On Sacrifice

I went swimming the other day for the first time in 3 years.  Not just get in a pool swimming – I’ve done that plenty – but do laps swimming.  I realize that while many people think swimming laps is about the most boring thing ever, it has been for years the single most enjoyable exercise for me.  For years prior to having my daughter, and even up to the day before I went into labour, I would go three times a week and swim a mile (though later in pregnancy that became a km because I got a fair bit slower!).  Every time I finished I felt a high that was like no other.

Then I had my daughter and although I tried to swim a few times, it didn’t work out.

Fast-forward three years and here we are.  I only managed a km (in no small part thanks to a car accident a couple months ago that I am still recovering from), but I got out of the water and felt that same sense of euphoria that I had felt previously.  Even in the water, the counting of breaths, the monotony of strokes was meditative for me.

I left wondering what was so wrong that I wasn’t doing this before?  Had I given up on myself to raise my child?  Had I lost “me” or simply not cared about her?  What had I sacrificed and was it a needless sacrifice?  I was suddenly ready to start telling new parents to never give up the things they love, that they can have it all.  Ready to scream that you just need to find a way to make it all work.  It's totally possible - I am now living proof!

Then I paused and I remembered.

I remembered why I gave it up.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care about me or that I lost myself and what I love.  I had decided to put some things on hold because I had another life that needed me more.  I had a family where the timing of when I could swim in the open hours didn’t work for my family.  Either my husband was at work or he was home and so was my stepson and there was homework and dinner and evenings with kids to contend with and enjoy.  And when the new pool opened close to us that was open later?  Well, we still faced the same issues of nighttime and homework (which was now getting to be more and more and I was the only one who spoke French while my stepson was in French immersion) and so even though my husband graciously offered for me to go, I knew that it would be a far greater burden on him than was fair.

Plus – and perhaps this is most important - I was happy.  Blissfully happy.  I love my family and my time with them, even when it’s hectic and crazy.

Now, thanks to a new set of situations, I get to have “it all”.  My stepson is old enough to stay up later.  My daughter is still a night owl.  Put the two together and we’re looking for evening activities as a family.  So enters swimming.  The kids love it, my husband has a blast just hanging with the kids, and I get to do laps.  It’s perfect.

I realized though how easy it is to forget the reasons why we made our choices after the time has past.  I have read countless articles on women (and men) who regretted earlier decisions (especially staying at home) because of situations they have found themselves in at the present moment while ignoring all the moments they gained in other realms because of that choice.  It is so easy to look back with what we see in front of us and assume it was like that all along, but that’s never the case.  Our lives are fluid, our needs - and those of the people around us - change, and in turn we respond to the best of our abilities at each time point.  Now, if I had failed to care for myself at all in that time, I would be thinking (and writing) something different.  But I didn’t.  I was just willing to sacrifice something I do love but didn't need for the benefit of people I love even more.  If that isn’t the pure essence of parenting, what is?

[Image up top is of one of the people I am more than happy to sacrifice for...]

By Tracy Cassels

March 03, 2014