In a letter to a little girl dated 3 April 1949, C. S. Lewis wrote:
“Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing — but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.”
Reading this I had to ask myself: what are the things that I spend time doing, not because I ought to, got to, or like to, but because other people do or because I am expected to? And what is it that I like to do? As the mother of a young child I also realize that it has been a while since I have asked myself what I would like to do as there is always plenty of things I’ve ought to and got to do.
Of course, having a lot that needs to be done is hardly a good excuse for not doing what we like, what makes us happy. And in fact, not doing what we like to do because we have so many other things that we need to do is a bit of a recipe for disaster. It is very tempting, as a mother, to throw one self onto the sacrificial altar of duty. After all, we love our children and want to be everything that they need, even if that means ignoring our own needs. What children need, though, more than anything, are happy and fulfilled parents who can set a good example of self-care.
A good friend said to me yesterday: you can’t foster your child’s creativity and nurture their gifts if you are not fostering and nurturing your own creativity and gifts.
I really needed to hear this. Through my yoga study and practice and through my life experience I know this to be true. Our stores of energy need to be replenished regularly if we are going to have enough for others. Parenting requires vast amounts of energy, more than anything else I’ve ever done. To be fair, it also fills me up in a way I didn’t know I needed, so it gives much more than it takes. But, obviously, it doesn’t fulfill all of my needs, nor should it. It would be very unfair to my sweet son to expect all of my happiness and fulfillment to come from the privilege of mothering him.
I have been aware of this from the moment I discovered I was going to be a mother, and I have done my best in these past 14 months to nurture myself, but this has been a good reminder for me. The little one is becoming more and more independent of me, and more able to spend time with others away from me, which can free me up to do more things that I like to do.
I often find that when I have a few moments to myself I end up doing things on the “got to” and “ought to” lists, rather than the “like to” list. I think it’s time to change that.
What do you like to do?