/etc)”

      I think we’d all be better humans if “me” time was valued more.

  3. Formerly the most selfish person ever here. I was never a big money-spender or shopper, but I was always selfish with my time. Things that used to be especially important to me were exercise and sleep. If something interfered with my exercise or my sleep, well, it just wasn’t happening. That’s part of why I waited to have a kid until I was 29, even though my husband was ready as soon as we got married at 25. 🙂

    I’m not trying to scare you, honestly, because it’s not a bad thing, but having a baby changes everything. There is no more selfishness. I don’t have any “me time” anymore. None, zero, zip, zilch. I do try to make “me time” at my husband’s urging, but mentally I’m never able to tune out and relax so it really doesn’t count. When I’m at the gym or at happy hour with friends I’m thinking about my son, how I’m missing valuable time with him (I work outside the home full-time and he goes to bed at 7 so I rarely get to see him during the week), and of course all the things that need to be done at home before I go to bed at 9:30 p.m. because he’s going to wake me up at 5. When I sleep I do it with one ear open so I never truly relax. The only time since my son was born that I ever truly relaxed was when I was 1,000 miles away on a business trip! I can no longer buy a new outfit or new cycling shoes without feeling guilty because money is so tight (daycare $$$!!) so I just don’t anymore. It’s not worth the stress!

    When people tell you that being a mom changes everything…THIS is what they mean. It’s not about lack of sleep and getting puked on a few times a day – it’s about making a complete and total mental shift from thinking about you to thinking about your kid.

    I do miss my “me time” but I would never take it back in a million years. 🙂

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