A Call to Mothers: Love Yourself First, Children Second.

Via Rebecca Lammersen
on Mar 4, 2013
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Ruby Knows By, Kevin Sutton

“What’s the point of buying rice, if you can’t cook it properly.” ~ Jiro

I bought the rice, the rice of motherhood, but for a few years, I wasn’t cooking it properly. I was feeding my children uncooked, stale grain. I was starving their spirits to death.

I didn’t understand that I am the sustenance for their hearts. I am the rice and I am responsible for cooking myself properly.

A perfect bowl of rice is a product of its preparation—mindful and complete attention to the process, to the ingredients, to the temperature, to the time and to the consistency. With every batch, a good cook knows when the rice has reached the right consistency.

To be a good mother, I need to know who I am (the cook) and what my purpose is in this life (the cooked rice).


Shortly after the birth of my second daughter, I decided I could no longer starve and neither could my children.

I changed my mothering method completely, and rewrote my definition of motherhood.

I used to think motherhood and martyrdom were synonymous. When a woman birthed a child, she converted to the Religion of Mother—sacrificing herself, her essence dying with the placenta and afterbirth.

I thought a mother was defined as a woman who was a slave to her home, her children and her husband. Ignoring her needs and dreams to support the people she ‘loved the most.’

I thought being a mother meant loving someone more than I loved myself.

I ate this myth—‘the perfect bowl of motherhood,’ and it almost killed me.

I survived because I learned I must love myself more than anyone else before I can love anyone else. 

This is the way to unconditional love, to true love. I am only capable of loving another as much as I love myself.

Despite my malnourishment, I knew my children deserved true love. With this realization, I became a good mother.


My two favorite definitions of Mother are:

Photo: Tanveer Iqbal

1. Mother: To give rise to. 

2. Mother: One who has true knowledge, a measurer. 

I gave rise to them by way of my body. Their well-being is measured by the knowledge I impart to them through their direct witness of my actions and experiences.

If I am not devoted to cultivating myself and stirring it into wisdom, then what do I have to feed them?

Is there anything for them to measure, if I am not growing in my self-awareness and understanding?

I am failing them as their mother, their measurer if I focus solely on them, giving up everything, denying my dreams and ignoring my purpose.

I am a mother. I am a guide. My job as a mother is to teach my children through example.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I gave life to my children to help repair the world.

I gave birth to hope embodied in two people who have something sacred to offer the world—themselves. By being themselves, they will help heal the world.

This appears to be a heavy weight to carry, “My mom had me to help save the world.”

To that, I answer, That’s why we are all here, some of us just haven’t accepted our mission, yet. We are all here to save the world, by loving ourselves fully and embracing our destiny.”


I recently led a retreat to Bali. One afternoon, we visited a temple by the ocean.

Our guide led us to the shore, where holy spring water from the mountains flowed directly into the sea. Every day the priests of the village visit this sacred pool to collect the holy water for their daily rituals.

As we were standing there, a priest wrapped in all white from head to toe approached the inlet. He knelt down with a smile on his face, and submerged his canister into the fresh, salty liquid.

Our guide whispered in my ear, “Do you know that these men are called by the Gods (in their dreams) to accept their destiny to be a priest? When a person is called by the Gods they must accept. If they don’t and they ignore the call, they will become sick and they will die. This man, kneeling before us, received the call as a teenager and he ignored it. Instead, he chose to become a banker to support his family. He became very ill, he was on his death bed. It was then, he made a decision to become a priest. Here he is now, before us healthy. He is a great leader.”

This is my story too. I was forcing myself into a role that was making me sick. I was denying my call, ignoring it in order to be all for everyone. I ended up being nothing for no one.  And then, I answered. I knew if I didn’t listen to my heart and share my gifts, I would die.

photo: Carissa Rogers/Flickr
photo: Carissa Rogers/Flickr

I used to feel guilty for not signing up to be room mom in my daughter’s class, or run for a seat on the PTA. I felt ashamed that my girls were not in a couple extra curricular activities a week. I was disappointed in myself, the nights I threw a bag of frozen pasta and broccoli in the microwave and called it dinner.

I thought there was something wrong with me because I was bored and disinterested in the mom’s groups, discussing the latest “Lululemon wunder unders” or complaining about the stretch marks on my hips.

I don’t feel guilty anymore because I don’t have the time.

I am a mother. I have a huge responsibility to live my purpose and remain devoted to my mission in life.

My mission is to learn as much as I can, teach as much as I can, write as much as I can, travel as much as I can and when I pick my girls up from school, I show them love, by doing what I love.

Sometimes dinner is freezer burnt pasta because I immersed in my studies and writing a little later than I planned as my kids run around me playing unicorn and princess. We laugh, we play, we hug, we share in each other’s company. This is a gift, the gift of living fully, doing what we love, individually and together.

To be a good mother is to know who I am, not apologize for it, do it with every beat of my heart and be the standard and model by which my children measure their own path to awareness.

The more I love myself and honor my needs and desires, the more my children will do the same.

I feed myself first—spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically—because if I don’t, I have nothing to give to my children.

I am not a martyr—that’s for the dead.

I hope to live a long life, so I can guide, love and support my children.

There are days the voice of the martyr will boil, “You are failing. You are a self-righteous asshole, leaving your children to go study, to teach, to travel, to write. You chose to be a mother, honor that job. This is the responsibility you were given, do not back down. Your life is on the back-burner. Your kids are all that matter now. You will destroy them if you focus on yourself. Be a real mother, a good mother.”

I don’t drown in that voice anymore, because ‘the measurer, the one with true knowledge’ reminds me to continue teaching the girls to stir their rice mindfully and eat it first, so they may always have the strength to love themselves completely.

One day, if they choose to have children of their own, I hope they pass down a little advice from their mother.

“When I love myself first, I will always cook the rice properly, and then I can feed the whole world.” 

~ Rebecca Lammersen


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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Rebecca Lammersen

Rebecca Lammersen is the founder of Yogalution, an intimate, boutique style yoga studio in Scottsdale, AZ. I love being alive. I love being a mother. I love teaching yoga. I love to write. I love to know. I love to not know. I love to learn. I love to listen. I love to read. I love to swim. I love to travel. I love to dance. I love to help. I love to serve. That pretty much sums me up. For daily inspirations, check out Rebecca's website. Visit her yoga studio website and peruse her articles at The Huffington Post. You can also find her on Facebook. Subscribe to Rebecca's feed and never miss a post!


25 Responses to “A Call to Mothers: Love Yourself First, Children Second.”

  1. Danya says:

    SUCH wonderful, important and true words – thank you, thank you, thank you for eloquently expressing what so many of us feel! I too drank the "poison" with my first daughter – it DID almost kill me (I don't think that's hyperbole) – now we're about to have #2 and I know for sure if I want my whole family to have a chance to thrive I better change that tired old martyr story in a hurry!

  2. Linda V. Lewis says:

    The traditional analogy of a bodhisattva is being a mother, one who puts others before self. It's not martyrdom. It's that the greatest joy arises from loving one's children, caring for them, more than oneself. Practicing that makes it more possible to extend oneself joyously to others, not necessarily to go to every meeting or to chat empty chatter with other mothers, but, for example, to care about your neighbors, esp. if you have elderly ones. Are you really cooking the rice properly if you're giving your kids freezer burnt dinners? There is a middle way between martyrdom and self-indulgence.

  3. Julie T. says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It is beautiful and true. My son is 22, and while I have always given him the best care, loved him, fed him healthy food (and yes, a few hundred quickie, burned or otherwise less-than-my-best meals), and supported him in his goals and activities, I have also pursued my own life goals and activities. Sometimes I had to compromise. Sometimes he had to compromise, but he has learned that as a family, we need to balance everyone's needs, and that we all have dreams and goals and things we love. He has learned to support me in what I love, as much as I have supported him, and what a beautiful, caring, balanced young man that has made him. As we move into our adult relationship, we both have full lives to talk about, and that makes us thoroughly enjoy each other's company. I think making it *all* about the kids sends them the message that life *is* all about them, that someone will be willing to give up their ambitions and interests to care only about them. That is not a lesson that leads to healthy adult relationships. My son is now in a long term relationship and I watch them very beautifully balance being there for each other, and taking care of their own needs. And note concerning the above poster, caring for yourself, and pursuing life goals, is NOT self-indulgence. It is making you a whole person so that you can be a whole person to your children.

  4. Thank you Danya and Thank you for sharing! ~ Rebecca

  5. Thank you for your contribution Linda. We appear to see things differently, which is a beautiful thing. I am teaching my children to appreciate and respect other people's beliefs and perspectives. So, I say, Thank you. ~Rebecca

  6. I love this. Thank you Julie 🙂 Way to go! ~ Rebecca

  7. dina says:

    I agree with most of what you are saying, but why put down the PTA mom? I volunteer in my children's school and love it. I don't overburden myself and it gives me pleasure to see them in their classroom and their smiling faces when I make time for them. And frankly, someone has to do it! Why do other women look down on this role as generically unfulfilling and boring? Also I wonder what kind of mom's group you were in that only discussed stretch marks and “Lululemon wunder unders” (not even sure what that is!). My moms group is an amazing of friendship and support! In fact as I am typing this one of the women from my "mom's group" messaged me to see if I needed anything since she knew my daughter is sick. Don't get me wrong, I agree that women must make time for themselves and follow their paths in life. "Always put the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others" is the mantra I use to keep this in mind. But please don't belittle the PTA mom! We are doing things for your children too! And try to find a mom's group that is a good fit. Join ours! We discuss politics, literature, current events as well as our families and offer each other advice, help and hugs when needed! We also go hiking, dancing and camping together! If you got this far, thank you for reading.

  8. Jessica says:

    From a daughter,
    I haven't any children of my own yet, nor will I for many years but your words really resinate with me. My mother had me when she was 23 years old. It was mostly her and I for the first seven years , and then my sister too. My mother was young, but she did a beautiful job. She never treated me as an only child and she never poured every waking minute into me. She held my hand and made me her team mate. We traveled, read great books, cooked fun meals (and lowsy ones), did chores (whilst playing dress-up), always visited family, spent time with her best friends, I even remember spending afternoons with her at the office and being so impressed by her work ethic. She still went on dates and had her alone time too. As for school, she was never a PTA, bake sale kind of mom, instead she quietly volunteered in the library and went on the fun field trips – because that is what she enjoyed and it was more than enough for me. My mum never gave herself up, she just chose to bring me along for the ride.
    I apologize for the "my mom rules" rant, but I am just so proud of her. And now I am proud of me too.
    As a grown daughter I can honestly say your girls are going to thank you some day for being happy. Bravo.

  9. Jessica, This is a precious piece of writing. I hope you send this to your mother or better yet, read it to her as she sits beside you. This brought tears to my eyes—wow. Thank you. Just beautiful. I hope one day my daughters speak of their childhood this way. 🙂 Rebecca

  10. Thank you for sharing Dina.
    All that matters is, you love what you are doing.
    If you discover fulfillment volunteering for the PTA or in a political discussion in your mom's group and you are content–then you are honoring your true essence.
    Blessings to you and your family 🙂 Rebecca

  11. Robyn says:

    When I saw your title, I thought I might disagree with you. But after reading your post, I feel the same way. I am a newish mom. My son is 2-1/2 and I struggle with feeling selfish if I want to do anything for myself. At the same time, I work a lot (partly at home) and my son doesn't get out much. So I guess we both need some things to nourish us and both need to make some sacrifices for each other.

  12. Ben_Ralston says:

    Beautiful on all fronts, and so important – I think that the 'baby boom' generation suffered especially from this idea of 'giving everything for the kids'. The result is pretty tragic – parents who are shadows of themselves, and kids who are dependent and spoilt.
    Thank you Rebecca.

  13. nicole says:

    It's so important for your children to know that they don't stop growing, stop learning or stop evolving because they have children. Bravo, for writing this! You're not alone.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Love this… thank you… and yay you! It sounds like you are doing some very mindful parenting and living, and that is a beautiful thing. And it looks like the other readers are as well. This is a wonderfully thought-provoking and reassuring piece, and I think all of us moms (and non-moms) can get something out of reading it – whether it sparks comfort or discomfort, it is still a really good thing. So yay for all of us (and thank you again). 🙂

  15. Thank you Nicole! Amen 🙂

  16. Thank you Jennifer! ~Rebecca

  17. I completely agree. Thank you Ben! I checked out your blog, beautiful. ~Rebecca

  18. Thank you for sharing Robyn. Keep me posted how you nourish yourself, I would love to know. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  19. Renata says:

    Beautifully put. I've recently realized in order to take care of my son properly, I need to take care of myself first, otherwise I'm pretty useless. My motto is not to live with regrets. Great job Rebecca.

  20. What a healthy transformation! I prescribe to guilt-free mothering and completely agree that we must be whole ourselves, nurture ourselves and in so doing, we can be more present, more authentic, more giving of ourselves to those we love.

    This is a message so many moms need to hear! Beautifully said!

  21. Thank you Renata! 🙂 Rebecca

  22. Thank you Leah, I love the way you express this! ~Rebecca

  23. Anna-W says:

    Well said and lovely, but unfortunately I see to many mothers trying to do it all, and in the process end up with lumpy rice! I believe you got to do what feels right to you and your family, I think there is enough pressure being put on us! In other words find the rught type of rice for your family, one that everyone loves!!!

  24. […] might as well have been hit with a sidewinding foul ball from a Braves game, and I don’t even like […]

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