This morning when I woke up I remembered a hand-written list I once read on the wall of my thesis advisor, Renato Rosaldo, and his wife, Mary Pratt years ago. It read something like:
One should take care of (in order of importance):
- Partner and/or spouse
What does this mean?
One first must take care of one’s own physical and emotional well being. In order to be able to give, help, provide, share, love others, one must first have a healthy sense of self. If one is physically ill, one does not have the strength and energy to be of use to others. If one is emotionally self-neglectful or unbalanced, one distorts the world around you and thus makes poor decisions in your interrelations with others.
One’s partner is the individual whom one has chosen to be the backup in case one is weakened by life. The challenge is to not overburden one’s partner by expecting him or her to be everything for you. At the same time, one must occasionally depend on him and her to demonstrate one’s faith in their ability to be a partner to you.
Kids are the ones most dependent on you to model possible ways of being, hopefully positive ones. The challenging of parenting is moving from being responsible for one’s kids to being merely responsive, so that they can take responsibility for their own decisions.
Family provides the additional daily requirements for love and affection that is not provided from one’s partner. The advantage of family is that they often have deep knowledge of how your needs for love and affection that go back to your earliest youth.
Friends enable you to safely explore various aspects of your self that don’t always find expression just through your family. They ensure that one remains a well-rounded individual with one’s own set of interests and values.
Work (whether domestic or worldly) provides a sense of purpose and focus in one’s ability to think about and shape a future for oneself and others.
Many of the dysfunctionalities of life consists of getting this order wrong. The workaholic places more importance on work than family and his (or her) own physical and emotional well being. The “Supermom” places her kids before both her partner or herself. For some one hanging out with friends becomes more important than spending time with the kids or the partner, who feel neglected. For another the focus on the partner’s needs is so great that he or she neglects his or her own needs (this is the seed for any time of physical and/or emotional abuse).
What is your priority?